Gospel & Reflection 16th June 2024

Gospel & Reflection For Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 4:26-34
Jesus said to the crowds: ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’
He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’
Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.


Friends, in his famous play, and later Oscar winning film, ‘A Man For All Seasons’, Robert Bolt describes the clash between King Henry VIII and his Chancellor Thomas More. Henry wanted the Pope to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. Thomas More refused to support the King in this matter and in all that would subsequently happen. There is an interesting scene in Act 1 of the play. We meet Richard Rich, an ambitious young man who is seeking an office of importance, but so far without any success. He hopes that Sir Thomas will act favourably at court on his behalf.
Sir Thomas tells him that there is a post that he should consider. He says: “The Dean of St. Paul’s offers you a post; with a house, a servant and fifty pounds a year.” “What Post?”, Richard Rich asks. “At the new school”, Sir Thomas replies. At this point in the script, Bolt inserts some stage directions about how the actor should deliver their two word response of Richard Rich to this job offer. They were to say, with ‘bitter disappointment’, “A teacher!”. So, being a teacher was not the prestigious position that Richard Rich wanted, even though Sir Thomas assured him that he could be “a fine teacher, even a great one” and that the fruit of his work would be in his pupils, his friends and God, all whom would know him to be a fine teacher. Richard Rich though, was a man not content to sow mustard seeds! Such a position was beneath him.
C.S. Lewis once asked: “How did God enter history?” He answered by saying: “Quietly, in a dusty forgotten corner of the Roman Empire.” For Lewis, God arrived in Christ not as a conquering hero but quietly, humbly. Our Gospel for this weekend is all about this concealed, discreet nature of God; God who builds His power and influence from the very small, to the very great and usually by a slow, gradual process. God operates under the radar, on the edges of things, never drawing attention to Himself. God’s authority quietly advances, often unnoticed but always inevitably.
Up and down the centuries, the story of the advancement of God’s will has never stopped nor has its nature changed. Think of St. Paul. He was often mocked, laughed at, and assaulted in his mission to bring the Good News to others. But always there was a small group of people willing to listen and these people established great centres of Christian life and faith, from Athens to Corinth to Rome. Their communities eventually spread and they were the forerunners of our own and every Parish community in the world.
Think of the Franciscan Order and its Lay Movement, enduring now for over 800 years. It began with an odd, spiritual young man, who heard a voice speaking to him from a Crucifix saying: “Francis rebuild my Church”. A handful of followers joined him in this romantic, crazy project but then dozens, and eventually thousands. Friends, God likes to begin small and from these quiet beginnings, great things always emerge. This is what Jesus was speaking about, when He presented the mustard seed parable. He was speaking of God working in the world and in peoples lives, often unnoticed but always yielding results.
We may feel that there is nothing we can accomplish that will make any difference in our world, our Church, or our faith. We might think that we have too little to offer to make any difference. We may feel powerless in our tough world or feel that no one cherishes the issues that are important to us. But God operates in the quietness, He moves gently. He takes the small and helps it grow.
We celebrate ‘A Day For Life’ this weekend. It is a celebration, a reminder of our pro-life beliefs. Often we might think that due to abortion, assisted-suicide, euthanasia, violence, and environmental neglect that the value of life is too easily dismissed. It certainly feels as if the support for disregarding life is huge while the voice for treasuring life is weak. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Pro-life movement is massive; the tide towards valuing and caring for life, turning at a pace. Millions march across the world; laws are being over-turned rather than being introduced. God is working away and His wisdom is being heard and followed. But we can never be complacent about anything.
Friends, God works powerfully through our efforts, small as they may seem to us. We all have something to offer on the issue of life and in everything else regarding our faith and living. So, let us never be bitterly disappointed with our efforts. We must be big even in little things and trust that God will make our efforts great.
Fr. Richard