11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today the Church returns to what is known as Ordinary time, that period of the liturgical year that is not associated with the great feasts of Christmas and Easter. The priest dons a green colored vestment that will be worn for practically every Sunday until the start of the Season of Advent. Ordinary comes from a Latin word and doesn’t exactly mean what we mean by ordinary but still, most of the readings in Ordinary time will remind us of the ordinary, seemingly insignificant details of everyday life.
Today’s first reading from the book of the prophet Ezekiel speaks of a tender shoot that the Lord plucks off a great cedar tree and plants it among his people. It will itself grow into a mighty tree offering sustenance and shelter to those who seek refuge in its branches. Of course, this botanical imagery is just meant to be a metaphor for how God calls upon all of us to grow and bear great fruit in our lives.
Jesus uses the same imagery in today’s gospel when he says, “this is how it is with the Kingdom of God.”
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
Is the smallest of all the seeds of the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants…
Like Ezekiel Jesus is calling on little, ordinary people like ourselves to put forth large branches and bear much fruit.
Today’s gospel reminded me of one such a person in my home parish who passed away three years ago. His name was Theodore, which coincidentally means God’s gift, but everyne called him Ted. He was a small, unassuming, and quiet spoken man who rarely talked about himself but he was one of the most giving men I have ever known.
At his funeral I saw an old black and white marriage photo. Ted, who served in World War II, was in uniform next to his young Italian war bride who had sewn her beautiful white wedding gown out of Ted’s parachute. I never met his wife because she died shortly before I met Ted, but I know that he loved her until the day he died. They had four or five children and all were there at the funeral with a number of grandchildren. One of the grandchildren gave a brief eulogy in which he described all the things his grandfather had taught him.
Ted was an avid gardener and wine maker but by profession he was a master electrician who worked at his trade right until his final illness struck. My wife and I originally met him in an Italian language class but he subsequently became a friend as well as our electrician. I will never forget the night our electricity went out during a violent ice storm. Ted came to the house, climbed a ladder, and repaired a broken power line in the midst of the storm. The only problem we ever had with Ted was that he was always reluctant to accept payment from friends. There was a large crowd in the Church at his funeral and I’m sure that most had also been the recipients of Ted’s generosity.Ted will never be canonized but he was one of the multitude of ordinary men who loved their families, their church, and their country.
In today’s second reading St. Paul speaks of courage. He says that even though our real home is not here, we must live our lives as best we can here on earth. We must be courageous. Today’s readings about little, ordinary people provide an opportunity to give a little advance notice for next week’s Fathers’ Day. I know that we all have our different vocations in life, and I do not wish to slight anyone, but it takes real courage to be a father. It takes real courage to make a commitment to give up your own wants in order to live for your wife and children.
In today’s world when even the idea of Fatherhood is maligned, it is very important that we do all we can to support those who have accepted the challenge. Here is a little prayer for fathers.
Our Father in Heaven, we thank you for all the fathers on earth who,
like St. Joseph, accept the responsibility to care for and love their children.
May you strengthen them with the kindness, patience and wisdom they need
to encourage and guide their children.
May they be supported by a steadfast wife, a caring family and good friends.
Most of all, may they know that you and you alone are the source of all that is
good and truly valuable in this world.
Reading 1. Exekiel 17: 22-24
Reading II. 2 Corinthians5: 6-10
Gospel. Mark 4: 26-34 (a mustard seed).