Dom Brian-Gerard Kelly’s Homily, Sunday 13 June 2021
Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year B
1st reading: Ez. 17:22-24
2nd reading: 2nd Cor. 5:6-10
Gospel: Mark 4:26-34
At this Springtime of year when nature shows forth her beautiful flowering and vigorous growth we have special opportunities to ponder the parables of Jesus on the Kingdom of God. He frequently used the examples from the natural world to enable his hearers to come to understand this mystery. Today we have two such parables emphasising different aspects of this mystery. Firstly, there is the idea of a mysterious growth in hiddenness. And the second parable of the mustard seed points to a growth from humble beginnings. Both indicate a new beginning.
The Prophet Ezekiel speaks of the Lord taking a sprig from a lofty cedar and setting it on a high and lofty mountain to become a noble cedar. All kinds of animals will dwell beneath the shade of its branches. A new beginning is planted. Twice the same prophet speaks of a new heart that the Lord will give to the Israelites, taking away a heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh. Although God never departed fully from His people, covenants were continually broken and renewed. But now a new covenant is being established which has not and will not be broken. How did this come about?
The grain of mustard is the smallest of all seeds planted in the ground. It has a humble beginning, but grows to become the greatest of all shrubs. The Angel Gabriel was sent from God to the humble Virgin Mary telling her she is to conceive the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. And like the farmer who planted his seed in the ground but does not understand how it will sprout and grow, Mary does not understand this mystery but she places her complete trust in the words spoken to her by the Angel. The farmer does not understand but he knows the earth will produce of itself. He does not doubt the mystery of life that takes place in the hiddenness of the ground. Mary does not doubt the mystery that will take place in the hiddenness of her womb: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your word.”
This newness of an in-breaking of the Kingdom of God takes place in silence and hiddenness from the world. The world does not see it. The shepherds on the hills of Bethlehem are told of this mystery by an Angel. They rush to see the child and all are amazed at what they say, what they had heard from the Angel. But there is no going out into the whole world to relate this story. Least of all does Mary speak for she keeps these mysteries, about which she knows more but not completely, pondering them in her heart. As the seed of the Word of God grew and developed in her womb so the seed of the mysteries of this Word now grow and develop in her heart. And we see here that the Kingdom of God is pre-eminently Jesus Himself.
Then follows the so-called hidden years of the life of the Holy Family of Nazareth. They live a life of ordinariness. Even their friends and neighbours do not know who Jesus really is. Later they are astonished at His preaching in the Synagogue. Where did He get all this wisdom, they ask? “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary?” So strange is all this to them that they take offence! The seed of the Word of God grew in silence and hiddenness in this humble Family of Nazareth. Apart from the incident where the 12 year old Jesus goes missing for three days, we are told nothing of these hidden years.
The farmer sees nothing of the germination and growth of the seeds he planted covered in the soil. But he knows what will happen and does see what in time becomes of the seeds. The parable mentions nothing of the farmer caring for and watering the soil. This of course a farmer will need to do. But the point being emphasised is the mystery of the Kingdom of God which grows in a mysterious way beyond our control and understanding. Yes the Gospel does need to be preached to the whole world. But there is something very unique happening here. Philosophies have been taught and spread throughout history but unless they are rooted in the good soil of Truth, they will eventually fizzle out and disappear, be replaced with other ideas and notions. Only Christianity has this permanency of Truth, which is everlasting. Note too that these other ideas and philosophies generally never begin from humble origins in hiddenness and silence. Rather they take root in human pride and become very noisy indeed! Truth is intrinsically linked to humility as is exemplified in the life of Our Saviour Himself. God humbled Himself. The creator of the entire universe came and dwelt among us, firstly in the womb of the humble Virgin Mary. Humility drew forth the humility of the All Powerful God. The greatest of the mysteries of our Catholic Faith also had a humble and hidden origin in a large upper room. The Holy Eucharist was instituted at the last supper with Jesus alone with His disciples. What does He do? He begins by washing their feet, a humble gesture He sets as an example of service. Only the humble of heart through the eyes of faith believe in the True Presence of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. Likewise even now when a soul is truly humble, when a soul possesses Mary within as St Louis de Montfort says, the Holy Spirit rushes to that soul and dwells within! The Kingdom of God does not come in exterior and manifest signs to be observed that people can say Lo here it is or there! Jesus tells the Pharisees Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. And only the humble of heart can see it. Where you see love, you see the Kingdom. Or as St Augustine said, where you see love, you see the Trinity.
Dom Brian Gerard Kelly.