Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it?  It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.  But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

O Lord,
give us a mind
that is humble, quiet, peaceable,
patient and charitable,
and a taste of your Holy Spirit
in all our thoughts, words, and deeds.

O Lord,
give us a lively faith, a firm hope,
a fervent charity, a love of you.

Take from us all lukewarmness in meditation
and all dullness in prayer.
Give us fervor and delight in thinking of you,
your grace, and your tender compassion toward us.

Give us,
good Lord,
the grace to work for
the things we pray for.

–St Thomas More, 1478-1535

COLLECT

O God, strength of those who hope in you,

graciously hear our pleas,

and, since without you mortal frailty can do nothing,

grant us always the help of your grace,

that in following your commands

we may please you by our resolve and our deeds.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Ez 17:22-24

Thus says the Lord GOD:

I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar,

from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot,

and plant it on a high and lofty mountain;

on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.

It shall put forth branches and bear fruit,

and become a majestic cedar.

Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it,

every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.

And all the trees of the field shall know

that I, the LORD,

bring low the high tree,

lift high the lowly tree,

wither up the green tree,

and make the withered tree bloom.

As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do.

APPLICATION

Fr. O’Sullivan did not publish applications for this week so I have chosen substitutes.

Together with the more usually cited Daniel 4:10, 20-21, Ezekiel’s allegory of the cedar tree is a source of the imagery of the mustard bush in the gospel reading. The cedar stands for the restoration of the Davidic monarchy after the exile. The shoot or twig (see Isa 11:1) refers to a descendant of Jehoiachin, the last Davidic king before the exile.

The beasts and birds represent the nations of the earth. This indicates that the prophecy expects the kingdom after the return from exile to be more than just the mere restoration of the status quo before the exile; in fact, it is to be the realization of the messianic kingdom. It is therefore legitimate to say that this prophecy finds its ultimate fulfillment in the kingdom of Christ, of which the church on earth is a foretaste.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16

(cf. 2a) Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,

to sing praise to your name, Most High,

To proclaim your kindness at dawn

and your faithfulness throughout the night.

Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

The just one shall flourish like the palm tree,

like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.

They that are planted in the house of the LORD

shall flourish in the courts of our God.

Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

They shall bear fruit even in old age;

vigorous and sturdy shall they be,

Declaring how just is the LORD,

my rock, in whom there is no wrong.

Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

READING II

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2 Cor 5:6-10

Brothers and sisters:

We are always courageous,

although we know that while we are at home in the body

we are away from the Lord,

for we walk by faith, not by sight.

Yet we are courageous,

and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.

Therefore, we aspire to please him,

whether we are at home or away.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,

so that each may receive recompense,

according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 164 Now, however, “we walk by faith, not by sight”;1 we perceive God as “in a mirror, dimly” and only “in part”.2 Even though enlightened by him in whom it believes, faith is often lived in darkness and can be put to the test. The world we live in often seems very far from the one promised us by faith. Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it.

CCC 769 “The Church. .. will receive its perfection only in the glory of heaven,”3 at the time of Christ’s glorious return. Until that day, “the Church progresses on her pilgrimage amidst this world’s persecutions and God’s consolations.”4 Here below she knows that she is in exile far from the Lord, and longs for the full coming of the Kingdom, when she will “be united in glory with her king.”5 The Church, and through her the world, will not be perfected in glory without great trials. Only then will “all the just from the time of Adam, ‘from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,’. .. be gathered together in the universal Church in the Father’s presence.”6

CCC 1005 To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ: we must “be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”7 In that “departure” which is death the soul is separated from the body.8 It will be reunited with the body on the day of resurrection of the dead.9

CCC 1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.10 The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul–a destiny which can be different for some and for others.11

CCC 1681 The Christian meaning of death is revealed in the light of the Paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ in whom resides our only hope. The Christian who dies in Christ Jesus is “away from the body and at home with the Lord.”12

1 2 Cor 5:7.

2 l Cor 13:12.

3 LG 48.

4 St. Augustine, De civ. Dei, 18,51:PL 41,614; cf. LG 8.

5 LG 5; Cf. 6; 2 Cor 5:6.

6 LG 2.

7 2 Cor 5:8.

8 Cf. Phil 1:23.

9 Cf. Paul VI, CPG § 28.

10 Cf. 2 Tim 1:9-10.

11 Cf. Lk 16:22; 23:43; Mt 16:26; 2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23; Heb 9:27; 12:23.

12 2 Cor 5:8.

APPLICATION

We are still in that part of 2 Corinthians where Paul is defending his apostleship against the attacks of the false apostles. His emphasis on his apostolic sufferings had led him to speak about his confident hope of resurrection. Despite the fact that the gospel is committed to frail earthen vessels, there is no room for despondency. In speaking once more of his hope, Paul drops the metaphor of a “tent” for this frail earthly existence and speaks directly of the body. He can, he says, face the dissolution of the body, already presaged in his apostolic sufferings, with confidence because God will replace it with the resurrection body. And that will be a great gain, for in this present body we are absent from the Lord; we are certainly “in” Christ already as members of his body but not yet “with” Christ (as the false apostles taught, overemphasizing the “already”).

In the letters of his middle period, Paul is coming to take seriously the possibility of his own death before the parousia. This hope of resurrection is not just a dreaming about “pie in the sky when we die” but provides a powerful motivation for life now—to please the Lord. It must be our aim now to please the Lord because at the parousia we will all have to appear before the judgment seat of Christ.

This belief in a Last Judgment according to our works is not a hangover from Paul’s earlier Judaism, nor is it inconsistent with his message of justification by faith and grace alone. Faith must, if it is genuine, work in love. We are responsible for our sins and failures even if our good works are the fruit of the Spirit. If we receive a reward for our good works, this reward is not a prize for good behavior but the fulfillment of our human destiny.

Excerpt for Readings I and II are from: Preaching the Lectionary: The Word of God for the Church Today. Reginald H. Fuller and Daniel Westberg. Liturgical Press. 2006 (Third Edition), pp. 198-202.

GOSPEL

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Mk 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:

“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;

it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land

and would sleep and rise night and day

and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,

he knows not how.

Of its own accord the land yields fruit,

first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.

And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,

for the harvest has come.”

He said,

“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,

or what parable can we use for it?

It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,

is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.

But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants

and puts forth large branches,

so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

With many such parables

he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.

Without parables he did not speak to them,

but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061718.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 543 Everyone is called to enter the kingdom. First announced to the children of Israel, this messianic kingdom is intended to accept men of all nations.1 To enter it, one must first accept Jesus’ word:

The word of the Lord is compared to a seed which is sown in a field; those who hear it with faith and are numbered among the little flock of Christ have truly received the kingdom. Then, by its own power, the seed sprouts and grows until the harvest.2

CCC 546 Jesus’ invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching.3 Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything.4 Words are not enough, deeds are required.5 The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word?6 What use has he made of the talents he has received?7 Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to “know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven”.8 For those who stay “outside”, everything remains enigmatic.9

1 Cf. Mt 8:11 10:5-7; 28:19.

2 LC 5; cf. Mk 4:14, 26-29; Lk 12:32.

3 Cf. Mk 4:33-34.

4 Cf. Mt 13:44-45; 22:1-14.

5 Cf. Mt 21:28-32.

6 Cf. Mt 13:3-9.

7 Cf. Mt 25:14-30.

8 Mt 13:11.

9 Mk 4:11; cf. Mt 13:10-15.

APPLICATION

Commentary: Peter Chrysologus

The mustard seed grows into the biggest shrub of all.

Brothers and sisters, you have heard today how the kingdom of heaven, for all its vastness, can be compared to a mustard seed: “the kingdom of heaven,” says the Gospel, “is like a mustard seed.” A mustard seed! Is that the sum of believers’ hopes? Is that what the faithful are longing for—a mustard seed, the blessed reward of virgins for their long years of self-restraint, the glorious prize won by martyrs at the cost of their blood? Is this the mystery no eye has seen, no ear heard, no human heart imagined; the mystery past telling that the Apostle assures us God has prepared for all who love him?

Let us not be too easily disappointed by our Lord’s words. If we remember that “God’s weakness is stronger than human strength, and God’s foolishness wiser than human wisdom,” we shall find that this smallest seed of God’s creation is greater than the whole wide world. It is up to us to sow this mustard seed in our minds and let it grow within us into a great tree of understanding reaching up to heaven and elevating all our faculties; then it will spread out branches of knowledge, the pungent savor of its fruit will make our mouths burn, its fiery kernel will kindle a blaze within us inflaming our hearts, and the taste of it will dispel our unenlightened repugnance. Yes, it is true: a mustard seed is indeed an image of the kingdom of God.

Christ is the kingdom of heaven. Sown like a mustard seed in the garden of the Virgin’s womb, he grew up into the tree of the cross whose branches stretch across the world. Crushed in the mortar of the passion, its fruit has produced seasoning enough for the flavoring and preservation of every living creature with which it comes in contact.

As long as a mustard seed remains intact, its properties lie dormant; but when it is crushed they are exceedingly evident. So it was with Christ; he chose to have his body crushed, because he would not have his power concealed.

We too must crush this mustard seed, in order to feel the force of this parable. Christ is king, because he is the source of all authority. Christ is the kingdom, because all the glory of his kingdom is within him. Christ is a man, because all humanity is restored in him. Christ is a mustard seed, because the infinitude of divine greatness is accommodated to the littleness of flesh and blood.

Do we need further examples? Christ became all things in order to restore all of us in himself. The man Christ received the mustard seed which represents the kingdom of God; as man he received it, though as God he had always possessed it. He sowed it in his garden, that is in his bride, the Church. The Church is a garden extending over the whole world, tilled by the plough of the gospel, fenced in by stakes of doctrine and discipline, cleared of every harmful weed by the labor of the apostles, fragrant and lovely with perennial flowers: virgins’ lilies and martyrs’ roses set amid the pleasant verdure of all who bear witness to Christ and the tender plants of all who have faith in him.

Such then is the mustard seed which Christ sowed in his garden. When he promised a kingdom to the patriarchs the seed took root in them; with the prophets it sprang up, with the apostles it grew tall, in the Church it became a great tree putting forth innumerable branches laden with gifts. And now you too must take the wings of the psalmist’s dove, gleaming gold in the rays of divine sunlight, and fly to rest for ever among those sturdy, fruitful branches. No snares are set to trap you there; fly off, then, with confidence and dwell securely in its shelter.

(Sermon 98: PL 52, 474-76)

Peter Chrysologus (c. 400-450), who was bom at Imoly in Italy, became a bishop of Ravenna. He was highly esteemed by the Empress Galla Placidia, in whose presence he preached his first sermon as bishop. He was above all a pastor, and many of his sermons have been preserved.

Edith Barnecut, O. S. B. As a consultant for the International Committee for English in the Liturgy, Sr. Edith was responsible for the final version of many of the readings in the Liturgy of the Hours. Copyright © 1993, New City Press.

All Rights Reserved.

Journey with the Fathers

Commentaries on the Sunday Gospels – Year B, pp. 66-67.

Edith Barnecut, O. S. B., ed.

BENEDICTUS

Faith as the Seed of Life

The Lord uses the image of the mustard seed, as being the smallest of all grains or seeds, out of which in the end a tree will grow in which all the birds of the air will be able to nest. The mustard seed comprises, on the one hand, smallness – wherein I am wretched – but at the same time the potential for growth. In that way there is in this mustard seed a profound depiction of faith. Faith is seen thereby not as the mere acceptance of certain propositions, but s the seed of life within me. I am only a true believer if faith is present within me as a living seed, from which something is growing and which then truly changes my world and, in doing so, brings something new into the world as a whole… The experiment of life can only become clear for me if I truly give myself up to the will of God, so far as he has made it known to me… Sometimes, precisely by the breadth of our vision, in that we can see so many glimpses of divine reason in reality, this really does add breadth and scope to our image of God, and we stand before him with greater reverence and even with humility and awe.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Domine Iesu, Noverim me (Lord Jesus, Let Me Know Myself)

St. Augustine; (354-430)

Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know Thee,

And desire nothing save only Thee.

Let me hate myself and love Thee.

Let me do everything for the sake of Thee.

Let me humble myself and exalt Thee.

Let me think of nothing except Thee.

Let me die to myself and live in Thee.

Let me accept whatever happens as from Thee.

Let me banish self and follow Thee,

And ever desire to follow Thee.

Let me fly from myself and take refuge in Thee,

That I may deserve to be defended by Thee.

Let me fear for myself, let me fear Thee,

And let me be among those who are chosen by Thee.

Let me distrust myself and put my trust in Thee.

Let me be willing to obey for the sake of Thee.

Let me cling to nothing save only to Thee,

And let me be poor because of Thee.

Look upon me, that I may love Thee.

Call me that I may see Thee,

And for ever enjoy Thee. Amen.

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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