June 12, 2015

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe first reading for this weekend’s liturgy is from the Book of Ezekiel, which is regarded as one of the great Hebrew prophets. Not interested in themselves, but only in imparting the revelation of God, the prophets rarely left any biographical details about themselves. This does not mean, however, that utter mystery surrounds them all.

For example, it is clear that Ezekiel was active as a prophet during the Hebrews’ exile in Babylon. Apparently born in Judah, he was in Babylon as one of the original exiles rather than being descended from an exile who had come earlier while he himself was born in Babylonia.

It is interesting to imagine the psychological state in which the exiles lived in Babylon, and how their mental frame of mind affected the fervor of their religious belief and practice. Since they were humans as are we, despite all the difference between their time and our own, basic human feelings affected them as they would us.

Ezekiel encountered great faith, but he also most surely met despair, anger and disbelief in the power and fidelity of the One God of Israel. He also surely saw disgust and despair around him.

In his writings, he bemoaned the unfaithfulness of the kings of Judah and their people, not God’s seeming infidelity. In this reading, he insists that God will restore the people to security. God is faithful. People must be faithful as well to him.

St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians is the source of the second reading. In the background is an obvious interest in earthly death and its consequences. By the time Paul wrote and preached, Christians already were being held in suspicion by the culture and, even more ominously, by the political authority.

The Apostle urges the Corinthian Christians to see heaven as “home,” and to prepare for an end of earthly existence when they will have to answer before the judgment throne of Christ.

For the last reading, the Church presents a parable from St. Mark’s Gospel. It is the familiar story of the mustard seed. The Lord likens the kingdom to the growth of a plant to be a mighty bush. The implication for us is that we build our place in the kingdom if we follow Jesus.

This story confronts us with our own potential and responsibility as disciples. The growth of the mustard seed from the moment of being planted, to budding, to full maturity is inevitable. It is God’s will and God’s plan, unfolding in nature. Belonging to God and planted by him, it will become the greatest of all plants.

In our humanity, we are small and limited. Still, God wills us to be great and mighty in our holiness, to grow into the strength and majesty of the fully developed bush. This is God’s will and plan. We must decide, however, to make of ourselves the rich produce that God will gather in the great harvest at the Last Judgment.

Reflection

The Church in these readings brings us face to face with that event common to all things living—death. Humans fear death, strongly inclined to put nothing above the instinct to survive.

Never denying death or belittling the will to survive, the Church, as the teacher of genuine truth, places in context life, death and survival. This is the setting for these readings.

Earthly life is not the be all and end all, whether we want it to be or not. Life shall endure after physical death.

What will this mean? It is a question to be answered personally, deep from within each heart. It may mean everlasting life. The choice belongs individually to each of us. Do we live our earthly days with God? †

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