11th Sunday of Ordinary Time
June 13, 2021
Ana Cloughly, OSB, Sisters of Benet Hill Monastery, Colorado Springs, CO
The Kingdom of God is Hidden
We celebrated the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ last week. Such a beautiful feast, reminding us that God in Christ is both incarnate and divine which, as we become aware, extends to God’s presence in all of creation. God is in all from atoms to altar.
In this week’s gospel, Jesus is teaching the people through parables. The images he uses are earthy. Most of the time homilists choose to talk about the image of a mustard seed. I’d like to focus on the first parable where Jesus says:
“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.”
On the surface this parable seems straight forward, reinforcing our closely held belief that the earth yields grain, or any other resource for human benefit. Today our science has advanced to the point that we can actually engineer fruit and vegetable plants for a much larger yield. As we are finding out though, engineering food growth to achieve very high yield plants has deleterious effects. What we gain in production, we lose in nutrition (and taste) and bio-diversity. Pope Francis says in his encyclical Laudato Sí, “It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential ‘resources’ to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves.” (#33).
Listening more closely to this parable, we hear that the kingdom of God can be very hidden. Seeds grow without the sower knowing how it happens. Even today we know what happens but not the how. What gives rise to the spark of life and the impulse toward growth? Jesus is calling his listeners to radically change deeply held patterns of thinking and acting. The kingdom of God reveals no mark of superiority or egoism. Human-centric attitudes have no place in the kingdom of God. Although we reap the harvest, there is a whole ecosystem that works together to provide the growth.
Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the mustard seed. “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed…”. Jesus says it’s the smallest of seeds. Today, we know that a mustard seed isn’t the smallest seed. Size wasn’t exactly Jesus’ point. In this parable found in Mark’s gospel, there are no humans in the analogy. Have you ever noticed who benefit from the mustard seed’s growth? The birds. Again, there is cooperation among an ecosystem providing birds a place to nest and rest.
Pope Francis has called all people to reevaluate our perception of humanity’s place in creation, recognizing earth as our common home and us as siblings in the family of creation. I think Jesus might say it this way, Our common home is like the kingdom of God.
Sister Ana Cloughly is the Director of the Contemplative Vision Ministry at Benet Hill Monastery in Colorado Springs, CO. She facilitates courses in contemplative prayer practices and Christian mysticism, leads group retreats and is a Spiritual Director. She is a member of the planning committee for the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Federation of St. Scholastica.