11th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 17th June, 2018

Liturgical Reflection

Mark 4:26-34

Parables for the Crowds

Today’s two short parables about the growth of a seed seem simple, and familiar.  With Jesus, however, parables are much more.  They draw us by imagination into a mystery or puzzle, are often confusing and leave a reaction or expectation.



The seed hidden in the dark earth seems to be growing of its own accord.  The farmer is not idle: he goes about his daily and nightly routine, but understands, and watches for the blade, the ear and the full grain.  The critical moment is to recognise the point of readiness.  Then the farmer is vigorous ‘going at once with the sickle’.  The disciples were to learn that the Kingdom of God took time, it had to grow and it would flourish in God’s time, not ours.  They, just like Jesus, had to be trusting and patient.  No one could say – ‘Look there it is'.  The Kingdom had to be born in the hearts of people.  The time would come when the young band of disciples would be very vigorous and be sent to all nations.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed raises questions.  We know that a mustard seed is tiny, but not the tiniest and it grows into a shrub or bush, certainly not the tallest tree.  In Palestine, it is very ordinary, growing in every backyard and road side.  Scholars tell us it is ‘pesky', impossible to eradicate once it has infested a field.  Obviously, Jesus exaggerates to bring out a point and we are challenged to look for it.

That is the hope for the Kingdom.  The mustard plant is in contrast to the majestic cedar of Lebanon which is also an image of the reign of God.  The Kingdom of God is for everyone and won’t be contained in any one place or people.

In our time, we have an example in that of the tremendous impact that followed one day, when Mrs Rosa Parks, a tired black woman on a bus, refused to give her seat to a white person.  She was arrested and when word of it spread, it became a boycott of the buses which ultimately led the Supreme Court of USA to abandon segregation.  This one action galvanised the American Civil Rights Movement.  Today’s Gospel invites us to be listening people, watching for the ripe grain, taking note of what the mustard seed does and being ready to stay with Jesus and learn for:

‘Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.”

Sr June Peck OP