Wednesday, 13 June 2018


2 Growth  Parables

In the parables Jesus takes situations from daily life to tell us what the Kingdom of God is like.    Today's two parables should appeal to all farmers and gardeners.  Usually the parables don’t give us clear answers, but set us puzzles.   They’re meant to get us thinking; we have to tease out their meaning.   Some of the parables are meant to be warnings, others to give us encouragement.        Today’s Gospel gives us two of a number of parables about the growth of seed.   These are meant to encourage us when we get depressed about the state of the Church and the seemingly overwhelming opposition it has to face.

Firstly, there’s the parable about the very nature of growth.   Mark is the only evangelist to record this parable.  Jesus reminds us that the seed has an inner vitality and grows even while the farmer sleeps, and independently of his efforts. He is powerlessness to create life, and cause seeds to grow. At best he can assist or hinder growth.   Life is a mystery which none of us understands. But God is the author of life and causes the seed to grow, even when we are asleep.   So, while this parable stresses that ultimately God is responsible for the life and growth of the kingdom, we, like the farmer, have our part to play in sowing and cultivating the seed.  

But we must always remember that it is God, not us, who gives it life and enables it to grow to maturity.   This growth parable is very reassuring in reminding us that ultimately the life and growth of the kingdom depends on God, not us.    Because he works in hidden ways, which we don’t notice, we could easily become discouraged, by thinking that the success or failure of the kingdom depended on us alone.   We can easily forget that God is secretly working for the growth of his Kingdom.

The parable of the mustard seed is yet another variation on the theme of growth, and again is intended to give us further encouragement.   If a tiny mustard seed can grow into the largest of shrubs, the kingdom can develop from the tiny beginning of Christ and his handful of followers.  Now the Gospel is preached throughout the world and people from every race and class find a home in the kingdom.  That’s the point of the variety of birds nesting in its branches.  Today we would say that a large oak tree grows from a small acorn, and the mature tree provides a home for countless birds and insects.

We need to reflect on these encouraging parables when we get despondent about the church.  Too often we forget that in the end God is responsible for the growth of the Kingdom and that he guarantees its success.  This applies not only to the life of the Church as a whole, but also to our own personal spiritual growth.  Certainly we, like the farmer or gardener, have our part to play.  But the greatest mistake we could make would be for us to think we could do God’s work without his help.   We must place our trust in him, rather than ourselves alone.
Isidore Clarke O.P.

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