Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time Lectio Divina, June 13, 2021
By David Kilby
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.
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.
Jesus often uses nature to explain the kingdom of heaven. There is a reason for this. God has already shown his love for us through nature. He has already written the gospel in the world he gave to us. The entire earth is his love letter to humanity. Somewhere along the way we lost touch with that reality, though. We got caught up in worldly human affairs and forgot that everything around us can show us God’s glory and providence. Here in this Gospel passage, Jesus is showing us how God provides for us without us even doing anything to deserve it. That is a truth about the kingdom of God that has caused a great deal of controversy over the centuries. Some have said we cannot earn salvation, and that we are saved by faith alone; and others say it’s through faith and works that we are saved. Scripture even seems to contradict itself on the matter. St. Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God— not because of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). But then St. James says, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17). As always, Jesus offers the explanation if we would just listen more closely to his words and heed his parable. Just because the seed of salvation grows on its own and bears its own fruit does not mean we don’t ever have to tend to it and harvest it. We do not earn salvation, or entry into God’s kingdom, but we do have to accept it by nurturing the gift as a farmer tends to his crops. Salvation is indeed a gift, but we can still turn it down by turning away from God and toward sin, just as a farmer could neglect his crops. We can still choose to run from God and try to make it to our own form of paradise on our own. Jesus is saying that if we just trust in him and his Father in heaven, the road is already paved for us and we just need to walk 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 …”
In this life when we are pressured by friends and family to be successful, it’s good to know that God does not expect us to become rich and famous. He wants us to seek the kingdom of God, which does not hold much value by the measurements of success the world uses. Jesus is telling us to store up our treasures in heaven, because all of our success here on earth will pass away. Even the greatest legacies of the most well-known people will be nothing but distant innocuous memories when we enter into eternity with God in his kingdom. Seeking first the kingdom of God in this life may seem like the small mustard seed Jesus is talking about in this parable. Being holy may not bring us much recognition in this life. But it will bring everlasting joy and fulfillment in heaven.
With many such parables, he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it…. but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
The word of God is for each individual, but the Church is given an exclusive understanding of it because it is led by the successors of Jesus’ disciples. The Holy Spirit explains Scripture to the religious of the Church through a unique relationship similar to the one Jesus had with his disciples. To the laity, God explains things in laymen’s terms. A good example would be art and culture. A layperson is going to more readily understand the life lesson of a good movie than he would understand the teachings of an encyclical. Be that as it may, the deep theological truths discovered by even the Doctors of the Church are still available to anyone who wants to challenge themselves. Jesus did not want the gospel to only be accessible to great theologians though, so he gave us parables. Many great writers have been using the power of analogy ever since, using the written word to convey eternal truths in terms that everyone can understand.
Lord Jesus, through the wonders of creation and the power of parables you preach the gospel to all of us. Teach us to be humble so we can see where you are leading us. We trust you with our whole lives, even when we don’t know what you are doing, and even when we can do nothing but stand back and watch the kingdom of God grow in us and in others. We love you and thank you for your perfect goodness. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen
As Christ demonstrates in his parables in this passage, the kingdom of God is already within us waiting to grow. When we take a leap of faith, God fills our lives with his grace and amazing things start to happen. That leap of faith starts by listening to what God is now revealing to our hearts. Take a moment to contemplate what he is saying to you now.
David Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.
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