11th Sunday


Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’

He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’

Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.

As we return to Sundays of the Year in Ordinary Time, we are reminded that the ordinary tasks of life have their place in the greater part of the year – 34 weeks out of 52 are in fact ‘ordinary’ in this sense, excluding Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter season. The colour we use in Church now and in all the Sundays until November, appropriately enough, is green which signifies growth and bloom, the colour of seedlings and shrubs before the flowers and fruits emerge.

The emergence of the colour green all around us gives us hope and in fact the month of May and June there is a freshness and riot of green in our trees, fields, woodland, laneways and gardens. The farmer-gardener is patient – each day brings new signs in the spring and due season after a long winter that follows the sowing of seed seemingly so long before. This predictable pattern of nature takes many months and requires patience and perseverance in hope and faith that the elements will co-operate and the harvest will surely come.

This natural process corresponds to the growth of the Kingdom of God  - the Church  - a spiritual and supernatural mysterious reality – the growth of the Kingdom of love in this world evident in the lives and actions of individual believers and their communities, parishes, dioceses and religious institutes, hospitals, schools, and the like.

None of the cultivated growth –and this is the point of the parables – is possible without the work of the gardener/farmer who sows the seed. The ‘work’ of nature takes over. If the seed corresponds to each person who believes in Christ, the work of our sanctification and maturing in Christ is in fact the work of many seasons, and years.

Jesus uses the allegory of seed for the Kingdom of God on numerous occasions throughout His public ministry.

We know a small bit more than the hearers of Jesus, but the basic principles of nature still apply – the necessary conditions for germination of seed is still the same all the time. In biology we think of water, oxygen and warmth (WOW) which are pre-requisites for germination or spraying. But for seeds to last and to grow they need to be root well in good soil where they can anchor for support all through their life cycle. They also need the oxygen, mineral salts and water as well as dead organic material (or humus) for growth. In the air they need sunlight, air, shelter, warmth, and protection as they face exposure to the elements, as well as feeding predators. The life of a plant is a rather precarious one indeed. Hence farmers and gardeners show so much diligent care and supervision of a crop.

Within the seed itself, a process takes place while the farmer is in his bed at night.

 Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know.

Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear

This is the slow but sure process of seed metabolism. In order to push out and emerge through the hard outer seed coat, softened now by water, the emerging young root (or radicle) and the emerging young shoot (or plumule) require energy. The rootlet must spread out feelers for water and anchoring, and the shoot must push upwards against gravity to face the elements. It is a mysterious and wonderful process dictated by the laws of nature and the genetic code in the plant. Yet the energy required must come from somewhere  - before the plant can rely on the energy that comes from the sun. The seed itself has an energy store – a certain amount of fat and starch present in the seed that must be metabolised, respired, or consumed to make sure the plant has a fighting chance to grow. In other words what was the seed must die. Jesus in fact uses that analogy of Himself when explaining His passion to the Greeks who come enquiring after Him.

The result of death is new growth and abundance – in the case of a tiny mustard seed a tree can grow. The fruitfulness of good works emerges after the sacrifices we make of the generosity, sacrifices and self-denial required principally by the sanctification of our daily work and duty as well as works of service to our neighbour in works of justice. We must persevere with the Lord’s help each day until we are ready for the Kingdom of heaven

Responsorial Psalm

The just will flourish like the palm tree

and grow like a Lebanon cedar.

Planted in the house of the Lord

they will flourish in the courts of our God,

still bearing fruit when they are old,

still full of sap, still green,

Ezekiel – First Reading

‘From the top of the cedar,

from the highest branch I will take a shoot

and plant it myself on a very high mountain.

I will plant it on the high mountain of Israel.

It will sprout branches and bear fruit,

and become a noble cedar.

Every kind of bird will live beneath it,

every winged creature rest in the shade of its branches.

Corpus Christi

The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ brings us back to the central mystery of faith – God became Man – He took on human flesh and blood - the same is sacramentally present to us in the Holy Eucharist.

How do we best honour someone’s memory? By holding on to something that belonged to them. We give that item a place of special honour in our home and hearts.

Artefacts – photo albums, a framed picture, an anniversary Mass, a Mass in their birthday, a memento, an antique, an item of clothing, even a lock of hair, their signed name on a book. These are true treasures and of sentimental, though nonetheless real value to us.

Something they wanted to leave us personally and particularly, amidst their last words and breath.

We may have something they treasured and they in like pass it on to us and we treasure it as deeply.

Something we would want to hold on to and keep even if we are moving house.

Something they would want us to remember them by.

Something in particular they would want us to do for them as a special last request and favour, to honour them and their request we would feel terrible not to honour that and not to keep our word to them.

All of this is what Jesus asked of His disciples, the first priests at the last Supper – his last meal, his farewell: His last time meeting all of them together was a meal, and a memorial, and linked to His sacrifice: This is my Body, this is My Blood, Do this in memory of me. What did Jesus give as a parting gift? – Himself, His very Body and Blood.

Grief and memory, recalling words and actions: Their words, phrases, wisdom, words to live by, with meaning, relevance and personal application. That is summed up for us in the Liturgy of the Word in the Mass – speaking, repeating His words, listening, attending to and putting into practise in our lives what He wants us to do.

We are honouring His wishes in doing precisely – in ritual – in re-presenting His sacrifice at the Mass in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The meal is sacred and shared.

Finally when someone dies, their spirit is with us.  We feel their presence around us in ways we cannot adequately express in words. They are somehow present to us, how, we cannot say.

But Jesus is truly present – His Spirit is with us – His Holy Spirit, but also His real Presence in the tabernacle, in the monstrance. He is not dead He has risen and is alive in our midst. His last words, His parting words, risen from the dead and about to ascend to His Father, were ‘I am with you all days, until the end of the world.’

Come let us adore Him, Come let us worship.

Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday

This Sunday we meditate on probably the most abstract topic – in His mystery it is so difficult for us to conceptualise, or visualise – the Blessed Trinity – GOD!

What is your image of God?

If you were to ask a child to draw a picture it would be probably of an old man in white – elderly –with long flowing beard, on a puffy cloud, looking down on us sometimes kindly, other times angrily at us, waiting to catch us out, ready to send a lightning bolt! But at least we know a bit more than that simplistic image!

God is One and yet God exists as the relationship of mutual inter-personal love of Three Persons. We pray ‘In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit’ at the beginning of Mass, we bless ourselves at Mass; and every day in prayer – yet we cannot ever comprehend the Greatest Mystery of all – God.

What is the best image we can come up with?

I find Rublev’s Icon helpful – not only to preach about but as a visual reminder of the Mystery of the Three Persons in One God.

You may have seen this icon before. It is simply beautiful and worth pondering.

The first thing to notice is that the three angels as depicted are all identical facially. This points to the equality – the similarity as in a family -of the Three Persons in the One God. They all have haloes – pointing to the holiness of God

Next, the Father is seated on the left – He points to the Son and the Holy Spirit who look back at the Father – Christ who is sent to redeem us and the Spirit who is sent at Pentecost to sanctify us.

We see the colour blue – which iconographers use to signify divinity or God. Christ and the Spirit have more because they have been seen –become visible

Each holds a rod or staff pointing to their divine majesty and authority. As the queen of England celebrates 60 years this weekend, her ‘majesty’ is miniscule in relation to the Majesty of God.

Each of the Divine Person’s hands are also worth examining more closely – that of the Father sending, that of the Son with two fingers pointing downwards symbolising His journey to earth and  His humanity and divinity, and that of the Holy Spirit being sent downwards also to sanctify us.

Christ has a stole on His shoulder pointing to His priesthood and that He has offered Himself for our sakes.

The tree behind Christ points to the Cross on which hung the Saviour of the world.

 The house behind the Father points to our heavenly home

The Mass is the foretaste of ‘first course’ – the Body and Blood of Christ are on the table – the wedding banquet or supper of the Lamb in heaven – to which all are invited.

The three Persons are seated around a table that seats four – the fourth place is for you and me – God invites you to sit with Him and feel at home as an equal - comfortable – there is a place for you in this relationship.

There is restlessness in all of us that can only be satisfied by God and our relationship with Him in prayer and the sacraments. Let us try to know him, love Him and serve Him better in this life on order to be happy with Him forever in the next.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit:

As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen

Pentecost Sunday

Galatians 5:16-25

If you are guided by the Spirit you will be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit, the Spirit is totally against such a thing, and it is precisely because the two are so opposed that you do not always carry out your good intentions. If you are led by the Spirit, no law can touch you. When self-indulgence is at work the results are obvious: fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility; idolatry and sorcery; feuds and wrangling, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels; disagreements, factions, envy; drunkenness, orgies and similar things. I warn you now, as I warned you before: those who behave like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control. There can be no law against things like that, of course. You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires.

                                       Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit.

The second reading at today’s Mass provides us with a ‘game plan’, strategy and a map of life. We are provided with alternatives, either to conform to the spirit of the world or to conform to the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
We all have a choice – either to follow the path of least resistance or to follow where God’s Holy Spirit wishes to lead us.

We are all too familiar with the first path – it is a well trod one, one that readily appeals to us and our lower animal instincts. It is a path that is superficially attractive and tempting and one that is hard to break free from. These are the sometimes unhealthy habits of years, addictions, compulsions.
We are called by the Spirit to break free from bad habits and to a new way of thinking, acting and reacting.
The Holy Spirit wishes to aid us in our weakness, in our resolve, on our stick-ability. The Spirit comes to our rescue in our misery as we lie clogged in the quicksand of ingrained habits that cause us to sink the more we struggle to break free.

Pride, guilt, fear of the consequences of change, prevent us, slow us down, freeze us, in repetitive harmful ways of behaving, like a record with a needle stuck, or a skipping CD, we play the same tune over and over.
For many of us, we are faced with a long, arduous, path, with side-roads we take that lead us back to where we started instead of taking us where we want to go.

The Spirit acts as a spiritual GPS, or Sat-Nav, from our selfish inclinations to life in the Holy Spirit as described in the Epistle today.

Life according to selfishness and worldliness in Paul’s epistle to the Galatians reads almost like an sad and sorry and all-too familiar alphabet of immorality – anger, back-biting, coarseness, debauchery, evil inclinations, fornication, gross indecency, idolatry, jealousy, orgies, quarrels, sexual irresponsibility and so on.

But life in the Holy Spirit – being in a state of grace, in other word, is characterised by the fruits of love, joy , peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, trustfulness, goodness, and self-control.
There is therefore in all of us a tug of war – in our conscious deliberate attractions and choices - between what we are and what we want to be; between how we see ourselves at this very moment in time on the one hand, and on the other, the best version of ourselves we would like to be, and feel we know we can be, with God’s help.

Life in the Holy Spirit is however not simply the avoidance of a check-list of vices, ‘I didn’t kill, cheat, steal, etc, but the pursuit of virtue through prayer, the sacraments and performing works of charity.

The reward of a life lived in the Holy Spirit is to inherit the Kingdom of God. The cost is 'to crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires' - the work of  a lifetime.
To sum up, we all have a choice, we all have a struggle on our hands, but the good news is that we have help and hope.

Come Holy Spirit once more into my life this day.