Fr. Imo's Reflections

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June 13, 2021, 2021

Homily Reflection by Fr. Imo


The Bible often draws upon the natural world to give lessons in matters pertaining to faith.  In the First Reading, Ezekiel turns to the trees of the forest to teach the leaders of Israel about the power of God.  Reacting against Israel’s intention to enter an alliance with Egypt while still in exile in Babylon, Ezekiel threatens that their scheme to break away from Babylon will fail.  He counters the faulty plans of the royal court with God’s plan. In this passage he tells them that God will select a tender shoot from the royal house of David and will nurture it into a majestic cedar tree.  All Nations, like birds of every kind, shall dwell beneath these people planted by God like a tree (Israel). God will use them to open up his grace to the whole world. The humble (low trees) will find honor and the weary (withered trees) will find strength and hope.


Today’s Gospel presents us with two parables dealing with planting.  In these parables, the first parable reflects the way seeds grew into plants.  This mysterious process is a good example to apply to how the kingdom of God grows.  The seeds of the Gospel are sown, and somehow the kingdom of God emerges.   The second parable involves the same process, but with some added features.  The seed is tiny, but when it grows up, it becomes a mustard shrub.  These shrubs were not attractive at all and tended to expand and multiply easily. Interestingly, Jesus uses the mustard image to speak about his kingdom instead of the imagery of the great Lebanon cedar tree which is majestic and exudes nobility.


In fact, by using such an ordinary image as a mustard shrub, Jesus is deliberately telling us that the kingdom of God is a reality that is manifested in the ordinary, unattractive, mundane things of everyday life.  Many times the power and grace of God shows itself in the people and places to which we pay no attention because they are ordinary.


The central message behind the parables is the saving grace of God which gives us growth and transformation that change our situation.  Some of us carry sadness about something that did not work well in our lives, and perhaps a number of things which are not working well now. Some of them are so difficult and challenging, that it is hard to imagine how we could dare to have hope. We might be tempted to lose courage so much that we cannot imagine that God is here or that God is able to bring saving grace into our situation. We may not know or foresee how there can be light anywhere near this darkness, or at the end of the tunnel or how this loss, this death, can result in some life.


Grace is a gift of our salvation in Christ.  It is the reign of God and the operating presence of Christ’s salvation in our lives.  All we need is to realize that with the right faith and disposition, there is no limit to how much God’s reign will transform our lives and situations.  No matter what our experiences have been, his grace gives us the certainty and courage to face the future of hope and makes tolerable the sufferings of the present moment.  Our anticipated victory will not come by might but grace in the Holy Spirit.  For God has the power to lift us up and nurture us into a majestic cedar tree.  Are we ready to let God change us through what we are going through by his life-giving Word and Spirit?  What in our lives has to change to make that happen?  As Ezekiel sees God “lifting high the lowly tree” and “making the withered tree bloom,” so he wants to transform your situation so that what seemed irrelevant becomes paramount.