11th Sunday (B)

The Kingdom of Godfor Pharisees was attained by the exact observance of the Mosaic Law. The Zealots saw the Kingdom as a political state established by force of arms with God as supreme ruler. Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God as God’s rule in human lives begun here on earth and completed in Heaven. The Kingdom Jesus speaks of is not the afterlife but an expression of how God wants the world to be and live. Jesus’ “Kingdom parables” in today’s Gospel point to the Kingdom as a Divine act rather than a human accomplishment. They call on man to be patient with the delay of the Kingdom in coming. They are called “Kingdom parables” because they announce, “the Kingdom of God is like . . .”

The parable of the growing seed(verses 26-29) tells about a farmer who scatters seed in his field. While he sleeps at night and is up and about during the day, all the while the seed sprouts and grows. The farmer does not know how it happens, but the growing seed yields ripe grain for harvest. In this parable, Jesus underlines the inevitable growth of the kingdom of God. The kingdom has already irrupted into the world in Jesus’ ministry. Just as the scattered seed leads mysteriously to harvest, the heavenly kingdom has an irresistible power to grow and reach its full destiny. The kingdom grows because of the God-driven principle that powers its growth and maturation.

The second parable (verses 30-34) is about the mustard seed, the smallest seed in the world. Planted in the ground, it grows and becomes the biggest of all plants. Birds come and make their nests in its shady branches. In this parable, Jesus contrasts the insignificant beginning of the extremely small seed and the enormous size of the full-grown bush. The image of a tiny mustard seed growing into the grandiose bush underlines the universal expanse of God’s kingdom that would encompass all nations, as well as Israel.

Mysterious but steady growth of the Kingdom of God: Jesus explains that the kingdom of God grows this way in human souls. The Kingdom of God is the growth of God’s rule in human hearts that occurs when man does the will of God and surrenders his life to God. The seed of Faith lies dormant within each of us. When we permit him to nurture it with tender loving care, it grows miraculously into gigantic proportions. The growth is slow and microscopic in the beginning. But this seed grows by using the power of the Holy Spirit, given to us through the word of God, the Mass, the Sacraments and prayer. Finally, God’s rule in the human heart transforms individuals and communities into God’s people doing His will in His kingdom.

In Isaiah 55: 11 God says, “So shall my Word be that goes forth out of my mouth and not return to me void.” That word void means empty or ineffective. Let’s use the word empty and unproductive. “And not return to me empty or unproductive, but it will accomplish that which I please and prosper into wherein I send it.”

Jesus sowed his seed in our hearts, and then off he went, like the farmer in the story, like all the farmers all over the world. Of course, he knew things would not be ideal. There were birds and the droughts, the weeds and insects. But there was also the power of the seed itself, maturing and growing in humanity, a divine power showing its force all the time. The reign of God will grow to its fullness, despite all obstacles. Those who accept Jesus as their God and Savior will accept his rule in all areas of their lives, with the help of the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.

God did not give His Word to us for it to be inactive in our lives. He gave His Word to us so that it could produce in us. What does it produces? It produces the Kingdom of God. Some people say we are just going to leave everything up to God. That’s not how God works. God has put it in our hands. The seed of the kingdom is growing in you and you are becoming a part of the growth of the kingdom. If not you must be asleep. It is not you who should be asleep. He has placed his seed in us and went away, knowing that one day we, you and me would find that seed growing in us through all the weeds, all the droughts and all the dangers. We would be like a tree that is planted by the water streams, yielding its fruits in season, its leaves never fading (Ps 1:3)

James, the epistle writer, wasn’t a farmer.  But he knew the power of a seed sown in fertile soil. “Those who are peacemakers,” he said, “will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness” (James 3:18). The outcome is sure. All that  God requires of us is that we sow seeds of New Life, namely of faith, of justice, of compassion and love in order to make this world  a better place to live. Having done this, we must wait, because we cannot force the seed to become a shrub. We can only provide the right conditions for growth. But God in his own time will definitely see to it that selfishness surrenders to sharing, evil gives way to goodness and hate yields to love. If we have patience and hope, eventually the harvest of what we have planted will make its appearance: nations will be reconciled, human rights restored, the vulnerable innocents will be protected, the unwanted are cared for and the hungry given food. We may not see these results in our own lifetime, but the next generations will.