OT XI SUNDAY (JUNE 13) Eight-minute homily in one page (L-21)
Introduction: Today’s readings focus our attention on the birth and growth of the reign or rule of God (Kingdom of God), in our human lives and on the gigantic growth of the Church from very humble beginnings. Both growths are slow and mysterious, guided by the power of the Holy Spirit. (A pertinent anecdote may be added here)
Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading, taken from Ez 17:22-24, is a Messianic prophecy. Ezekiel tells us how the Lord God of Israel will allow a descendant of King David to become the Messiah and Savior of the world. In contrast with the parable of the tiny mustard seed in today’s Gospel, Ezekiel sees the Messiah originating in a royal family (lofty Cedar, David). In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 92), the Psalmist sings of Jesus, “The Just One shall flourish like the palm tree, like a Cedar of Lebanon shall He grow.” In the second reading, St. Paul teaches the Corinthian Christians that they are to advance the growth of God’s Kingdom and His rule in their lives by doing His will so that they may be amply rewarded in the final judgment. In today’s Gospel, Jesus compares the growth of the Kingdom of God to the germination of a wheat seed and that of a tiny mustard seed. Both have exceedingly small beginnings. The wheat seeds, by gradual but steady growth, help the farmer to get a bumper crop. In the same way, the life principle in a tiny mustard seed enables it to grow into a large bush. The reign of God in human hearts and the growth of the Church in the world also have small beginnings. But the Source of all life, God the Holy Spirit, gives to both a steady, persistent, and gigantic growth, provided we, the members of the Church, cooperate with God’s grace.
Life messages: 1) We need to cooperate in the growth of God’s Kingdom: 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 the Holy Spirit to nurture it with TLC (tender loving care), it grows miraculously to gigantic proportions. The growth is slow and microscopic in the beginning. But the seed grows by using the power of the Holy Spirit, given to us through the Word of God, the Mass, the Sacraments and prayer. As we learn God’s will from His words and try to put these words into practice, we participate in the growth of God’s Kingdom on earth, a growth which will be completed in our Heavenly life. But since we need the special anointing of the Holy Spirit to be doers of the Word of God, let us offer our lives before God every day, asking for this special anointing.
2) We need to avoid getting discouraged: Since the acceptance God’s rule by human beings is a terribly slow process, there is the danger of discouragement and hopelessness among preachers, evangelizers, and believers. The conviction that growth of the Kingdom of God is the work of the Holy Spirit and needs our humble cooperation should make us optimistic in continuing our work of witnessing. We should continue sowing tiny seeds in the form of words of love, acts of encouragement, deeds of charity, mercy and forgiveness.
OT XI (B) (June 13): Ez 17: 22-24; II Cor 5:6-10; Mk 4:26-34
Homily starter anecdotes: 1) The word “impossible” is not in God’s dictionary: You remember David, a pre-teen shepherd boy, taking down the mighty soldier Goliath? You remember Moses, the stuttering herdsman who, in a personal interview with God, was directed to liberate his nation from a two-thousand-year-old nation? As a boy, Thomas Edison was informed by a teacher that he was too stupid to learn anything. His teacher advised his mother to take him out of school. Albert Einstein seemed so slow and dull that his parents feared that he was mentally deficient. Winston Churchill was admitted to school in the lowest level classes and never moved out of the lowest group in all the years he attended Harrow. But the word “impossible” is not in God’s dictionary. Eighty percent of success is perseverance. How do you think Michelangelo got the angel out of the rock? The most successful salespersons are those who try and try again. Walt Disney was fired from his first job because he didn’t have any good ideas. Abraham Lincoln entered the Black Hawk War as a captain and came out a private. George Washington Carver, a little-known Afro-American agricultural scientist, revolutionized the agriculture of the Southern Unites States with the peanut and the sweet potato. — Today’s Gospel teaches us how God causes His Kingdom to grow in human hearts and communities in a slow but steady way. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2) Do you know what happened to the tiny seed Rita Rizzo planted? You probably don’t recognize the name, Rita Antoinette Rizzo. Rita was born on April 20, 1923. She had a rough childhood which she spent mostly in poverty. When she was a young woman, Rita decided to become a nun. At 21 she entered the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, a Franciscan religious order for women. She believed that God was calling her into television ministry. At the time she didn’t know anything about television except how to turn one on. But she prayed about it and decided to go ahead with the project, believing that everything would fall into place. With only two hundred dollars and a handful of other Sisters, she became the only woman in religious broadcasting to own a network. She went on to found a new house for the order in 1962 in Irondale, Alabama, where the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), is headquartered. In 1996 she initiated the building of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of the Angels monastery in Hanceville, Alabama. This Sister, Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, although she died, semi-paralyzed and unable to communicate, is seen by millions of people on her prerecorded twice-weekly program, Mother Angelica Live. Her network, EWTN, is available 24 hours a day everywhere in the world. Visitors to the EWTN complex in Irondale, Alabama or the Shrine in Hanceville, cannot help but be impressed with what God has accomplished using this little nun – a monastery, network facilities complete with satellite dish, a print shop and a Chapel. — Whoever would have thought that Rita Rizzo, coming from an impoverished background, and starting on her own with only a few hundred dollars, could reach out and help millions of people to learn and appreciate their Faith? Whoever would have thought that such a tiny seed would become such a large shrub? That is the way the kingdom of God works. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
3) He was given the very first Nobel peace prize: One June morning in 1859, 156 years ago, Jean Henri Dunant woke up and opened his door in Switzerland. He heard that a war had started in Italy. So, he hastily packed a few things and set out. He wanted to see for himself just what was going on. Henri arrived in Italy where he saw soldiers fighting on the side of a hill near the town of Castiglione. It seemed that everyone was shooting at everyone else. He watched as men were hit by bullets, gave horrible cries, and fell to the ground. Henri had never seen anything like this before. He felt that he should do something to help the wounded men. So, when the fighting stopped at dusk, he went to the nearby town to ask people to go to the battlefield with him. Ordinary citizens: farmers, bakers and tailors responded at once. They spent the night there giving as much aid as they could to the wounded men. It was hard for Henri to forget what he had seen once he returned home, so he decided to write down his experiences. He described the horrible sight of battle and men being shot. He also suggested that every country should have a relief society, a kind of emergency aid service to help wounded soldiers. It was five years later before the first rescue society was organized in Geneva, Switzerland in 1864. It was called the Red Cross. And soon other countries joined the society. Everyone forgot all about Henri until an article appeared in a newspaper in 1895. In 1901 he was given the very first Nobel peace prize. [Peter J. Dyck, A Leap of Faith (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1990), pp. 74-78.] Whoever would have thought that onlywatching something as horrifying and terrifying as a battle in progress, would bring about so much good? But Henri planted a seed that would germinate and help millions of people all over the world. That’s the way the kingdom works – “great harvests from tiny seeds.” That’s the lesson from this parable. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Introduction: Today’s readings are about the birth and growth of the reign or rule of God (Kingdom of God), in our human lives and about the gigantic growth of the Church from very humble beginnings. Both growths are slow and mysterious, guided by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading, taken from Ez 17:22-24, is a messianic prophecy. Ezekiel tells us how the Lord God of Israel will allow a descendant of King David to become the Messiah and Savior of the world. In contrast with the parable of tiny the mustard seed in today’s Gospel, Ezekiel sees the Messiah originating in a royal family (lofty Cedar, David). In today’s Responsorial Psalm, (Ps 92), the Psalmist sings of Jesus, “The Just One shall flourish like the palm tree, like a Cedar of Lebanon shall He grow,” and of the Church and ourselves, “They that are planted in the House of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.” In the second reading, St. Paul teaches the Corinthian Christians that they are to please God by doing His will (thus advancing the growth of God’s Kingdom and His rule in their lives), so that they may be amply rewarded in the final judgment. In today’s Gospel, Jesus compares the growth of the Kingdom of God to the germination of a wheat seed and that of a tiny mustard seed. Both have very small beginnings. The wheat seeds, by gradual but steady growth, help the farmer to get a bumper crop. In the same way, the life principle in a tiny mustard seed enables it to grow into a large bush. The reign of God in human hearts and the growth of the Church in the world also have small beginnings. But the Source of all life, God the Holy Spirit, gives to both a steady, persistent and gigantic growth.
The first reading Ez 17:22-24 explained: According to Dr. Reginald Fuller, together with the more usually cited Daniel 4:10, 20-21, Ezekiel’s allegory of the cedar tree is a source of the imagery of the mustard bush in the Gospel reading. The cedar stands for the restoration of the Davidic monarchy after the exile. The shoot or twig (see Isa 11:1) refers to a descendant of Jehoiachin, the last Davidic king before the exile. In this reading, Ezekiel prophesies the better days coming for the Chosen People, when Yahweh will take back His people once more and dwell in their midst forever and transplant the exiled people of Israel, returning them to the land of their fathers. Today’s extract is also a Messianic prophecy in which God says that He will raise up a descendant –- a sprig from the lofty cedar, David — who will, nevertheless, be the glory of Israel. As Jesus describes the ordinary mustard shrub, grown into a size large enough so that “the birds of the air can make nests in its branches,” the words echo a similar description found in the first reading (Ez 17:22-23). In Ezekiel’s text, however, the Divinely rooted plant is a towering, noble cedar—-a tad more imposing than a mustard bush, no matter how large! In that cedar, “every kind of bird will live,” an image used in Ezekiel and in other Old Testament texts (see Ps 104:12; Ez 31:6; Dn 4:9-21), to suggest the future inclusion of the Gentile nations in God’s eternal plan. Jesus’ use of a mustard plant instead of a great cedar continues the image of humble beginnings for the great power that is to come. Mark’s community would have recognized the mustard plant as appropriate for Jesus’ own earthly ministry. The Messiah came as an itinerant teacher/rabbi who gathered a few ordinary people as close disciples. Jesus’ Incarnational presence was like that of a mustard plant, not an imposing cedar. He was not a Messiah of towering strength with great political, financial and military power. Yet the Divinely-ordained growth of that small beginning resulted in the same kind of exponential growth and presence—inviting all the “birds of the air” to make their nests within its branches. The first parable emphasizes that the farmer can do nothing to produce or hasten the end of the growth process, while the second emphasizes exclusively the contrast between the small beginnings and the final consummation.
The second reading (2 Cor 5:6-10) explained: St Paul tells the Corinthian Christians that his constant desire and motive in his earthly life is, and in his Heavenly life will be, to please God. In this, he wants them to imitate him. The main reason Paul strives to please Christ is the prospect of appearing before His judgment seat (v. 10). What we believe about the future should affect our lives today. The knowledge that Paul possesses an eternal house in Heaven allows him to have a positive attitude toward life’s adversities. Paul’s cheerfulness stems in part from knowing that as long as we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord. Death for him is not an enemy but a friend. This is because death, or being away from the body, means being at home with the Lord (v. 8). For Paul, to “live by Faith” is to walk in the realm of Faith. [“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).] Paul teaches that the Divine Judgment is a certainty, not an option. Nor is this Judgment to be taken lightly. Paul’s intention is to remind the Corinthians that all those who serve Christ will have to give an account of what they have accomplished for the Lord, not of how they have increased their own reputation (5:12). Even the Corinthians are not exempt from this Divine scrutiny and assessment. How will we be judged? According to Paul, we are to receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. It is not clear here whether this judgment will occur at death or at the Parousia. Paul does not say one way or the other.
Gospel Exegesis: The context: Jesus’ disciples were feeling discouraged. Sure, crowds were gathering to hear their teacher, but there was little evidence of progress and a lot of evidence of resistance. Jesus had been talking about the Kingdom of God, the time when God’s reign would be manifest upon the earth, and people would live in conformity to God’s will. It was apparent that this wasn’t happening then. It would be even more difficult at the conclusion of Jesus’ ministry for these close disciples to believe that the Kingdom of God had come any closer to being a reality. They would be a small, discouraged group of fugitives without a leader. Now was the time to provide them with a message that would give them hope in times of discouragement and sustain them in the face of future persecution. Hence, Jesus told them the parable of the mustard seed. His words have a message, not only for the apostles, but for us as well. The first parable concludes with an allusion to Joel 4:13; the harvest is the Day of Judgment
The Kingdom parables or seed parables: The kingdom of God for Pharisees was the absolute observance of the Mosaic Law. The Zealots saw it as a political state established by force of arms with God as Supreme Ruler. The Essenes, despairing of the society of their day, imagined the Kingdom of God as heralding the end of the world, and so they withdrew to Qumran and elsewhere, in the Dead Sea wilderness, to await its coming. Jesus proclaimed this Kingdom as God’s rule in human lives begun here on earth and completed in Heaven. The Kingdom Jesus speaks of is not only the afterlife but life here and now; it is the way God wants the world to be. 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 . . .” After the parable of the sower in the fourth chapter of Mark comes the parable of the harvest (4:26-29). Here, Jesus describes the farmer planting the seed and harvesting the crop, but not even knowing how the seed secretly sprouts and grows. The third parable in this chapter is the parable of the mustard seed (4:30-32). The consistent factors in all three parables of response in Mark 4 are: the word of God is like a seed; God alone can give the growth; and great growth is possible in God’s Kingdom. We are called to do what we can do — plant and nurture. God will do what only God can do — produce the growth. In the 2nd and the 3rd parables, the comparisons Jesus makes are startling in their simplicity. The kingdom of God, the great future presence of the Divine, is likened to a small seed, a dried-up kernel of potential. But the actual development, from seed to stalk to ripened grain, occurs outside any influence of the sower. The grain’s growth occurs “by itself” without any observable cause. Clearly, God’s providential power ordains the growth of seeds into harvestable crops, both in Leviticus and here in Jesus’ parable. This Divinely-ordered growth gradually brings the small seeds to fully ripened grain heads, ready for harvest. The Kingdom that grows to full fruition under God’s power will be ready for its completion and fulfillment at the moment determined by God for judgment.
Parable of the mustard seed: The Parable of the Mustard Seed was taught in rhetorical hyperbole because the largest of mustard plants, even under ideal conditions, can grow only to a height of about 15 feet. (Petunia, the Begonia and Orchid seeds are smaller seeds. But the white mustard species grew to ten or twelve feet with a stem the size of a man’s arm! This was well known in Israel). A tree, whose large branches offer a sanctuary for birds, was a familiar Old Testament symbol for a mighty Kingdom which would give shelter to the nations. The tiny mustard seed, growing to be a tree, symbolizes Jesus’ offer of refuge and life in God’s Kingdom. Here, Jesus uses a shrub coming from a tiny seed (Jn 12:24), to represent Kingdom growth, consistent with other tree/Kingdom references (Ez 17:23 and Dn 4:11-21). While the first Kingdom parable (vv. 26-29) is found only in Mark, the second comparison Jesus makes concerning the Kingdom, the parable of the mustard seed, is found also in Mt 13:31-32, Lk 13:18-19, and the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas (20). The picture painted in the Parable of the Mustard Seed by Jesus is of the humble beginnings of the Church experiencing an explosive rate of growth. While growth itself was the primary focus of the first seed parable, the mustard seed comparison emphasizes the contrast between tiny beginnings and tremendous endings. The mustard seed was proverbially used to describe something of minuscule proportions (see Matthew 17:20), in first century culture. Likewise, the resulting mustard plant was well known as a large, fast-growing herbaceous shrub, and one that could be quite invasive if left unchecked in the garden (see Pliny, Natural History, 19, 170-171). Birds are naturally attracted to the taste of the mustard seed. Matthew identifies the birds of the air as “the wicked one” (http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/bible.show/sVerseID/23544/eVerseID/23544 Mt 13: 4, 19). Mark connects them with “Satan”(Mk 4: 4, 15), and Luke links them to “the devil.” http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/bible.show/sVerseID/25251/eVerseID/25251l Lk 8: 5, 12). These “birds,” demons led by “the prince of the power of the air” (http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/bible.show/sVerseID/29232/eVerseID/29232 Eph 2:2), have continually tried to infiltrate the Church. Upon the unsuspecting early Church, Satan moved quickly to implant his agents in it to teach false doctrine while appearing to be true Christians.
The mystery of growth: Only Mark records the parable of the seed’s growth. Using the mini-parables of the growth of wheat seeds and mustard seeds in the field, Jesus explains the nature of the growth of the Kingdom of God or the rule of God in human beings and human societies. In the case of both wheat and mustard seeds, the initial growth is slow, mysterious and unnoticeable. But within days, a leafy shoot will emerge, and within months, a mature plant with numerous branches and leaves, flowers and fruits will be produced. The growth is silent and slow but steady, using power from the seed in the beginning and transforming absorbed water and minerals in the later stages. Growth doesn’t take place because of our understandings or manipulations. It is God’s initiative that brings forth growth. We need to be patient and not give up, because sometimes growth takes longer than we expect. God works in ways we don’t understand.
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 to 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.
The message of the parable is quite simple and direct. The reign of God will grow to its fullness, despite all obstacles. In those who accept Jesus as their God and Savior, the Will of God will also be accepted in all areas of their lives with the help of the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within them. The Church of Jesus Christ had a tiny beginning in the work of an obscure teacher and a pitifully small group of ordinary people. But one of the proofs of the Divine origin of the Church of Christ is its growth from such a very humble beginning. No wonder the Church has become the greatest of all shrubs, the world-wide Church that welcomes people of all races and nations into her fold, celebrating the marvel of growth!
A parable of encouragement: The parable of the mustard seed is a word of encouragement for us. Things might not be what you and I want them to be, but there is still hope. God works in mysterious ways. God is still with us even when our efforts are frustrated, because He is the Source of growth. Growth often starts out small like a mustard seed and then blossoms into something huge.
The second thing these words of Jesus do is to remind us that while we are called to do something, we are not called to do everything. We scatter the seed, but the growth is up to God. The same process works in the Christian life. We practice daily prayer and Bible reading. We find ways to be of service to others. We pledge money and time to the Church and charitable purposes. We join the people of God at the altar regularly. These are some of the seeds that God uses to mold and shape our lives in love, peace and hope. But the shaping happens at God’s own pace and as we are willing and able to cooperate with Him.
Life messages: 1) We need to cooperate in the growth of God’s Kingdom: 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 the Holy Spirit to nurture it with TLC (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. As we learn God’s will from His words and try to put these words into practice, we participate in the growth of God’s Kingdom on earth, a growth which will be completed in our Heavenly life. But since we need the special anointing of the Holy Spirit to be doers of the word of God, let us offer our lives before God every day, asking for this special anointing.
2) We need to avoid getting discouraged: Since the acceptance God’s rule by human beings is a very slow process, there is the danger of discouragement and hopelessness among preachers, evangelizers, and believers. The conviction that the growth of the Kingdom of God is the work of the Holy Spirit, with our humble cooperation, should make us optimistic in continuing our work of bearing witness to Him. We can all plant tiny seeds in the form of words of love, acts of encouragement, and deeds of charity, mercy and forgiveness. Parents and teachers can plant a lot of seeds in the minds of their children and students. The Holy Spirit will touch the hearts of the recipients of these seeds sown by us and He will effect the growth of the kingdom in their souls and lives. As the apostle Paul once said of his ministry, “Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).
Jokes of the week: 1) Tiny killer of a giant bulldog: President Reagan loves to tell the story of a lady who knocked on a man’s door and said, “Do you own a black Pit Bull dog?” The man said, “Yes.” Well, the lady said, “I have to tell you, it’s dead.” The man demanded, “What do you mean it’s dead? What happened?” And the lady said, “My tiny dog Pekinese killed it.” And the man said, “Your Pekinese killed it? How?” She said, “It got stuck in his throat.”
2) Small plot and big plot of land: A Texan was visiting a friend who was a small Iowa farmer. “Is this all the land you have?” he asked. “Where I come from, I can get in my car at 6:00 a.m. and drive all day and never see the end of my land.” “Is that right?” said the Iowa farmer. “I used to have a car like that too.”
3) A visitor to the Vatican was quite impressed with the beauty and power of the place. He asked Pope John XXIII this question: “How many people do you have working here?” With a twinkle in his eye, the pope replied, “About half of them.”
4) A small fellow, not much over 5 feet tall, applied for a job as a lumberjack in Alaska. The foreman, thinking to discourage him, gave him a large ax, set him before a tree hundreds of feet tall, and yards in diameter, and told him to chop it down. Within minutes the tree had been felled. The amazed foreman asked him where he’d learned to chop trees so powerfully. The little fellow replied, “When I worked in the Sahara forest.” “You mean, the Sahara Desert.” “That was after I got there,” said the small lumberjack.
5) A third grader taught the teacher an important truth: The teacher asked, “How many great people were born in our city?” “None,” replied the pupil. “There were no great people born. They were born babies who became great people.”
6) A small farming village was threatened with drought because the rains had failed to arrive. On a hot and dry Sunday, the pastor told his congregation, “There isn’t anything that will save us except to pray for rain. Go home, pray, believe, and come back next Sunday ready to thank God for sending rain.” The people returned to church the following Sunday. As they sat down the Pastor gently rebuked them. “We can’t worship today because you do not yet believe,” he said. “But we prayed” they protested, “and we do believe.” “Believe?” he responded. “Then where are your umbrellas?”
- “Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 37) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Websites of the week
- Fr. Don’s video collections: https://sundayprep.org/homilies-reflections
- Lectorwork.org= http://oldwebsite.lectorworks.org/id20.html
3)https://youtu.be/eSytAgtLqVw (Incredible Story about Owning Your Attitude,Travis Mills Motivational Speech); https://youtu.be/E9Bc7rsSldU,https://youtu.be/QuarPcZuKmI
24 Additional anecdotes:
1)”He performed an action so sweet and simple:” The seeds may be little acts of kindness which take root and bear fruit. Oscar Wilde tells of an incident that had profound meaning for his life. He was being brought down from his prison to the Court of Bankruptcy, between two policemen, when he saw an old acquaintance waiting in the crowd. “He performed an action so sweet and simple that it has remained with me ever since,” wrote Wilde. “He simply raised his hat to me and gave me the kindest smile that I have ever received as I passed by, handcuffed and with bowed head. Men have gone to Heaven for smaller things than that. It was in this spirit, and with this mode of love, that the saints knelt down to wash the feet of the poor or stooped to kiss the leper on the cheek. I have never said one single word to him about what he did … I store it in the treasure-house of my heart … That small bit of kindness brought me out of the bitterness of lonely exile into harmony with the wounded, broken, and great heart of the world.” — We plant the littlest of seeds and it helps the Kingdom to grow. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2) “I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!” Helen Mrosla remembers teaching a ninth grade class “new math” a number of years ago. Her students were working hard, but she could tell that they just didn’t understand the new concepts. And they were growing more frustrated and edgy with each passing class. Then one Friday afternoon Helen decided to depart from her lesson plan. She instructed each student to list each person’s name in the class on a sheet of paper and then write something nice about each one. The unusual assignment took the entire class period for them to complete. The next day, Saturday, Helen took those papers and compiled a list for each student of what others in the class liked about them. On Monday she gave each student a paper with what other classmates had written about them. The atmosphere in the class changed instantly; her students were smiling again. Helen overheard one student whisper, “I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!” The students were happy with themselves and one another again. It was time to continue with their math lessons, and no one ever said anything about those papers again. Years passed. Students came and went. Then the class was suddenly brought together again as young adults, and Helen’s former students gathered around her. One of them had something to show her. Opening his wallet, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped and refolded many times. Helen knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things of each classmate. She was amazed as another former student told her that she still kept her list in the top drawer of her desk at home. Another had placed his list in his wedding album. Still another classmate took out her wallet, showed her worn and frazzled list to the group, and said she carried it with her everywhere she went. Helen was simply overwhelmed. [Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hanen, Chicken Soup for the Soul (Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications, Inc., 1993), pp. 126-128.] Whoever would have thought that what a teacher did out of desperation on a Friday afternoon would have such a lasting effect on her students? — You never know. You never know how something you or I do will affect someone else. The funny thing is that we might not even think that what we did was all that important, but to another person it could have made a world of difference. Jesus taught us that the Kingdom of God is like that: seeds are scattered on the ground and the very tiniest of seeds produces an enormous harvest. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3) “Don’t ever stop. It means a lot to those around you.” In a restaurant, a family of five bowed their heads in prayer before beginning to eat. One of the children, a girl of about ten, expressed thanks for the entire family in a hushed voice, her head bobbing expressively. A few moments later a couple, on their way to pay their check, paused at the family’s table. “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen anyone do that,” said the man, extending his hand to the father. The father smiled and replied, “It was strange at first, but we always express thanks at home before we eat. The children continued it when we went to restaurants, so we just went along with it, and now it’s our way.” The woman who had come up to the table patted the little girl on the shoulder and obviously touched, looked at the mother and said, “Don’t ever stop. It means a lot to those around you.” — It seems like such a little thing, but it was a witness. The seeds of the Kingdom are little, and we are called to scatter them. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
4) The seeds of love that they planted, and their prayers made the difference. Clarence and his wife adopted a daughter who, they were told, had emotional problems. The administrator at the orphanage told Clarence frankly that the child would be better off staying there. But Clarence and his wife said Faith and love would conquer any problems, and they adopted the child. It didn’t take too long, however, before they realized they had made a mistake. As year after impossible year passed, they consulted with principals, counselors, and teachers. Terms such as “character disorder,” “sociopath,” and “psychopathic personality” were used to describe their daughter’s behavior. The experts all agreed that there was no hope for improvement. Over the years Clarence and his wife prayed, prayed long and hard, with no observable results. Eventually the girl ran away. A short time later she was caught and placed in a detention center, and later into half-way houses and foster homes. Clarence and his wife lost track of her, and they lost all hope of ever seeing her again. However, years later they did manage to reestablish contact with their daughter. They discovered, much to their amazement, that she had finished high school, attended college, married, and was raising two well-adjusted children. “We lost faith,” Clarence says, “but God was faithful. God never stopped answering our prayers.” [“Faithful When We Are Faithless.” Clarence E. Drumheller. Upper Room (January/February 1994), p. 22.] — Whoever would have thought their daughter could have changed so much? It must have been the seeds of love that they planted and their prayers that made the difference. God works in ways we do not understand. God’s ways are not our ways, and He works slowly but surely to achieve His will in this world. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
5) “Of course, there is a way.” James A. Garfield, prior to serving as President of the United States, was president of Hiram College in Ohio. One day a father asked Garfield if there were a short-cut whereby his son could get through college in less than the usual four years. He wanted his son to get on with making money. The college president gave this reply, “Of course there is a way; it all depends on what you want your boy to do. When God wants to grow an oak tree, he takes 100 years. When he wants to make a squash, he only takes two months.” [Emphasis (Lima, Ohio: The C.S.S. Publishing company, Inc., June 1982), page 27.] Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
6) Diary of Private Martin Treptow: At Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, the President read for us an entry from the diary of Private Martin Treptow. We were ready to hear such energetic words. Private Treptow was an obscure World War I hero. The new President read this entry from his journal: “America must win this war. Therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure. I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended upon me.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
7) “Oh, I don’t think so.” In the movie, Oh, God! God, in the person of George Burns, has prevailed on Jerry, (John Denver), the assistant manager of a supermarket, to carry God’s message to the world. Toward the end of the film, Jerry is lamenting to God that nobody seems to be listening to the message. He tells God that he thinks that they have failed. But God doesn’t see it that way. “Oh, I don’t think so,” God says. “You never know; a seed here, a seed there, something will catch hold and grow.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
8) People grow and mature at different rates. Thomas Edison’s teacher said he could never amount to anything and advised his mother to take him out of school. Winston Churchill was admitted to school in the lowest level classes and never moved out of the lowest group in all the years he attended Harrow. Albert Einstein seemed so slow and dull that his parents feared that he was mentally deficient. One observer has said, “Great minds and high talent, in most cases, cannot be hurried and, like healthy plants, grow slowly.” — It is so with God’s Kingdom. We scatter the seed, but we are not ultimately responsible for its growth. We cannot make things happen. The process by which the kingdom of this world becomes the Kingdom of God proceeds very slowly, and that exasperates us. But, at the same time, if we have faithfully scattered the seed, we are not to blame for its failure to appear in its fullness. We are being cautioned, in these words of Jesus, to be patient. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
9) “Nothing much. Oh, there’s a new baby over at Tom Lincoln’s.” On the one hundredth anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, John McCutcheon drew a famous cartoon. He showed two Kentucky backwoodsmen standing at the edge of a wood in the winter. One asks the other, “Anything new?” The other man replies, “Nothing much. Oh, there’s a new baby over at Tom Lincoln’s. But you know, nothing significant ever happens around here.” Centuries before that someone might have asked in Bethlehem, “Anything new?” And the answer might have been, “No, nothing new. Oh, they say a woman named Mary had a baby in a stable last night. But nothing significant ever happens around here.” — And when that Child grew up and taught, it was about little things: salt, a cup of cold water, a fallen sparrow, a widow’s offering, a lost coin, kindness done for “one of the least of these.” So many of the greatest happenings begin in just such a fashion. They are no more than the planting of a mustard seed. Yet, in God’s good time, the seed becomes a plant and puts forth its branches for the benefit of all. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
10) Golden Bantam: In the Midwest, they plant more corn than mustard seed. One variety of corn is called Golden Bantam. Apparently, all the Golden Bantam corn in this country came from one stalk discovered on a Vermont hillside. How it got there is anybody’s guess. But appreciating its special qualities, the person who discovered it carefully preserved its seed and planted it year after year. Now it is available to the whole world. — That’s how the Kingdom of God works. There are some things that are certain. Jesus says the Kingdom of God is one of them. Our job is to plant the seeds of the Kingdom and then trust God to bring in the harvest. Trust is a helpful ingredient. If we have it, we can go to bed and sleep well. Columbus had it. When he set sail, there was a group of people gathered to watch him leave the harbor. They were probably saying it was anybody’s guess whether he would find anything out there besides scary storms and fish and boring food. Columbus had just enough evidence to trust that India was out there, waiting, and to risk everything to find it. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
11) Mega-malls, mega-churches and mega-storms in contrast to tiny mustard seeds: Part of the reason we get discouraged is that we are victims of bigness. Cities vie with each other to claim the greatest growth and the fanciest entertainments. Corporations are proud when their company occupies the tallest building in the city. Every day we read in our newspapers about famous people doing famous things. We have mega-malls, mega-churches, and mega-storms. In contrast, Jesus spoke of the importance of small things: a mustard seed, a cup of cold water, a widow’s mite, a kindness done to the least of people. Jesus knows what we too often forget: the size of the bush and the healthy spread of the branches depend on the vitality of the seed. When it comes to the seed of the Kingdom of God, Jesus speaks of it with an unshakable confidence, hands holding the future – and the seed, and you. That’s how much God trusts you to go on planting the seeds: a mother’s prayer, a father’s encouragement, a little girl’s joy, a young boy’s imagination, a Vacation Bible School teacher. That’s how much Jesus trusts God to bring in the harvest. Just keep planting the seeds of the kingdom, leaving the outcome in God’s hands. Pope John XXIII was one of the great leaders of the last century. Someone said that he ended his prayers each night by saying to himself, “But who governs the Church, Angelo? You or the Holy Spirit? Very well then, sleep well, Angelo.” Let’s plant the seeds of the Kingdom and sleep well. God will bring in a harvest way, way beyond anybody’s guess. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
12) Trainer of professional athletes: Mackie Shilstone is 5’8″ and weighs only 137 pounds, but he trains some of the largest professional athletes in the country for example, pro basketball player Ralph Sampson, St. Louis shortstop Ozzie Smith, Will Clark of the Giants, and Billy Hobbley of the Harlem Globetrotters. Mackie is not content just to train athletes physically. He wants to help change their lifestyles and ways of thinking as well. “I tell my athletes that they do have control over what their attitude will be about life. Their positive attitude and Faith in God make a difference.” –This morning we are celebrating mustard seed Faith. Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
13) “But trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.” Michelangelo, one of the world’s great artists, was also a great sculptor. One day a visitor was looking at a statue that Michelangelo was making. The visitor said, “I can’t see that you have made any progress since I was here last time.” Michelangelo answered, “Oh, yes, I have made much progress. Look carefully and you will see that I have retouched this part, and that I have polished that part. See, I have worked on this part of the statue, and have softened the lines here.” “Yes,” said the visitor, “but those are all trifles.” “That may be,” replied Michelangelo, “but trifles make perfection and perfection, is no trifle.” — Successful people are aware of the trifles. As an Ethiopian proverb puts it, “When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.” The great writer Bruce Barton once said, “I am tempted to think there are no little things.” That is why Jesus compares the growth of the Kingdom of God to the growth of a tiny mustard seed. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
14) Seeds of liberation: In December of 1955, an Afro- American seamstress by the name of Rosa Parks stepped into a crowded, segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama and sat in an empty seat reserved for whites. When the bus driver ordered Rosa Parks to move, she said, “No.” She was then arrested, handcuffed, and jailed. This incident triggered the Civil Rights Movement. Under the leadership of Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King Jr., a bus boycott and other non-violent demonstrations were organized that eventually led to the abolition of racial segregation laws in transportation, housing, schools, restaurants, and other areas. When Rosa Parks said a simple “No” to a startled bus driver, she started something far more significant than anyone could possibly have imagined in 1955. At a freedom Festival in 1965 she was introduced as the First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement. — This story about Rosa Parks and the plight of her Afro-American brothers and sisters is very similar to the situation of God’s people in today’s readings. Both the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel and the New Testament evangelist Mark are writing for a persecuted community, a people who are outnumbered and oppressed by their pagan neighbors. [Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho.] Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
15) Tiny Seeds, Tall Bamboos! Chinese bamboo seeds are amazing. The seeds lie buried in the soil for five years before any shoots appear above the ground. However, after continuously watering the ground and putting manure on it, hey presto, in just six weeks the bamboo plant grows to a height of around ninety feet. How come? Botanists say that, unseen and unknown, the seeds germinate and develop strong roots that eventually break out and produce tall bamboos. So it is with the Kingdom of God – and with any Kingdom, for that matter. — Too often has the Church identified itself with the Kingdom of God. It is rather the servant of the Kingdom. Like a large oak or Banyan tree that invites all birds to rest and nest in its branches and savour its fruit, so must the Church be open and inviting to all. Remember, no matter what we sow, for ourselves or in our family, Church or world, God, ultimately, is the Supreme Sower and it is God’s Spirit, who will fructify our little seeds and feed us at the “Tree of Life” (Rev 2:7). Does our faith have deep roots? How can we know? What is our root system that nourishes us every day? [Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; also Gerard Fuller in Stories for All Seasons; quoted by Fr. Botelho.] Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
16) “I do not sell finished products here, only seeds!”: A man walked into a store. To his great surprise he found Christ behind the counter. He asked, “What do you sell here?” Christ replied, “You name it.” “I want food for all, good health for kids, adequate housing for everyone, and abortion to cease.” Gently Jesus answered, “Friend, I do not sell finished products here, only seeds. You must plant them and water them. I will do the rest.” (Fr. James Gilhooley). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
17) Masterpieces come from the smallest beginnings: Someone has noted that masterpieces come from the smallest beginnings. From eight notes come every hymn, song, and symphony ever composed. Arguably the greatest piece of music ever written is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – all of it from eight notes. All Western literature is born from the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. From them came the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
18) “Is your name Jesus?” A number of men were returning from a conference and were rushing by taxi to catch a train. As they arrived at the railway station, the train was ready to move off. They rushed across the platform and began to board the train. In their hurry, however, one of the men accidentally brushed against a table on the platform and scattered some of the apples that the seller had packed neatly in a pyramid. As it happened, this man was a Christian. Without any further thought he shouted to the others to go on ahead, and he would catch the next train. He returned to the table and the apples to find that the person in charge was a twelve-year-old boy, and he was blind. The man gathered the scattered apples, put aside some that were slightly damaged, and stacked the others neatly, just as they had been before being scattered. When the job was finished the man took some money from his pocket, put it in the boy’s hand, and said, “That will cover for the apples that are damaged. I’m sorry for what happened, and I hope I haven’t spoiled your day.” He squeezed the boy’s hand in a reassuring way and turned to walk away. As he did so, the boy turned in his direction, and asked simply, “Excuse me, sir, but…. eh…. Are you Jesus?” — That man was a living sign of the kingdom Jesus is speaking about. [Jack McArdle in And That the Gospel Truth; quoted by Fr. Botelho.] Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
19) Berry College, GA from Martha Berry playhouse: Martha Berry was born just outside the town of Rome, GA in 1866. She was born into a wealthy family that owned a vast estate in that area. She asked for a playhouse and her father had a cabin built for her. One Sunday as she was studying her Bible in the cabin, Martha Berry heard the voices of children outside. She went out and saw some of the poor children from nearby Possum Trot playing. Miss Berry was a teenager by this time, and she called the children to her and began to tell them stories from the Bible. Her Bible classes met each week in her playhouse. She taught children that would never have had the opportunity to go to school. She taught them how to read and write. She taught them arithmetic and other lessons. Then, in 1902, she had the idea to start a boys’ school on nearby Lavender Mountain. She deeded land, raised funds and opened the doors to students, and The Berry Industrial School for Boys was formed. The school continued to grow, adding a program for girls. — If you visit Rome, GA today, you can still visit the house Martha Berry lived in until she died. You can also see the cabin playhouse where she taught poor children about the love of God. If you visit Rome, GA you can also see what her little mustard seed school has become. Today, Berry College sits on 28,000 beautiful acres of Georgia real estate. There are 38 major buildings and well over 2,000 students. Berry College is widely recognized as one of the outstanding comprehensive colleges in the southern United States. A school that had very humble beginnings has been a blessing to tens of thousands of Americans. (Rev. Alan Car). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
20) The ‘Taos Hum, Sailing stones and germinating seed are all mysteries, and man stands helpless before them. The “Taos Hum” is a low-pitched sound heard in numerous places worldwide, especially in the USA, UK, and Northern Europe. It is usually heard only in quiet environments and is often described as sounding like a distant diesel engine. Since it has proven undetectable by microphones or VLF antennae, its source and nature are still a mystery. In 1997, Congress directed scientists and observers from some of the most prestigious research institutes in the nation to look into a strange low frequency noise heard by residents in and around the small town of Taos, New Mexico. For years those who had heard the noise, often described by them as a “hum”, had been looking for answers. To this day no one knows the cause of the hum.
The “sailing stones” are a geological phenomenon found in the Racetrack Playa (a seasonally dry lake located in the northern part of the Panamint Mountains in Death Valley National Park, California, U.S.A.). The stones slowly move across the surface of the playa, leaving a track as they go, without human or animal intervention. They have never been seen or filmed in motion and are not unique to The Racetrack. Similar rock travel patterns have been recorded in several other playas in the region but the number and length of travel grooves on The Racetrack are notable. Racetrack stones only move once every two or three years and most tracks last for just three or four years. Stones with rough bottoms leave straight striated tracks while those with smooth bottoms wander. Stones sometimes turn over, exposing another edge to the ground and leaving a different-sized track in the stone’s wake. Then there are the unusual insects, beetles of the family Lampyridae, which have long fascinated scientists. — In today’s Gospel Mark narrates another of such mysteries of nature in the parable of the seed that grows by itself. (Fr. Bobby Jose). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
21) The humble beginning of Civil Right Movement: In the spring of 1961, a small group of civil rights activists began the difficult, dangerous and sometimes deadly journey toward breaking down the racial segregation laws in the United States. At the beginning of these peaceful protests the size, intensity and ferocity of opposition against them suggested that attempting to make any real or lasting change in the situation or in the attitudes which had created and then maintained segregation was pure futility. History shows us, however, that this small beginning was, in fact, the catalyst for the larger major civil rights movement that led to the 1964 and 1965 Civil and Voting Rights Acts respectively. These humble beginnings became the foundations of inspiration for additional legislation, used by Dr. Martin Luther King and others to help turned the country toward a more positive path. In the end the result was the dismantling of blatant racism and legislated systemic discrimination,. This success of non-violent protest encourages us to continue to hope, to pray for, and to work toward completing the change, so that, eventually, people will never be treated and judged by the color of their skin but rather by the content of their character. — The parable of the mustard seed reminds us that the nature’s growth is constant and inevitable. Night and day, while man sleeps, growth goes on. The kingdom of God also grows in human heart in a similar way. (Fr. Bobby Jose). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
22) God is at work all the time: Don’t think that you are either too young or too old to do great things. Thomas Jefferson was 33 when he drafted the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin was 26 when he wrote Poor Richard’s Almanac. Charles Dickens was 25 when he wrote Oliver Twist. Newton was 23 when he enunciated the Law of Gravity. But there is the opposite side of the story: Emmanuel Kant was 74 when he wrote his deepest philosophical works. Goethe was 80 when he completed Faust. Alfred Tennyson was 80 when he wrote Crossing the Bar. Michelangelo completed his greatest work at 87. Titan at 98 painted the historic Battle of Lepanto. Chief Justice Holmes at 90 still wrote brilliant judgements. — God works all the time and at any time!
(Plavendran & Victor Raj in Inspiring Insights; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
23) Yes, God adapts us for his purposes and no one should say, I cannot be used. An old song says, “If you can use anything Lord, you can use me.” And old litany says, The next time you think God can’t use you, remember:
Noah was a drunk
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar
Leah was ugly
Joseph was abused
Moses was murderer and had a stuttering problem
Gideon was afraid
Samson had long hair and was a womanizer
Rahab was a prostitute
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
David had an affair and was a murderer
Elijah was suicidal
Isaiah preached naked
Jonah ran from God
Naomi was a widow
Job went bankrupt and was depressed
Peter denied Christ
The Disciples fell asleep while praying
Martha worried about everything
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
Zacchaeus was too small
Paul was too religious
Timothy had an ulcer.
Lazarus was dead!
No excuses then — God chooses the weak and makes them strong!
In fact, it is often our very weakness that is the open door for God. In our strength, we are usually too proud to be of any use to God. Moses was too strong, at age forty, when he pridefully murdered a man and thought he was doing both the Jews and God a favor. But only at age 80, forty years later, was Moses finallly weak and humble enough to depend on God. Only then could God use him. Yes, God often uses the humble things, and the humble people of this earth to do his greatest work. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
24) Resolutions from the movie, “Courageous:” Watch: (https://youtu.be/jTkOdqKQHBE)
I DO solemnly resolve before God to take full responsibility for myself, my wife, and my children.
I WILL love them, protect them, serve them, and teach them the Word of God as the spiritual leader of my home.
I WILL be faithful to my wife, to love and honor her, and be willing to lay down my life for her as Jesus Christ did for me.
I WILL bless my children and teach them to love God with all of their hearts, all of their minds, and all of their strength.
I WILL train them to honor authority and live responsibly.
I WILL confront evil, pursue justice, and love mercy.
I WILL pray for others and treat them with kindness, respect, and compassion.
I WILL work diligently to provide for the needs of my family.
I WILL forgive those who have wronged me and reconcile with those I have wronged.
I WILL learn from my mistakes, repent of my sins, and walk with integrity as a man answerable to God.
I WILL seek to honor God, be faithful to His Church, obey His Word, and do His will.
I WILL courageously work with the strength God provides to fulfill this resolution for the rest of my life and for His glory.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. —Joshua 24:15 Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/). (L/21)
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 37) by Fr. Tony: email@example.com
Visit my website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under CBCI or Fr. Tony for my website version. (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020) Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604