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Listen to this Sunday's Gospel reading by visiting the website www.sundaygospel.co.uk.
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (17.06.18)
We associate the month of June with summer. After a lengthy hibernation in winter, Spring’s promise is hopefully made good in June and the following months. Nature’s regeneration has much to teach us about the wonders of our God as the Creator of all that is. ‘Creator’ here implying his being the ‘first mover’, the instigator.
This Sunday’s First Reading is taken from Ezekiel (17:22-24) This visionary prophet was born about 622 BC. His life covered the years when his people were slaves and in exile in Babylon as a result of their disobeying God’s Covenant. In today’s extract Ezekiel is engendering hope as he visualises God as a skilled horticulturalist taking care of his creation. God, in addition to causing us to exist, calls us to be his collaborators in caring, on his behalf, for all the constituent parts of our world.
Ezekiel visualises the time when God will take a fertile and authentic remnant of his Chosen People out of Babylon and out of servitude, restoring them to lofty Jerusalem, his place of dwelling:
“I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar, from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot, and plant it on a high and lofty mountain; on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it. It shall put forth branches and bear fruit and become a majestic cedar. Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, every winged thing in the shade of its boughs. And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom.”
Though Ezekiel we, too, can visualize God’s longing to bring a redeemed humanity to heaven.
Just two years after he was elected Pope, Francis issued in 2015 his Encyclical Letter ‘Laudato Si’ on the care we are to exercise for our common home, the planet on which we live. The Pope’s choice of ‘Laudato Si’ comes from the canticle of St. Francis of Assisi – ‘praise to you, my Lord, through our sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs.’(From ‘Canticle of the Creatures’ Francis of Assisi Early Documents Val.1) If you have not yet read ‘Laudato Si’ the summer months are an ideal setting for doing so and it is only 180 pages. This Encyclical can be downloaded for free from the Vatican website.
As every horticulturalist, amateur or professional, knows the transplanting of cuttings, to be successful, needs both skill and care. Today, there are countless sources of advice for gardeners with just window boxes or actual gardens. The popularity of TV and radio gardening programmes – not to mention Chelsea and all local flower shows – points to a very substantial segment of the population with no small interest in gardening.
Spiritual Directors – perhaps the word ‘Guide’ would be better - are ‘horticulturalists’ of the soul. Their gift of discernment can contribute substantially to another’s spiritual wellbeing. Just as we choose advice from people whose skill we trust and value, so, choosing a spiritual director is searching for a compatible person, not necessarily a priest, with their feet firmly on the ground and their trust firmly in God. They would be a person of prayer as opposed to someone who says lots of prayers, if you see what I mean. Their skill in ‘guiding’ should lead you to identify the choices before you; enable you to be aware of whatever support there is that helps you investigate and weigh the choice or choices; while leaving you entirely free to make that choice or those choices.
Pope Francis, in ‘Laudato Si’, is offering humanity guidance for the replenishment of our depleted planet and world along with the information that enables thinking people to make the right choices for the coming generations. He is reminding us that this is not our world, but God’s world. We are merely the custodians.
Some may fear the task too great for them. Which is why Jesus, in the extract from St. Mark’s Gospel for this Sunday (4:26-34), takes the example of a mustard seed. It’s such a tiny seed –insignificant in size - and yet, properly nurtured, it provides when fully grown safe and secure habitat for countless other creatures.
St. Therese of Lisieux used to say:
‘Therese and sixpence can do very little, but Therese, sixpence and God can do anything’
Within each of us, Jesus says, is the seed of God’s creative love. It is unquenchable even in the most adverse of conditions. It can be threatened only by, us as its host, when we lessen or lose our communion with the Holy Spirit. This seed needs the constant nourishment of each individual’s will to live in communion with the Holy Spirit. When a person’s communion with the Divine is lessened or, worse, interrupted, not only is growth held in check but the seed of God’s creative love can suffer loss.
There is an incalculable number of Baptised people, in the UK for example, within whom development of the seed of God’s creative love appears to have faltered perhaps having been thwarted by the Evil One. The exemplification of such a statement is evidenced by multiple examples of present day society’s now accepted behaviour. Prime among such is (direct) abortion on demand and euthanasia, not to mention the failure to respect the dignity of our fellow human beings.
The UK is one country, among many, where dysfunctionality within the Christian community has resulted in a marked falling away of belief and practice among Christians. This has resulted in the rise of Secularism and its being accorded an equal status with religion. It is a lamentable situation for nations whose people were renowned for their Christian faith.
Each Baptised person, irrespective of nationality, gender, status or physical capacity, is gifted with the ability and vocation to become a lifesaver on a daily basis. Baptised people do not determine when and where to exercise their vocational calling but respond to the prompts of the Divine with willingness, even when the task appears impossible. The history of Christianity in these islands overflows with the lives of women, men and children who were loyal to Christ even to the point of foregoing their lives.
On a balmy June evening in a garden or in the countryside as you hear and see the myriad expressions of God, reflect - have I enabled or restricted the faith growth of people whose lives I have encountered recently? The flora and fauna of our portion of the planet prompts many a thought beyond the scope of horticulture.