SUNDAY: HOMILY FOR 11TH SUNDAY HOMILY OF ORDINARY TIME – YEAR B




SUNDAY: HOMILY FOR 11TH SUNDAY HOMILY OF ORDINARY TIME – YEAR B

HOMILY THEME: MUSTARD SEED—HUMBLE BEGINNING

Bishop Gerald M. Musa

Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34

Once upon a time, two men who lived in a foreign land discovered a little grain of corn. One of them picked the little grain of corn and later threw it away because he thought it was too insignificant for any meaningful thing. His companion took the corn, preserved and travelled with it to his home country. As soon as he reached his homeland he sowed the corn. The grain grew into a plant and produced a new corn. He sowed the seeds of the new corn and it produced more. The following year he shared the grains among his many friends who lived in his village and surrounding towns. He became the first person to introduce corn in his village and country. That one grain he picked, preserved and planted became the tiny seed that produced other seeds and spread all over the country.

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The story of the man whose seed was productive reminds us of the words of the Prophet Ezekiel who speaks of planting a shoot, which will grow into a big majestic cedar to shelter the birds of the air (Ezekiel 17:22). He uses the image of a Cedar tree to pass a message to the people of Israel. The prophet Ezekiel speaks like preachers and teachers who love to use stories, symbols, allegories, parables and analogies to illustrate their message. Ezekiel was speaking at a time when the people of Israel needed hope and encouragement. The prophet assured them that the Kingdom of David would be restored. His prophecy was fulfilled when the people returned from Exile, and Zerubbabel a descendant of David enjoyed some form of royal power. In a deeper sense, the prophecy of Ezekiel was pointing towards a Messiah from the line of David, whose kingdom will be universal. He describes the humble beginning of the expected Messiah and the humble background of his parents. In other words, the prophet shows how a child with a humble beginning will turn out to be a Universal King who will wield great influence around the world.

Similarly, Jesus uses the parable of the Mustard seed to speak of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus describes how the kingdom of God springs up gradually from a little beginning. He says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade” (Mark 4:31-32). Perhaps if Jesus were to be speaking to Nigerians about the kingdom of heaven, he would use images of trees that the people are familiar with. In South Eastern Nigeria, he would have used familiar images of the Iroko or Udara tree that have multiple uses. In Northern Nigeria, he would have used the image of the Gawo tree (Acacia albida) or the Kuka (Baobab) tree, also known as Adosonia digitata. These multipurpose trees are huge trees that begin as little seeds and grow slowly and steadily to occupy a pride of place among other trees.

It is not surprising that Prophet Ezekiel and Jesus are using images of trees to deliver their messages. They used these images because they were speaking to people who were mainly agriculturists and who were close to nature. More still, in the scriptures Trees are used to demonstrate God’s providence. For example, the Psalmist speaks of leaves that remain green even in drought (Psalm 1:3; Jeremiah 104:16).

One of the contentious issues in life is how to measure the rate of growth and to fully understand the process and pattern of growth. In human development, we talk about how human beings grow physically, psychologically and spiritually. We love to hear such terms as rapid growth or development and detest such expressions as growing or moving at snail speed. An unknown author says, “Mere change is not growth. Growth is the synthesis of change and continuity, and where there is no continuity there is no growth.”

The kingdom of God and the things of God do not necessarily grow instantly and rapidly as the world expects. They grow slowly, steadily and silently. The kingdom of God is like a seed that a farmer scatters on the ground, he sleeps and rises and sees the seed sprouting, but he knows not how the process goes underground. Under the ground, God provides nutrients, protects and nurtures. The Apostle Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who causes the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). The kingdom of God is a process of development, which requires patience, and the fruits come out at God’s time. When God enters anything small, he makes it bigger than what we imagine. In other words that which is small becomes big when God is in it.

Therefore, if you have faith, the size of a mustard seed, your small ideas you slow can blossom and turn gradually into the biggest projects. “We walk by faith, not by sight, says Paul the Apostle (2 Corinthians 5:7). Many great ideas started like mustard seeds that have humble beginnings and grow through faith, grace, perseverance and patience. The little good works you do may be creating a big impact in the lives of people. Your little good works are like the mustard seed, which you sow in the lives of others, and which yields great harvests in the future. Never get tired of doing what is right, even if the result is coming too slowly. Do not underrate the work you do or the little efforts you make. Mother Teresa says, ‘Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.’ A mustard seed could be those few words of encouragement that you gave to one who was depressed, but those words turned out to bear fruit. According to Andrew Bonar, “A holy Christian life is made up of a number of small things: Little words, not eloquent sermons; Little deeds, not miracles of battle…”

The Mustard seed tells us something about God. God raises the lowly and transforms the insignificant into something great. God raises us from our lowly state so that we can raise others who come from similar backgrounds. May we always remember how God transformed us from the mustard seed that we were into the big shrubs that we have become.

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