11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 17, 2018
Jesus taught in parables…we know that. Today’s Gospel passage concludes with the words: without parables, He did not speak to them.
Any teacher will tell you that there are thoughts or ideas or concepts…OR TRUTHS that are so enormous that the best thing we limited human beings can do is “imagine” what it is we are trying to understand or learn. So, a good teacher will search for little stories that are like seeds. A good teacher will plant these seeds into the imaginations of their students, in hopes that the seeds will begin to grow into understanding and knowledge.
On the other hand, a good farmer will tell you that you can’t just plant a seed and then walk away. If there is any hope for a fruitful harvest, you have to tend to the field. You can’t just plant and wait. There needs to be committed follow-up if one hopes for an abundant harvest. That’s exactly what we have going on here.
Jesus used little stories to plant seeds of faith into the imaginations of a crowd of people. Once that work was done, His attention returned to a field where the seeds had already broken through the surface and begun to grow, but had not yet produced a crop. After addressing the crowd, He focused on the disciples. The passage concludes: but to His own disciples, He explained everything in private. We see how The Lord continued to work with His followers, nurturing and supporting what was planted before, in hopes of a bountiful harvest.
That’s what we are about this morning. The seeds of faith have already been planted within you and have germinated and begun to grow. But, they need to be cared for. And so, like the disciples, the Lord calls you here to this private place so that you can be fed with the Eucharist and that from the Table of the Word, everything can be explained to you. So, it seems like we need a little story…a parable.
The owner of an orchard wanted to grow a hardier variety of apples. He was looking for a tree that would withstand the harshest of Michigan winters. But, at the same time, he wanted a bigger, sweeter, crispier, and juicier apple. And so, over the course of several years, he studied the different varieties of trees already growing in his orchard. He was able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the different trees. Then, one year, he took a healthy branch from a tree that produced a really large apple and grafted it onto the strongest of the hardy trees. The next year, he took a healthy branch from a tree that always produced really sweet fruit and grafted it to that strong, hardy tree that was now producing large apples. He continued that process until he had a tree that produced everything that he had hoped for. And then he took the seeds from that fruit in order to begin a new orchard.
My story might not be good science, but it is a fairly good image to plant in our minds as we reflect on our three Readings for this 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time. The seed of faith is planted within us at our Baptisms. However, we can’t just stand by and do nothing, leaving faith to grow on its own. There needs to be a committed effort to nurture and nourish it. In hopes that the gift of faith will continue to grow throughout our lives, finally producing eternal fruit, it’s critical that there be committed follow-up.
Jesus calls us here to the privacy of this holy place. Through the Eucharist, we come to a deeper understanding of the things that are ultimately beyond our understanding…although here, we can catch a glimpse of these things using our imaginations. And as we imagine The Reign of God, we should carefully examine ourselves to see what we need in order to produce excellent fruit.
Over the summer, as we move through the Sundays of Ordinary Time, it would profit us as individuals as well as a family of faith to study ourselves closely, to see what it is we need to withstand the harsh conditions of this world, and, at the same time, produce an increasingly excellent fruit.
So, it would seem that the question of the week is simply this: What do I need to graft onto myself…so that I can be stronger in faith and produce something ever more pleasing to God?