The Church as a Mustard Plant Eleventh Sunday Ordinary Time B



The Church as a Mustard Plant Eleventh Sunday Ordinary Time B

Ezekiel 17:22-24 Psalm 92 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 Mark 4:26-34

            Today’s Gospel passage compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard plant. What and where is the Kingdom of God? According to Jesus, the Kingdom of God is in our midst, is present in this world (Luke 17:21). 

         Jesus also teaches the Kingdom of God is not of this world (John 18:36). We believe that the Kingdom is present in this world sacramentally, meaning that the Church as a Sacrament shines forth the Heavenly Kingdom as a supernatural reality that is here but not fully. Only at the end of time, when heaven will transform earthly reality into paradise will heavenly reality be fully present on earth, as we pray in the Our Father prayer.

         Recognizing that the Catholic Church shines forth heaven on earth requires eyes of faith. For this reason, Brant Pitre comments, Jesus chose the lowly mustard plant as a plant that represents what the Kingdom of God looks like in this world.[1]

         Unlike the grand, towering, lofty Cedars of Lebanon the mustard plant is easily overlooked. The prophet Ezekiel describes the powerful Assyrian and Egyptian empires as like massive cedar trees in Lebanon (Ezekiel 31). These cedar trees are clearly recognizable as they stand out from the other trees when towering over a forest.

         A mustard plant though has certain notable characteristics that a cedar tree lacks. As Pitre observes, the mustard plant’s taproot system allows it to rapidly and quickly spread.[2] Even if cut down the mustard plants roots can quickly recover by sending out little mustard plant shoots. 

         The mustard plant sometimes is perceived as a weed, since it often grows where it is not wanted and when a farmer tries to remove the plant its root system quickly sends up shoots.

         Similarly, the Catholic Church is often seen as a weed that is not wanted where it grows. When powerful people try to cut the Catholic Church down, the Church quickly grows back. In addition, despite being weed like and lacking the powerful majesty of worldly kingdoms, the Catholic Church in many small hidden ways provides loving, comforting shelter to so many people. Some who are provided shelter by the Catholic Church may want instead the shelter provided by the powerful empires of this world, by the powerful cedar trees of this world. 

         If we give way to this desire, we may become overly attached to this world instead of seeing this world as a preparation to a greater world the Kingdom of God that is beyond this world and, at the same time, breaks through this world as the light of the sun beautifully shines through stain glass while remaining outside.

         By comparing the presence of the Kingdom of God through the earthly Church to a mustard plant, Jesus is also teaching us how to view our brothers and sisters. All, either actively or potentially, are members of the Catholic Church. This means that every human being is like a mustard plant. If we judge our brothers and sisters just externally, we may reject our brothers and sisters as many will reject the mustard plant as a weed, as better to be uprooted, thrown into a fire, and burned. However, if we see our brothers and sisters as perhaps looking at times like weeds but bearing great potential within them, and bearing the God’s presence in and through them, then not only will we not want to uproot them and throw them away but we will want to love our brothers and sisters, we will want to cultivate our brothers and sisters, while we learn from our brothers and sisters as the heavenly Kingdom of God mysteriously shines through them.

God Bless,

Father Peter

Credits

Brant Pitre, “The Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B),” catholicproductions.com.

Music for Jesus Lắng Nghe Tiếng Chúa – (Nguyễn Duy) Giga – (J.S. Bach)

The Church as a Mustard Plant Eleventh Sunday Ordinary Time B

Ezekiel 17:22-24 Psalm 92 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 Mark 4:26-34

I. Kingdom of God – Mustard Plant

         A. What – Where?

         B.  In Our Midst (Luke 17:21) and Not of This World (John 18:36)

         C. Church as a Sacrament – Sacred Sign of an Invisible Reality 

         D. Here But Not Yet

II. To See Requires Faith

         A. Why Jesus Chooses Lowly Mustard Plant (Pitre)

         B. Did not Choose Cedars of Lebanon – Assyrian and Egyptian Empires (Ez. 31)

III. Mustard Plant Characteristics

         A. Taproot System – Spread Rapidly – Even When Cut Down

         B. Often Perceived as a Weed – Grows Where not Wanted and Persists

         C. Catholic Church – Cut Down – Grows by Power of God

         D. Some Provided Shelter by Catholic Church Prefer Shelter of Powerful Empires, Cedars

         E. Danger Overly Attached to This Passing World

         F. Preparation for Greater World 

IV. Practical

         A. Comparison – Earthly Church to Mustard Plant

         B. How to View Brothers and Sisters – Recognize Potential – Hidden Qualities – vs. Identify as Weeds – Uproot, Throw Away

         C. Recognize Hidden Greatness – we will want to love our brothers and sisters, we will want to cultivate our brothers and sisters, while we learn from our brothers and sisters as the heavenly Kingdom of God mysteriously shines through them.

God Bless,

Father Peter


[1] Brant Pitre, “The Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B),” catholicproductions.com. 

[2] Brant Pitre, “The Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B),” catholicproductions.com. 

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