The Eleventh Sunday of the Year – Ez 17:22-24; 2 Cor 5:6-10; Mk 4:26-34 (Year B)

Life, like faith itself, can appear fragile. These are times when the unfolding of events threatens to overwhelm a lingering faith.

Such was Israel’s faith as the citizens of Jerusalem came to terms with the destruction of their temple and city. Exile had cut them off from everything that they had known and loved. This consequent wilderness was likened by the prophet Ezekiel to a proud cedar humiliated by storm and predation.

Nature can indeed be brutal, and at the same time, provide the means of salvation. The lingering branch can become the promise of new life. Such was the vision of Ezekiel for his people. “The Lord says this. From the top of the cedar I will take a shoot and plant it myself on the high mountain of Israel. It will sprout branches and become a noble cedar. And every tree of the field will learn that I, the Lord, am the one who stunts tall trees and makes the low ones grow, who withers green trees and makes the withered green.”

Ezekiel invites us to believe that true faith, however threatened or overwhelmed, can never be extinguished. Because faith is a communion with the Lord of life, its presence, however frail, will always lead to new life.

Jesus constantly invited his disciples to believe in him, to entrust themselves to the Father. There were surely many times when those same disciples doubted their faith, doubted that they had either the courage or the will to persevere to the end.

We, no less than they, can become discouraged. There are times when faith seems a lonely cry, and far from changing the world, seems incapable of changing even our own lives. It was to such doubts that Jesus addressed the parables of the mustard seed and the seed hidden in the ground. Faith, however frail, is a communion with God, whose life can never be extinguished. His presence within us becomes like a seed sown in the ground. It seems hidden and forgotten, but contains within itself the promise of God’s abundance.

At times our faith seems tiny and insignificant. It is like the mustard seed, the smallest of seeds. A seed, however, is not measured by its size, but by its hidden vitality. Thus the smallest seed has the hidden power to grow into the biggest shrub of them all.

So it is with faith. We, whose lives are so unremarkable, bear within ourselves the seeds of faith, seeds whose strength and growth comes from God, seeds that bear fruit in the most unpromising soil.

This article first appeared in the latest edition of the Catholic Herald magazine (12/6/15).

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