11th Sunday of Ordinary Time June 13, 2021
Our readings this week, as we delve back into the season of Ordinary Time, are all about what God is doing in our lives! It’s a great reminder because often times we lose sight of the fact that God is an active participant in each of our lives and that he is leading and directing us towards eternal life with him and his angels and his saints. There is one, singular goal to life, a goal with eternal implications, and that goal is to live a holy life so that we may be with God in heaven for eternity. Only by working in cooperation with God’s efforts to help us grow in holiness can be hope to succeed. Let’s see how God does it.
The First Reading
The context here is a bleak one. Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian King, had subjugated the people of Israel and the kingdom of Judah in 597 BC. He appointed twenty-one-year-old, Zedekiah, as a vassal king. Zedekiah was weak and inexperienced which were ideal qualities sought in a vassal king, as it allowed him to be more easily influenced and controlled by his master, but Zedekiah’s kingdom was divided. There were those who wanted to cooperate with the Babylonians to avoid any further bloodshed, and those who wanted to throw off their yoke and win back their freedom and autonomy. It was a difficult position for the young inexperienced king to be in that was complicated by the fact that the true king of Judah, Jehoiachin, was living in exile, and many left behind were loyal to him.
Jeremiah foretold of the kingdom’s fall for their lack of faithfulness to God’s covenant, but in his arrogance, Zedekiah thought that he could take on the Babylonians by forging an alliance with the Egyptians. In 587 it all came to a head with the end result being that the city of Jerusalem and its Temple ended up utterly destroyed. The walls of the city lay in ruin and anyone deemed important or significant has been dragged off into exile in Babylon. God warned Zedekiah of the doom that would follow if he went this root and yet he went there just the same. God desires nothing but the ultimate good of his people, but Zedekiah refused to cooperate with God’s efforts. How often do we do the same? In the end, Zedekiah dies in exile but not before watching Nebuchadnezzar slaughter his sons before his eyes, and then removing Zedekiah’s eyes so that the vision of his sons being butchered would be the last thing he ever saw. If only he had trusted in the Word of the Lord.
Enter the prophet, Ezekiel. Ezekiel was called and anointed by God to be his prophet while in exile in Babylon. He was one of the original Israelites cast into exile in 597 BC and he is the first prophet to be called by God outside of the Holy Land. He was tasked with preparing the people for the final destruction of the Kingdom of Judah and the fall of Israel as a nation. The passage for this week speaks of what God is going to do following the destruction of Jerusalem, when all hope seems lost and life as the Israelites knew it was left in ruin.
The restoration of Israel is the result of God’s special intervention. God will take a tender shoot from Israel and replant it on a high, lofty mountain (i.e., Jerusalem) where it will be more glorious and splendid than before, not of its own doing, but again through the direct intervention of God. It serves as a reminder that when we allow God to lead and direct our lives by subjecting our will to his that the good he has planned for each of us will be beyond anything we could have wrought of our own accord. Again, if heaven is the ultimate goal, what in this life could possibly have more worth or importance than the beatific vision of God in all his glory and being able to experience perfect love, perfect beauty, perfect happiness, perfect truth, and perfect justice. Is that what our truly longs for?
The complete and utter destruction of Israel and the new life that God will bring forth from it is a bold reminder of how God in his infinite wisdom and glory can take even evil, travesty, and death itself, and turn it on its head in order to bring something glorious from the ruin. He did it for the nation of Israel. He did it with the cross of Christ. He does it for each of us, all throughout our lives. Do we have the wisdom to recognize it, or do we just take it for granted or write it off as chance?
God is the one who is in command and control. Just as it is he who brings low the high tree and lift high the lowly tree, withers up the green tree, and makes the withered tree bloom, so to is it with us. We just need to trust in God’s divine providence because as perfect Truth, we can trust God and his Word like nothing else, and if we just cooperate with his efforts and comply with his will, not only will we experience good in our lives, but ultimately our eternal happiness.
The Second Reading
Paul treads along the same theme in the second reading this week, but approaches it from a different perspective. He grounds his message in the reminder that we walk by faith and not by sight. It is our faith in Christ Jesus that gives our lives meaning and a decisive direction, yet how often do we seek fulfillment in worldly things? How often do we seek life in something other than the source of all life – God? We don’t walk randomly. We always walk with purpose and with a destination in mind. Thing about your life, right now, at this very moment. Where are you headed? Are you on the road to heaven, purposely seeking holiness? Or are you headed elsewhere, which if it leads anywhere other than to God is the path of death.
The goal of this earthly life is to prepare for our heavenly home. We are sojourners, aliens living on foreign soil and borrowed time. What we say and do in this life matters and our actions, both good and evil have eternal consequences. Paul reminds us that we will receive our recompense for the choices we make in life.
The time for revaluation, reflection, and reconciliation is now. If we have not been living in Christ Jesus, or if there have been times when we have failed to live in Christ Jesus, then now is the time for us to turn back to the Lord so that when we stand before Christ in judgment, we will be welcomed home with the Lord. We cannot lose sight of the goal – eternal life and happiness with God.
It would be a mistake for us to presume heaven is guaranteed for those who are followers of Christ Jesus, for Jesus himself made it very clear that not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord,” will be saved. Our actions matter, as so many of Jesus’ parables make clear. What we do in this life has profound and eternal consequences in the next. Sometimes the emphasis on God’s mercy obscures the fact that God is also just. If heaven was guaranteed for the believer, then any judgement would be a hollow, meaningless formality. The fact that we will be judged is a reminder that God is just and that he demands justice. We hope any pray that when the time comes for us stand before Christ, that his justice will be tempered by his mercy. So, make it your aim in life to please God, to live according to his will, for it is only in him that we will ever find the fulfillment and happiness for which we so desperately long.
Mark gives us another look at this theme of judgement in his parable of harvest which is only found in this form in his gospel. Jesus told similar parables in Matthew and Luke, but Mark takes special care to emphasizes the role of both heaven and earth in the development of the seed. Jesus acknowledges the work of the human beings in planting the seed, but what happens once planted is under the direction and care of God himself. What seeds are you sowing? Are they seeds of good or are they seeds of evil? Truth be told we seed our lives and the lives of others with both. Every time we sin, we sow seeds of evil in our life and in the lives of others. Oftentimes we may never see “fruit” of our work, like when we cut someone down with insults and disparaging remarks in a fit of jealously, envy, hate, or anger, and how deep the wound runs in that person, festering away at their self-worth and identity. Sometimes we sow seeds of good and the random act of kindness or uplifting words of encouragement change or influence someone’s life in a profoundly beautiful way to which we are completely oblivious. Like the mustard seed, even the smallest of seeds we plant can have a profound impact upon the world and the life of another. God, for his part, can work the seeds we plant, be they good or evil, and use them to further his divine and holy will, but in the end there will be a harvest, the quality of which will have profound implications on the life of the farmer.
God can and will achieve what is far beyond the capacity of human beings to achieve on their own accord. No matter how small or insignificant we may think ourselves, and no matter how insignificant we may think our choices to do good or do evil are, God can and will accomplish great things through us, with us, and even in spite of us. Just keep in mind that life will always be more joyful and happy when we cooperate with God’s efforts and allow him to lead and direct our lives so that what we sow will bear much fruit.
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