Liturgy of the Sunday

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Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time


First Reading

Ezekiel 17,22-24

"The Lord Yahweh says this: From the top of the tall cedar tree, from the highest branch I shall take a shoot and plant it myself on a high and lofty mountain. I shall plant it on the highest mountain in Israel. It will put out branches and bear fruit and grow into a noble cedar tree. Every kind of bird will live beneath it, every kind of winged creature will rest in the shade of its branches. And all the trees of the countryside will know that I, Yahweh, am the one who lays the tall tree low and raises the low tree high, who makes the green tree wither and makes the withered bear fruit. I, Yahweh, have spoken, and I will do it." '

Psalmody

Psalm 91

Antiphon

It is good to praise your name, O Most High.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord
to make music to your name, O Most High,

to proclaim your love in the morning
and your truth in the watches of the night,

on the ten-stringed lyre and the lute,
with the murmuring sound of the harp.

Your deeds, O Lord, have made me glad;
for the work of your hands I shout with joy.

O Lord, how great are your works!
How deep are your designs!

The foolish man cannot know this
and the fool cannot understand.

Though the wicked spring up like grass
and all who do evil thrive;

they are doomed to be eternally destroyed.
But you, Lord, are eternally on high.

See how your enemies perish;
all doers of evil are scattered.

To me you give the wild-ox's strength;
you anoint me with the purest oil.

My eyes looked in triumph on my foes;
my ears heard gladly of their fall.

The just will flourish like the palm-tree
and grow like a Lebanon cedar.

Planted in the house of the Lord
they will flourish in the courts of our God,

still bearing fruit when they are old,
still full of sap, still green,

to proclaim that the Lord is just.
In him, my rock, there is no wrong.

Second Reading

2 Corinthians 5,6-10

We are always full of confidence, then, realising that as long as we are at home in the body we are exiled from the Lord, guided by faith and not yet by sight; we are full of confidence, then, and long instead to be exiled from the body and to be at home with the Lord. And so whether at home or exiled, we make it our ambition to please him. For at the judgement seat of Christ we are all to be seen for what we are, so that each of us may receive what he has deserved in the body, matched to whatever he has done, good or bad.

Reading of the Gospel

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Mark 4,26-34

He also said, 'This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, at once he starts to reap because the harvest has come.' He also said, 'What can we say that the kingdom is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which, at the time of its sowing, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth. Yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.' Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were by themselves.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Homily

Jesus compares the Kingdom to the act of sowing: "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground." When the sowing is finished, the farmer waits patiently and without too much concern until harvest time. The earth spontaneously ("automatically," automaté, says the Greek text) bears fruit at the right time. Jesus does not speak of the work of the farmer, but of the "work" that the seed does, by its internal energy, from the time of sowing until the maturity of the plant. This is all with no intervention of the farmer. With this image Jesus seems to desire to comfort his listeners. Those who study the text think that maybe we should think of the Christian community that Mark was addressing, the community in Rome that was living in very difficult times, even of persecution. Those first believers were wondering where the power of the Gospel was, and why evil seemed to win over everything. Did Jesus die in vain? This and many other questions led to sad resignation. We too can understand this passage perhaps in this perspective even today. It is easy to give up and wander: "Where are the kingdom of God and His power?" Jesus with his parables wants to tell us that the Kingdom of God is already at work.
Obviously, Jesus does not want to praise passivity and even less favour sleep and laziness. The Lord does not abandon his disciples to the power of evil. He accompanies them while they preach the Gospel along the streets of the world till the end of days when all will be summed up in Christ Jesus.
With the parable of the mustard seed, Jesus wants to show the style of the Kingdom, the way it becomes true. And Jesus insists on the smallness of the seed. You do not do great things because you are powerful. In the Kingdom of God the opposite happens: "Whoever wants to be the first among you, will be the slave of all," says Jesus. In short, whoever becomes small and humble becomes a shrub as tall as three meters that can accommodate even the birds in the sky. Already the prophet Ezekiel, while he was in exile in Babylon, foretold that a fragile branch, like the tip of the cedar tree, would become a robust and refreshing tree: "I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar; I will set it out. I will break off a tender one from the topmost of its young twigs; I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar" (Ez 17:22-23).
The Kingdom of God grows like the little mustard seed, like the little cedar top: they do not impose themselves by their outward power, it is the Lord who makes them grow. And love is the sap that sustains them. There where the poor are filled, the afflicted comforted, the foreigners welcomed, the sick healed, the lonely consoled, those in prison visited and enemies loved, there the Kingdom of the Lord is at work.