11th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B 2015:
Now that the Easter season is over we are back in Ordinary time. But, ordinary does not mean “plain.” Rather, ordinary means the counted Sundays between the liturgical seasons like Christmas and Easter. The word “ordinary” comes from “ordinal” or numbered. So, here we are wearing green vestments. I once had a class where we were reading some poetry, the professor told us that the color green symbolized hope. So, I love to think of ordinary time as our season of hope, where we joyfully wait in hope for the coming of our Savior.
As we wait in hope, we live lives as disciples of Jesus. We try to follow him in our daily lives, we learn from his teaching, and we try to grow in our faith. Today in the Gospel, Jesus gives us some interesting parables about the kingdom of God and about growing in our faith, and he uses farming imagery.
I grew up out near St. Louis Besancon and my house is surrounded by fields. I always loved this time of year because I could see the plants growing. My favorite was when corn was planted. I always thought it was impressive to see these little green shoots turn into 8-foot tall corn stalks. What starts out as little seeds, become these huge plants.
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus makes this an analogy for our faith? What starts out as a little seed, becomes something big. And I don’t know about all of you, but I want a big faith. I want faith like the great saints, who did amazing things. But, I think it is helpful for all of us to think about faith in terms of this analogy. Faith starts small, and it grows over time. So, how do we make our faith grow?
The first parable in the gospel might seem a bit strange. Jesus tells us that the farmer does not know why the plants grow. I think that’s pretty true. We know how plants grow, we know how to take care of them, but can any of us really say “why” a plant grows? It grows because it is a living thing; it grows because it has this internal will to live, which we all know comes from God. Our faith is the same way.
We don’t know exactly how we grow in our faith. Faith is a gift that comes from God. It has its own internal will to live as well. Our faith grows over time because God is causing its growth.
But, thinking again about plants, we all know that we have to do many things to create the best environment for plants to grow. I have a friend who always says that his favorite trees are palm trees, because they only grow where it is warm all the time. Plants like that don’t survive our cold winters; so, plants need a proper home. We know that plants need sunshine and water. Plants need to be protected from animals that attack them, and weeds that can choke them.
I think these things can be applied to our faith as well. Our faith needs a proper home where it can flourish. Isn’t that what the Church is? This is our home. Being a faithful member of this amazing parish family gives us the proper home for our faith to grow. Trying to live a life of faith without being firmly rooted in the Church is like trying to plant palm trees on the North Pole, faith simply cannot grow without a warm home. Just like plants need sunshine and water, we need the sacraments to feed our faith. Last week we celebrated Corpus Christi where we had a chance to remember the amazing gift of the Eucharist. This Blessed Sacrament is like the sun that shines on plants, it nourishes our faith and allows it to grow. I think of scripture like watering plants. The more we read the Bible and let the word soak into us, the more faith can grow. But, we also have to protect our faith from those things that can harm it. There is a lot stuff out there that is simply not good for our faith: think about the movies we watch, the music we listen to, the stuff on the internet. These things can be like the animals that attack our gardens. Just like weeds can choke the life out of our plants, our sins and selfishness can also choke out our faith.
Our faith grows because God causes it to grow within us. We all want that big faith that will move mountains, but we all need to remember that faith starts out as a tiny seed and grows over time. This season of Ordinary time is a great chance for us all to ask ourselves if we are giving our faith a great environment where it can grow. Our faith might start out small, but through the grace of God it can grow like the mustard seed.