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June 10, 1994     The Message
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[ The,Message -- for Catholicsof Southwsstem Indiana Commentary .- Parables of patience: Sown seed grows secretly; mustard seed matures GOspel commentary for 12, 1994, Eleventh Sunday, Cycle B, Mark In the fourth chapter of his assembled a se- A parable is a fictitious story of any intended to illustrate the speaker is trying to put is an impor- parables. Thus begins the parables with the =The kingdom of God is like to he understood of GOd, not the institutional nor some place of unending happiness. understand a parable by examining it Level I is the use of the parable by II is the use of the parable by the insti- through its teachers and preachers. is the use of the parable as it was placed in gospel. Thus we ask: What was in expressing the parable? How did I theologians and teachers adapt it to their what did Mark intend to say by includ- gospel in a particular setting? parable is called "The Seed Growing A farmer sows seed. The seed sprouts and though he is unaware of the natural that contribute to this process. The seed an ear, and then grain. When the !s ripe it is harvested. What does it mean? Would have addressed this parable to his dis- who seemed to be in a hurry to bring about of God as they understood it, that is a stablishment in which Jesus By FATHER DON DILGER COLUMNIST would be king and they would be his secretaries of state, defense, etc. James and John in fact asked for the two most important posi- tions in such a kingdom. Jesus' idea of the kingdom of God is quite different. It grows secretly within a person. There are no power plays. God can bring about his rule or kingdom without the effort of those who think "without me He can do nothing." Early Christianity as it devel- oped in the decades after the de- parture of Jesus expected an im- minent end of the world or "end of the age," a quick return of Jesus on the clouds, judgment of the wicked, and the establishment of a kingdom of God on earth. The expectation of a quick solution to their problems is especially obvi- ous in Mark. He writes for a Church, probably at Rome, that has undergone a devastating persecu- tion. To them it was a sign that the kingdom of God and the return of Jesus were at hand. The parable counsels patience. God's plans are secret. They will be fulfilled in due time but not necessar- ily in the way Christians expected. Mark places this parable in a series of para- bles that all have some element of secrecy about them. His purpose is to show that the "mysteries" of the kingdom of God were not revealed to all by Jesus but only to his immediate disciples. For Mark Jesus spoke in parables to conceal what he really meant, then explained privately to the dis- ciples, as he says in today's gospel. To us this makes little sense but it did to Mark. It was his way of explaining why Jesus was not accepted as Messiah by his own people during his lifetime. It was God's secret plan which sprouts, grows, and ma- tures secretly. Our second parable speaks of a mustard seed. called the smallest of all seeds yet becoming the largest of all shrubs -- so large that birds can build nests in its branches. Jesus would have addressed this parable to his disheartened disciples. They were so few: "The harvest is great but the laborers are few." He asks them to take heart. It takes one acorn to grow an oak tree. It takes one tiny mustard seed to produce a large shrub, large enough for birds to nest in it. His message and their work will eventually have great resulL. The Church after Jesus would have used this parable to encourage against tremen- dous odds. The parable gives them hope. Nothing will stop the growth of the kingdom of God. For Mark and his Church this parable was given a new meaning by the persecution they had suffered from the Roman :: government. The Church had suffered martyrdom, imprisonment, betrayal within families. Despite set- backs it would continue to grow until the nations would find a home in the Church. Finally, for us the parables can have a double application: ministry in the Church and on a level of pemonal growth. Those engaged in ministry may think how little they achieve. But the growth of God's kingdom can be put into capable or incapable hands, Yet it grows secretly sometimes even despite its min- isters. Patience and perseverance are needed. Per- sonally we are often discouraged by our lack of progress either spiritually or even in our occupation. These two parables caution us that not all depends on us, that sometimes we can slow down and let someone else take over. 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