EZEKIEL 17:22-24 2 CORINTHIANS 5:6-10 MARK 4:26-34
The key words for today are patience, perseverance and hope. The passage from Ezekiel is an allegory about a messianic age to come. Israel had been conquered by the Babylonians. The king, his nobles and all leading citizens have been deported to Babylon. A new Jewish king has been set up by Babylon but he has reached out to Egypt for help to revolt against Babylon. Terrible days are ahead when Babylon will bring retribution on Israel.
However, Ezekiel’s prophecy is looking into the future. He sees an end to the violence and destruction. In this allegory of the cedar tree he sees God re-planting Israel like a small clipping taken from a mighty Lebanon cedar. God won’t abandon Israel. In time, Israel will again flourish in a golden age to come. Patience!
In today’s second reading, St. Paul urges the Corinthians to remain strong and courageous as they navigate the daily challenges and temptations of life. He reminds them that they’re merely passing through this world. He tells them that they must rely on their faith to generate the strength they’ll need to successfully complete their journey home to God who eagerly awaits them. Perseverance!
Jesus shares an insight about the kingdom of God in the gospel passage. He uses two images: the mysterious process that evolves a seed into a grain of wheat, and the miracle of the mustard seed that grows from the smallest of seeds into one of the largest bushes. His examples tell us very little about the kingdom itself. He’s focusing on the process of the kingdom’s formation. Its growth is both mysterious and powerful. The kingdom WILL come, in its own time and in its own way. Hope!
While I was reflecting on the interpretation of these passages I realized that I live with great frustration and anger. Every day I pray, “Thy kingdom come.” Then, every day, I look at this world I live in.
I was born in 1948, four years after my 18year-old father stormed the beach at Normandy, and three years after the United States dropped nuclear bombs on two Japanese cities. I was born at the beginning of the Cold War when everyone lived in fear of a Communist take-over and an imminent nuclear war. I was in grade school when I first saw pictures of the Nazi concentration camps. I was in high school when President Kennedy was assassinated. I was in college when Senator Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated. I marched in civil rights marches. I protested the Vietnam war. I stood by men who burned their draft cards. And every day I prayed, “Thy kingdom come.”
I look at the world today and my frustration and anger twist in my gut. But I can still close my eyes, and I can see a beautiful world – a world at peace – a world where children don’t starve – a world without concentration camps and prisons. I see a world with clean skies and pristine oceans. I see a world where people care for one another. I see a world where love isn’t laughed at.
Ezekiel taught the Jewish people a lesson. St. Paul taught Christians a lesson. Jesus taught humanity a lesson. Of all the people in the world who carry heavy burdens, the person of faith has the heaviest burden to carry – the burden of hope. Hope in the midst of war. Hope in time of famine. Hope during a pandemic. Hope when the very structures of our society are in peril.
This Sunday is the first Sunday when the liturgical color green has been used since February 17 th , Ash Wednesday. Green, the color of new life, the color of hope. Today, I’ll adjust the heavy burden on my back. I’ll straighten up as much as I can. I’ll pray, “Thy kingdom come.”