Before we attempt any explanation of this Sunday’s Scripture Readings, let us note two very important points about the Scripture. The first point is that Sacred Scripture is timely and timeless. It is timely in the sense that the words of Sacred Scripture were addressed to a particular people of a particular milieu, epoch, or time in history, addressing a concrete issue. It is also timeless in the sense that the same message is relevant to the present age.

The second important point to note is that the Gospels as we have them today went through three significant developmental stages. The first stage pertains to when Jesus Christ lived on earth and walked around with his disciples, taught his disciples, and performed miracles. The second stage, which is the oral stage pertains to when those who experienced Jesus directly passed on his message by word of mouth; and the third stage, the written stage  pertains to when those who experienced Jesus directly or indirectly committed to writing all that they could remember of Jesus.

            Let us talk about today’s Gospel passage based on the two points I mentioned earlier. Jesus shares two parables in today’s Gospel passage. In the first parable, Jesus compares the kingdom of God to the seeds that grow without the farmer knowing how they sprout and grow overnight. Next, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to the mustard seed that is the smallest of all seeds at its planting, but when it grows, it becomes the largest of plants, and various kinds of birds come to find shelter on its branches.

The first time Jesus shared this parable, it was for himself and his followers. He was already way into his public ministry but there seemed to be more opposition than followership. The parable was meant to encourage him and his followers. The seed stands for the word of God. It carries in itself an irresistible force. Once it is preached, it penetrates minds and hearts and it transforms the people who hear it. From that point, the fruits do not depend on the sower, the preacher, but on the energy it has within itself provided by God. Because of the opposition he faced, Jesus spoke this parable to encourage himself and his followers to believe in the power of the word, which is like the power of the seed that grows without the knowledge of the farmer and like the mustard seed with humble beginning, which later turns out to be the largest of plants. 

Mark wrote down the words of the Gospel when Nero was the Roman Emperor. At that time, Christians were part of a minority group in Rome and were persecuted. Mark then reminded them of this parable of the mustard seed that Jesus spoke many years earlier to encourage the Christians that in spite of their humble beginning, in spite of how small and insignificant they were, God would accomplish more than they could dream. Today, like the mustard seed that grows to become larger than all other plants, when we think of Rome, it is no longer in terms of the Emperor but the Vicar of Christ (the Pope) and the followers of Christ. The parables of the seeds remain timeless as we can apply them to our lives today. As a preacher, sometimes, after preaching a homily, I go back to the presider’s chair wondering, “Did I really make any sense today?” But when I remember the parable of the seed and the sower, I tell myself that my job is to sow the seed and the job of the growth is for God to do. As parents, we sometimes get frustrated when we think our children do not listen to our words of wisdom, we get frustrated when we think our spouses are hard-hearted, we contemplate backing off when we think our community members do not appreciate our good works, we prepare to stop bothering people with useful feedback when they seem to be defiant. This parable is also for us today. The seed does not germinate and bear branches and fruits the same day it is planted. If you have any good thing to do, just keep doing it, and God will take care of the growth.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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