Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 13, 2021 Cycle B
by Rev. Jose Maria de Sousa Alvim Calado Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine
Sunday Reading Meditations
Today’s readings reveal how God uses what is small to do great things. In the logic of the Kingdom of God, humility is the appropriate soil for the fruition of God’s designs.
In the first reading, Our Lord says that he is going to make an enormous tree from a “tender shoot,” where many birds will find shelter. It will be a majestic cedar of Lebanon planted on a high and lofty mountain, which symbolizes God’s kingdom, the kingship of Christ that will be manifested at the end of times. Now the Kingdom of God seems like nothing compared with the powers of this world, but at the end of history, all the terrestrial kingdoms—“birds of every kind”—will dwell beneath the cedar.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us two parables about the Kingdom of God.
In the first parable, he says that the kingdom grows like seeds scattered by a sower. A small seed sprouts and grows by itself. The seed multiplies into many without any intervention from man. However, the farmer must create the conditions. He prepares the land and sows the seeds, but their growth is not in his hands and transcends him. When the grain is ripe, he harvests the fields with a heart full of gratitude for their mysterious fruitfulness. As today’s psalm says: “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praise to your name, Most High” (Ps 92:2).
This parable shows that God’s action is at the center. The farmer can prepare the land and harvest crops but the most important part—the mysterious growth of the seed—does not depend on him.
In the second parable, Jesus uses the image of the growth of a mustard seed. This very small seed becomes the largest of the plants in the orchard. In the mustard seed, we see the smallness of the human condition and the greatness of God’s action. Indeed, Our Lord transforms what is small into what is great.
In order to cooperate with God, we need the virtue of humility to accomplish his design.
Humility is not innate in us. Pride is more natural. Since the fall of our first parents, we tend to place ourselves at the center, in an attempt to occupy God’s rightful place. We need to descend from the false height of our pride to the true level of our reality.
In the first reading, God says through the prophet Ezekiel: “I, the LORD, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom” (Ez 17:24). We need the experience of being humbled in order to find the truth of ourselves. Being humbled is certainly not a pleasant experience! However, it is necessary. We need to descend in order to be exalted by God.
We are able to accept being humbled if we live our lives in search of Jesus’ love. In the second, reading, Saint Paul says: “We aspire to please him” (2 Cor 5:9). This aspiration is what helps us accept humiliation. The apostle declares that we walk by faith, not by sight, which means that in this life we are pilgrims on the path of the purification of our hearts.
In order to do great things, Our Lord uses what is small. Humility is the path for greatness, as exemplified by Mary’s life. In her Magnificat, she says: “He has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me” (Lk 1:48‒49). May the example and intercession of Our Blessed Mother help us to humble ourselves in order to find our true greatness in God. Amen.