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Homily for Sunday, June 16, 2024

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time |

[Deacon Gunther]

When Jesus was teaching about the Kingdom of God, he talked about images and experiences that the people of his time, living in rural areas could easily understand.  That’s why Jesus often spoke in parables, a short simple story taken from everyday life, intended to illustrate a moral or religious lesson.  These stories invite us to make a decision about how we might live our lives in light of the truth revealed by the parable. 

In today’s Gospel, Mark shares with us the parable of the mustard seed.  It teaches us that we should never get discouraged with “small” attempts to do God’s will.  That God is patient and waits for the fulfilment of the seeds he has planted.  

Now I am not a gardener, but I know that growing a garden is not as simple as throwing seeds on the ground and walking away.  I know that plants need sun and water and if it doesn’t rain, we have to do the watering.  And I know that if we do not eliminate the weeds that come up, they could take over and strangle the plants, so the weeds have to be gotten rid of.  If all those things are done, then there is a good chance we will have healthy plants rise up.  

Just like the constant battle with drought and weeds in our garden we can sometimes struggle with the “weeds” within ourselves.  Perhaps we struggle with weeds of doubt or with weeds of insecurity or with weeds of un-worthiness.  

Now we know that a weed can push its head through an asphalt driveway.  Nothing can stop its growth.  So, it is with God’s Kingdom. 

In spite of our human planning and resistance, God’s work goes on and nothing in the end can stop the intentions of God.  

The farmer does not make the seed grow.  He does not even know how it grows.  No one possesses the secret of life.  Only God creates life.  Like a gardener or farmer, we must do all we can do to provide the circumstances in which God’s will for us can grow.  We have to put in some of the effort to be good Christians.  Then, when we do, all is ready for God’s Spirit to breathe life into our world, into our garden, and into our soul. 

Have you noticed that the parables Jesus uses about the Kingdom are intentionally not magnificent?  They’re not big.  He doesn’t talk about creating a huge organization or some impressive empire.  He talks about ordinary people doing small common place things that are hardly noticeable.  And yet those small common actions can change the world.  Little by little they reap the harvest. 

Isn’t that the story of our lives?  Most of us in this parish community are ordinary people.  We are not heroic or famous.  Our names are typically not in the papers or in the news.  Maybe the little things you do don’t look like “church work”.  Perhaps you’re just helping out a sick neighbour by bringing them a meal.  Or you have dropped off some spare groceries at the local food bank.  Maybe it doesn’t look like “holy things”.  Perhaps you’re just smiling and saying a kind word to the tired check-out clerk.  It all looks so ordinary.  But these are the little mustard seeds that quietly grow and spread the love, the caring, and the joy that is the Risen Christ.  

Looking back on my life I now recognize that I really did not so much make things happen, somehow my life unfolded.  Those that know me know that deep down I’m a logical organized methodical planner.  I have always tried to manage the direction of where my life was going.  But somehow the really good things that have come my way have been more about opportunities that God has put in front of me than about the actual design of my plans. 

For example:

  • My Christian baptism as a child.

  • My parents immigrating to Canada.

  • The choice of my profession.

  • Meeting and marrying my spouse.

  • The birth of our daughters and grandchildren.

  • My ordination ... 10 years ago … that some of you were a part of.

Understanding better now that God put those opportunities in front of me really makes me appreciate the teaching of Jesus in Mark’s gospel that the kingdom of God “happens”.  Yes, of course we need to co-operate with the processes of God, but we should never think that we can control them. 

Often, I’m asked “What made you decide to become a deacon?”  Well, it was never in my personal “strategic plans” to become a deacon.  But God had a plan of where I might fit into the Kingdom.  There were a number of “small things”, tiny seeds planted along my journey.  Moving from Kingston to the Niagara Region because of a job change brought me to a diocese that was actively promoting and recruiting candidates for the diaconate.  There was a deacon who after his wife died decided that God was calling him to become a priest.  As a guest priest in the parish we were attending at that time, Fr. Tom Cresswell was the first to speak to me about the diaconate, planting a seed.  I had opportunities to observe other deacons at work in their ministries.  And of course there were encouragements from my wife Jan, from friends, from parishioners, and from my pastor, to look into the diaconate formation program.  Remember, God chooses what at first seems “little” to work with.  Like using Jesus, a poor carpenter born to a young peasant girl, to using the 12 disciples who were simple men, to using you and to using me.

God’s kingdom is found in the “simple” bread and wine turned into the body and blood of Christ that we will share in a little while.  The kingdom is also found in the meals we share at home and in the fellowship, we have with each other.  

Remember God sows the seeds and somehow provides for their growth.  My friends, allow yourself to be God’s field.  You never know what may blossom.

This weekend is also Father’s Day and I am grateful that my wife Jan and I were blessed with two daughters, making me a father.  And you fathers out there will know what I mean when I say that even though your kids grow up and have families of their own, as their father, you always worry about them.  In our hearts and minds they remain our little kids forever.  The role of a father is a 24/7 forever career.  You are always a role model even when you think you aren’t.  My father was a good role model, just look how I turned out.  Father’s Day is a good day for all of us to be grateful to those in our lives that are or were father’s or father figures.  If they are still with you, let them know in some special way how much you appreciate and love them.

God bless you.

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