Of all of Paul’s letters this second one to Corinth Is the most complicated. Paul himself seems to go back and forth as he struggles with living in this world vs. the parousia, wondering how long he is destined for this world and when it will come to an end. Kind of like some of you here today regarding this homily: When will it end?
But remember what Paul says twice in the midst of his struggle: we are always courageous; we are courageous. And we continue to walk by faith, not by sight. So be of good cheer. This homily will not be long!
The struggle of living in this world is as real today as in Paul’s day. We too need all the courage we can muster to do our best and be faithful. For us it is especially so because all about us can seem to be so different from what the Church says and what the Lord asks us to do. “Why bother?” is not an unusual instinct. “I try but am I getting anywhere? Is it worth the effort?” These are real and natural and we all have them. But the answer does not come from running away even though we may at times, like Paul, want to do just that.
These two mysterious parables that Jesus spoke to the crowds have something to tell us. The first reminds me of a true story. My boss in Rome whom I loved, Cardinal Gantin, once returned to his own country for vacation. He planned to give some talks and also spend time and teach seminarians which he loved to do. He arrived at the airport in Cotonou. The Marxist regime immediately put him under house arrest. No vacation this time. No talks, no time with his seminarians. I asked him on his return what he felt like spending all that time and not accomplishing anything. He said, “Caro Bill, do you think that my being controlled by the regime caused the Kingdom of God to stop growing?”
That’s the lesson of the first parable in today’s Gospel. The farmer today knows a lot more about his crops than farmers of 2000 years ago. But ultimately the fruit of his labors comes only because of the gift of God’s creative love that makes all things be and brings all things to fruition. God is ever acting in our world. And his loving presence whether we see it or feel it or not is the inner dynamic of our world and our lives.
So what are we to do? Cooperate with it! Whatever we do, however simple or complicated, is an opportunity for us to cooperate with the growth of Kingdom of God. And that leads us to the parable everyone knows: the mustard seed. The mustard seed is a symbol of us all. The life of Christ is sown in us by baptism. That seed of God’s love, that fruitful seed of Christ’s life, is now part of our lives. He dwells within us as we grow and grow. But we have to collaborate with that divine life that transforms us. We have to want to grow and seek to grow and be patient in letting his love grow in our hearts so that we embrace one another as Christ has embraced all of us. God is always in action. God calls us to act with Him by our lives, our words, our deeds, our actions.
Often enough what we set out to do is hindered by our own faults or the faults of others. That can be a setback for us but we will never have the power to stop the Kingdom. So why not do our best to foster its growth by our actions and our growth in the Spirit? God is in charge, not us! How beautiful are those words from Ezekiel: Thus says the Lord, I will take from the crest of the cedar and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. It shall put forth its branches and bear fruit. We are those trees, some small, some large, some like me, beginning to wither, but all bearing fruit that makes the Kingdom grow in this world and prepares us to appear before the judgment seat of Christ.
There are examples of that growth all around us today. Alex Turpin will become today a dedicated candidate for formation to the priesthood. He is growing as the kingdom grows within him. Our Biking4 vocations men day after day biked for 1400 miles. This past month their efforts and their prayers were like mustard seeds growing into a deeper and deeper sense of their priestly vocation. The members of the Diocesan Pastoral Council are here today. Their quarterly meetings with me have given me and my Vicars their counsel and advice. These are the suggestions and prayers of men and women who love our Church. Their collaboration helps me and my brother bishops to be better pastors of this local Church. All of you, without exception, here today or watching on Telecare, by your prayer and by your daily lives of faith and hope and charity are equally the seed beds of the Kingdom of God.
Today, right now, we combine the two parts of the growth of the Kingdom: We are sharing in the Eucharistic Prayer by which the Kingdom becomes ever more present and real in our lives. Nourished by His Body and Blood, He shapes our daily lives of good deeds and loving care for one another. We are the trees God has planted and his Son has nourished. And so, we remain courageous in this life. With the courage that comes from above we show the world that the end of this life is only the transition to the fullness of the life we have begun, life in Christ Jesus and life with one another in His eternal Kingdom of life and love. AMEN.