Living from Sunday

Dear Friends,

This past Tuesday my niece Eva celebrated her 13th birthday. It’s hard for me to believe that she is now a teenager. This important milestone in her life reminds me of Jesus’ words in the Gospel, “it is as if a man were to scatter sees on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.” My feeling is, “Eva grew up so quickly—I know not how!”

In the past few centuries, modern science has given us more insight into the biological processes involved in the growth of living beings, whether people or plants, than was known in Jesus’ day. We know about cells dividing, which allow organisms to replace dead cells and develop new parts. In a way, science has given us the answer to the “how” growth happens that Jesus mentioned in the parable.

But, of course, there is more to complex realities like human beings and the kingdom of God than just biology. Each human person—beyond the biological, chemical, and physical elements that are part of their being—is an awesome mystery of creativity, dynamism, and potentiality. The Christian tradition has tried to express something of this incredible richness of human beings by describing men and women as created “in the image and likeness of God.”

By using parables, Jesus invites us to ponder and participate in the complexity and richness of the kingdom of God that he proclaimed and inaugurated during his public ministry, culminating in the Paschal Mystery of his death, resurrection, and glorification. The two parables that we hear proclaimed in this Sunday’s gospel, each in its own way, invite us to ponder the mystery of the kingdom of God using agricultural imagery. They invite us to consider the subtle and surprising ways in which the kingdom of God—God’s creative and dynamic lordship over us and our world—can and does manifest itself.

But, because the parables of Jesus seek to evoke and offer insights and perspectives on the mystery of the kingdom of God, rather than a blueprint or breakdown of that kingdom, they simultaneously reveal and conceal. Just like the sacraments that we celebrate throughout our lives, the parables tell us something about God and his desire for us to share in his life, without telling us everything.

That can be difficult for us to accept and endure. In an age when we can find out just about anything about everything with a simple Google search or a, “Hey, Siri,” we struggle with not having quick and easy answers to our questions about something as significant and vital as the kingdom of God. We want everything explained to us, and we prefer it if that explanation includes the assurance that we can be part of God’s kingdom without having to sacrifice or surrender anything that we consider important to us.

But God and his kingdom defy such “easy” explanations and expectations. As St. Paul reminds us in today’s second reading, in our present condition we “walk by faith, not by sight.” There is a part of our following Jesus and being conformed to him that involves not knowing “how” it all works. The parables, the sacraments, and the whole Christian life calls us to walk toward God’s kingdom “by faith, not by sight.”

Recently, Father Niblick gave me a book by the Czech priest and scholar Tomáš Halík entitled, The Afternoon of Christianity: The Courage of Change (TAC). I am still reading the book and am finding it very insightful. In Chapter 2 of the book, “Faith as Experience of Mystery,” Halík writes, “Faith, as I understand it, is by its very nature a pilgrimage and it has an eschatological [kingdom] goal. […] The word ‘mystery’ is not a warning ‘stop sign’ on our path in search of God through thought, prayer, and meditation but rather an encouragement to have trust in these journeys to inexhaustible depths.” (TAC, p. 14)

And, as we journey on our pilgrimage of faith together, we encounter and experience the mystery of God in a unique and transformative way every time that he gathers us together to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist. As we listen to God’s word proclaimed and we share in the Holy Eucharist, the Lord reveals and gives to us something of the “inexhaustible depths” of the mystery of his life and love—we know not how.

Peace,

Father Leo

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