11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B) | Ezek 17:22-24; 2 Cor 5:6-10; Mk 4:26-34
The poet TS Elliott observed: “It is strange that words are so inadequate. Yet, like the asthmatic struggling for breath, so the lover must struggle for words.”
When we move into mystery, into what is a meeting of the transcendent and the ordinary, we need words, symbols and images to express what is beyond expression. The deepest mysteries are found in relationship – the relationship of God and his people, the loving relationships between human beings. Sublime though these may be, they are experienced in very simple things: a beautiful sunset, a withering plant, a newborn baby may give one a glimpse of the mystery of a loving, caring God; a greeting card, a touch, a little thoughtfulness may express and deepen the relationship between lovers.
Today’s Gospel uses two images about seeds to express the mystery of God’s Kingdom, the place “where God is experienced.” In the first parable, once the seed is sown the farmer waits for harvest time. The cycle of growth follows its own secret rhythm; how it happens the farmer does not know. Even though nothing much seems to be happening, the miracle of growth is taking place. The farmer cannot improve the crop by staying awake at night and worrying: the seed is nurtured in its own silence. This seed is a great image of meditation.
At the end of the infancy narratives in Luke’s Gospel (Lk 2:51) we read how Jesus “... went down with Mary and Joseph and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His Mother stored up all these things in her heart.” (Jerusalem Bible) Other versions say Mary “treasured” or “pondered” these things in her heart. The seed in today’s Gospel is a great image of what Mary did – storing up, treasuring, pondering, meditating.
In meditation, we just rest in silence with our prayer-word and let the growth to harvest take place. We do not know where this gift, this seed, the desire for silence, has come from. The harvest or the Kingdom of God cannot be achieved by restlessly seeking instant results. In prayer, nothing may seem to be happening but God’s harvest comes in his own good time. It is very difficult for a lot of people to believe this. People will ask, “How can you be praying if you are not talking to God?” But prayer is relating to God. We can relate by just being there. This is what a mother does when she watches her baby, as Mary herself did. This is what you do if you sit by someone who is very sick. Your being there when he or she opens her eyes is a much appreciated silent assurance. It is an expression of love.
The Blessed Virgin, the help of Christians, is the woman of faith – the model for every Christian of how to be a faithful disciple of Jesus. The Vatican Council said the whole Church, like Mary, is to be the handmaid (servant) of the Lord – “Be it done unto me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)
“Mary pondered (thought about, reflected on) all those things in her heart.” (Lk 2:51) The Immaculate Heart of Mary is the cradle of all Christian meditation on the mysteries and teaching of Christ her Son, resting in Jesus’ “meek and humble heart” (Mt 11:25f) having God at the very centre of our lives: pondering these things in our heart. (cf Lk 2:51)
Pope Paul VI said: Mary offers a calm vision and a reassuring word to the people of our time, torn as we often are between anguish and hope, defeated as we can be by our own limitations and assailed by limitless aspirations, troubled in our minds and divided in our hearts, uncertain as we face the riddle of death, oppressed at times by loneliness, yet yearning for company and fellowship, a prey to boredom and disgust. Mary shows the victory of hope over anguish, of fellowship over solitude, of peace over anxiety, of joy and beauty over boredom and disgust, of eternal vision over earthly perceptions, of life over death. (cf Marialis Cultus, 57)
Mary offers us a firm eschatological assurance and hope that God is in charge, through his Son, in his Holy Spirit.
Our love of Mary and devotion to her “fits into the only worship that is rightly called Christian, because it takes its origin and effectiveness from Jesus Christ, finds its complete expression in Christ, and leads us through Christ in the Holy Spirit to the Father.” (Marialis Cultus, Introduction)
“Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5) are the last recorded words of Mary in Scripture. It is her message yesterday, today and forever. It is the hallmark of genuine spirituality, Christian behaviour and commitment to her son.
Ask our Mother Mary, in whose heart our Diocese wants to be, Mary who was full of the Holy Spirit, to nurture and foster the growth of the life of Jesus that is present in us by his Holy Spirit, so we can say that we not only belong to Jesus Christ and his Church but that we have become the Body of Christ because Christ lives in us, and the love of Christ impels us to stay faithful as trustworthy stewards and disciples through all the competing pressures of life!
The Gospel’s image of the seed is our inadequate way of trying to express the Kingdom as a gift that comes from God. While it comes totally from God, it needs tending and caring and reaping by us. It comes from God, yet we must respond to it and nurture it. Here Mary shows us the way. The work of the Kingdom is God’s work, but we must be careful because we can muck it up. By the way we tend the seed, we can nurture it; or we can destroy or get in the way of its growth.
Mary, Virgin and Mother, shows us what love is and whence it draws its origin and its constantly renewed power. To the Immaculate Heart of Mary we entrust our Diocese and its mission in the service of love:
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
you have given the world its true light,
Jesus, your Son – the Son of God.
You abandoned yourself completely to God’s call
and thus became a wellspring of the goodness
which flows forth from Jesus.
Show us Jesus. Lead us to him.
Teach us to know and love Jesus
so that we too can become capable of true love
and be fountains of living water
in the midst of a thirsting world.
(Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est)
As we celebrate the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the whole Diocese of Wollongong looks to Mary, the Mother of the Church. Thanks to the Marian shrines and churches around the Diocese dedicated to the Mother of God, devotion to Mary should be very strong and widespread among the people in our local Church.
May we continue to contemplate the Virgin Mary, who pondered in her heart the mystery of Christ. We know that Mary is present as a mother to us so shares in the many complicated problems which today beset the lives of individuals, families, parishes, schools and communities. We know that Mary has a heart for the Christian people in our constant struggle between good and evil, to ensure that we do not fall, or, if we have fallen, that we rise again.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is an image of the Church which, nourished by hope, acknowledges the saving and merciful action of God, in whose light our diocese reads our own journey and all of history. Mary helps us to interpret all that happens to us in the light of Jesus her Son. As a new creation moulded by the Holy Spirit, Mary causes the virtue of hope to grow within us.
To the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of hope and of consolation, we confidently lift up our prayer: to Mary we entrust the future of the Diocese of Wollongong.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of hope, accompany us on our journey. Teach us to proclaim the living God; help us to bear witness to Jesus, the one saviour; make us kindly towards our neighbours, welcoming to the needy, concerned for justice, impassioned builders of a more just society; intercede for us; pray for us as we carry out our work in history, certain that the Father’s plan will be fulfilled.
Dawn of a new world, show yourself the Mother of hope and watch over us! Watch over the Church in our Diocese. May we all be transparently open to the Gospel; may our local Church be an authentic place of communion; may our Diocese, through its parishes, schools, agencies and activities, carry out fully the Church’s mission of proclaiming, celebrating and serving the Gospel of hope for the peace and joy of all.
Queen of Peace, protect the men and women of the third millennium! Watch over all Christians: may they advance confidently on the path of unity in Christ, as a leaven of harmony for this Diocese.
Watch over our young people: our hope now and for the future, may they respond with generosity to the call of Jesus. May some heed the call to serve Jesus in the priesthood and religious life. Watch over the leaders of Church, of State and of Local Government. May they be committed to building a common house which respects the dignity and rights of every person.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, give us Jesus! Grant that we may follow him and love him! Jesus is the hope of the Church in our Diocese and of all humanity! Jesus lives with us, in our midst, in his Church! With you we say: “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20). May the hope of glory which Jesus has poured into our hearts bear fruits of justice and peace.
Adapted from the Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesia in Europa”
PARISHES AND CHURCHES IN THE DIOCESE OF WOLLONGONG DEDICATED TO MARY
Mater Dolorosa Church Balgownie
St Mary’s Parish Berkeley
Our Lady Help of Christians Church Culburra
Mary Immaculate Parish Eagle Vale
Mary Queen of Croats Church Figtree
St Mary Star of the Sea Church Gerringong
Mary, Mother of God Church Leppington
Mary Mother of the Church Parish Macquarie Fields
St Mary Star of the Sea Parish Milton
Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa Penrose Park
Our Lady Help of Christians Parish Rosemeadow
Stella Maris Church Shellharbour
Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Parish Unanderra
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish Varroville
Our Lady of Lourdes Church Wombarra
RELIGIOUS HOUSES OF ORDERS AND CONGREGATIONS AND LAY ASSOCIATIONS DEDICATED TO MARY
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
The Immaculate Conception
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart
Our Lady’s Nurses
Presentation of the Blessed Virgin
Legion of Mary
Our Lady of Lavang (Vietnamese)
St Mary Star of the Sea College, Wollongong