Weekly Scripture

In the first and third readings, Ezekiel and Jesus use agricultural images to speak of God’s mysterious presence in our midst and how his plan to save his people happens in a quiet and often invisible way. In the second reading Paul expresses his strong desire to please the Lord in all things.

FIRST READING: Ezekiel 17:22-24

The prophet Ezekiel is seeking to give hope to the Israelites who are in exile, having lost their king, kingdom, and place of worship.

God promises to bring a new king from the house of David back into power. The “tender shoot” from the topmost branch of the cedar stands for a new king from the house of David. Jerusalem is the lofty mountain. The newly planted tree will bring forth many branches and bear much fruit (a reference to Israel’s future greatness). Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it (a reference to the security the people will experience when God restores Israel).

Then there is mention of a reversal of fortunes that God will bring about: “Bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree.” What is humbled can be exalted and what seems to triumph can be brought down. The presence and power of God at work in all these events are underlined in the final verse: “As I, the Lord, have spoken, so will I do.”

SECOND READING: 1 Corinthians 5:6-10

Paul compares his present ‘bodily’ existence with that which is to come, and for which he longs: “I would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” After Paul became a ‘soldier of Christ,’ his body took some hard knocks; hence, it is understandable why he would prefer to be ‘at home with the Lord.’ Whether in this world or in the world to come, Paul’s only desire is to live in accord with God’s will. The reading ends with a sobering reminder that all will stand before Christ to be judged according to how they lived their lives on earth.

GOSPEL: Mark 4:26-34

Chapter 4 of Mark’s Gospel is a series of parables used by Jesus to teach his audience about the kingdom or reign of God which he is inaugurating.

Parables address two very different realities and use one to throw light on the deeper meaning of the other. Parables also force the hearers to stretch their imagination to make connections they usually would not make.

In the first parable, Jesus uses the mysterious nature of seed growing to speak about the mysterious growth of God’s kingdom. A man sows seeds in the ground and then goes off to do other things. In the meantime, the seeds gradually grow to full maturity. In a similar way, the reign of God takes root, grows and produces in secret, and perhaps in unexpected places. Growth is always the result of God secretly working in the hearts of people.

The point of the mustard seed parable is that small beginnings produce great things. The full grown tree, providing a place for the birds of the sky, may be a reference to the universal nature of the Church. The final statement about Jesus “explaining things privately to the disciples” may be a reference to the slowness of Jesus’ disciples to understand his teaching.

In what ways have you benefited from the seed sowing of others?