January 29, 2021
Friday, Week 3 in Ordinary Time
1st Reading, Hebrews 10:32-39
Do not abandon hope, but trust in God’s promises
Remember those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting. Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
For yet “in a very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not delay; but my righteous one will live by faith. My soul takes no pleasure in anyone who shrinks back.” But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved.
Responsorial: Psalm 36:3-6, 23-24, 39-40
R./: The salvation of the just comes from the Lord
If you trust in the Lord and do good,
then you will live in the land and be secure.
If you find your delight in the Lord,
he will grant your heart’s desire. (R./)
Commit your life to the Lord,
trust in him and he will act,
so that your justice breaks forth like the light,
your cause like the noon-day sun. (R./)
The Lord guides the steps of a man
and makes safe the path of one he loves.
Though he stumble he shall never fall
for the Lord holds him by the hand. (R./)
The salvation of the just comes from the Lord,
their stronghold in time of distress.
The Lord helps them and delivers them and saves them:
for their refuge is in him. (R./)
Gospel: Mark 4:26-34
The seed sprouts and grows mysteriously, to become the largest of shrubs
Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
Seed Of The Future
God’s message is like a seed full of promise, which bears fruit only after much patient waiting in the darkness of the earth. There is conflict and change as the seed breaks apart and loses itself for the new sprout to develop and appear on the surface of the earth. We will try linking the parable about the seed sown within the dark earth with today’s text from Hebrews.
Hebrews was probably written for converts from Judaism, some of them former priests of the Temple. (Acts 6:7, “many Jewish priests, embraced the faith.”) These could easily remember, with nostalgia and regret, their splendid temple ritual in former times, whereas they now had only simple prayer meetings in private house, and eucharist in upper rooms, little ritual and no grandeur. Their family ties had been disrupted and many of their own household now disowned or persecuted them.
Hebrews faces this problem of discouragement within the small Christian community. Today’s text admits that they have endured a great contest of suffering; were publicly exposed to insult and the confiscation of their goods. There is the call to persevere: do not surrender, don’t give up. This hardship is just for a while, and Christ will not delay to come and be with his faithful ones.
It’s nature’s mystery how the seed that falls into the ground becomes stalks of wheat to provide our food, or another seed becomes a leafy tree, where the birds of the sky build nests in its shade. Nor can we understand God’s ways in the history of his servants. Yet as wheat provides bread and the trees offer shade, so also God does his people. Salvation is a patient process. And we must wait through the long dark hours until the seed develops into what it eventually will become.
The mystery of growth
The seed growing secretly draws our attention to the mystery of growth. The farmer works hard to sow the seed, but then has to wait for it to sprout. In ways he does not fully understand, seeds grow of their own accord. It is only when the seed is fully grown and the crop is ripe that the farmer can set to work again. The wise farmer knows when it is time to reap, and when it is time to wait and let nature to take its course.
Most of us are not farmers, but like the one in the parable we need to get the right balance between making something happen and then letting it happen. The balance between initiative and patience is important for all development, including our own and that of others. The mystery of growth is not something we can fully control. There are certain things we can do to bring it about, but other things only the Lord can do. While cooperating as best we can, we must let the Lord bring the work of his grace to its full flowering in us. Like the wise farmer we are grateful for the mystery of growth.