This morning’s Gospel reading is Mark 4:26–34:
Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed 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. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”
He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
Readers forgive me, for I have … not done much to prepare for today’s Sunday reflection. Thanks to a busy schedule, the kind one usually has after coming back from a vacation, I’ve spent very little time reflecting on today’s Gospel reading on the Parable of the Mustard Seed. It’s probably not far off to consider me at the pre-shrub level at this particular point in time.
Instead, I’ll offer up a few thoughts about Father’s Day, with a couple of ties to today’s readings. In both this Gospel and in our first reading from Ezekiel, we hear about the Lord’s goodness as a father in providing a home for all of his children, both on earth and in the eternal kingdom. In Mark, Jesus describes this as the mustard tree, a massive home for creation started by the smallest seed, no more than a Word. In Ezekiel, the Lord tells the prophet that His kingdom will start as a tender shoot from a cedar and spring forth into a mighty tree on the mountain, and will make the mighty low and the lowly mighty as a result.
As fathers, we struggle with our responsibilities to do the same thing. We need to provide a home for our families too, hopefully pleasing in the sight of the Lord, but it’s not always easy. My father, who’s thankfully still with us, grew up in the Depression and World War II; my uncle and godfather, who went to the Lord several years ago, did the same but in Italy rather than the US. I had it easier, having never faced the hard deprivations that they did, but their experiences got passed on to me in work ethic (if not talent … I’m not a handy guy). My son had different struggles than either I or my father had. All fathers struggle with the world, its responsibilities, and its expectations; even as the environment and contexts change, the pressures and needs remain the same.
In moments where I feel lost or inadequate, it sometimes helps to talk with my dad or to consider how he’d approach an issue. Other times, I reflect on St. Joseph and his struggles with the role he had been given. Sometimes, the wisest course is to accept the inexplicable and to put your trust in the Lord. Joseph responded to the call of the angel in accepting Mary, but for the next several years was forced to go on the run with his family while still understanding that he had to provide for them somehow. The Gospels are mainly silent on how Joseph coped with the series of crises that unfolded after he accepted the Lord’s call to head the family of the Messiah, but we know that he succeeded by putting his trust in God.
There are no easy roles in this world, not for mothers or fathers, grandparents, godparents, or other family members. None of us fulfill our roles perfectly, as the Lord does, but we can put our trust in Him to see us through our most difficult passages. Being a father myself, and going through those crises of confidence, makes me appreciate just how good I have it with my own father and godfather, and just how proud I am of my own son. And I know, especially with the latter, that those blessings didn’t originate with me.
Happy Father’s Day to all our readers, and thanks be to God for all the good fathers, godfathers, grandfathers, and more who keep working at those roles with all their hearts.
Note: My previous reflection on this Gospel reading can be found here. You know, that time I actually prepared for a reflection.
The front page image is a detail from “The Holy Family with a Palm Tree” by Raphael, c. 1506, currently on display in the Scottish National Gallery. Via Wikimedia Commons.
“Sunday Reflection” is a regular feature, looking at the specific readings used in today’s Mass in Catholic parishes around the world. The reflection represents only my own point of view, intended to help prepare myself for the Lord’s day and perhaps spark a meaningful discussion. Previous Sunday Reflections from the main page can be found here. For previous Green Room entries, click here.