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This Sunday's Programme

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11th Sunday Year B

Sunday 16th June 2024

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Mk 4:26-34

Jesus said to them, ‘The Kingdom of God is like this: a man sowed seed across the paddocks. Then his life went on, waking and sleeping, going the daily round and, while that happened, the seed germinated and grew, the man didn’t know how. For the earth brings forth growth: first the seed germinates, the shoots then lengthen, the ears appear and then fill with grain. When the seedheads are fully ripe, the man returns with his sickle. Harvest time has come!’

He again said to them: ‘What is the Kingdom of God like? What images can I use? It is like a tiny mustard seed, which, when it is sown, is the smallest of all seeds. But when it is sown, it germinates, shoots up and grows into a large shrub shooting out many fine branches. Many birds come and nest in its shade.’

Jesus continued to teach them using such images as they could understand. In fact, he only taught them using such images but when he was alone with the disciples he explained the meaning to them.

Psalm

The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 91: 2-3,13-16

It is good to acclaim God,
to make melodies to your name, Almighty One..
In the morning to speak of your kindness,
during the night to remember your faithfulness.

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
grow majestic like a Lebanon cedar.

Those planted in the house of God shall bud forth,
those in the court of God will flourish.
Even in old age they will be fruitful,
still strong, still healthy,
proclaiming the justice of God,
the faithful one who does no wrong.

Prayers

Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Loving God, give us true patience of heart that we may believe that your love and goodness is at work in our lives. May we do all that we should do, and then trust that your loving care will do the rest. We ask this in Jesus’ name, confident that you will hear us.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

These two parables are in a series of five parables, another one of which uses the same imagery – that of seeds and growth. Here, early in his Gospel, Mark repeatedly gives a clear image of the Kingdom of God: an image of slow, steady, hidden growth that moves inexorably towards a successful harvest. This is important for understanding Mark’s Gospel where so much of what Jesus does is misunderstood, and who he truly is, is hidden.

The reality of the Kingdom is so different from what the disciples expected. The parable of the Patient Farmer is found only in Mark’s Gospel and its meaning is very potent: we have to do the work of salvation but it is God who gives the growth. The goodness that comes about is God’s work. Patient as we may be, we have also to be ‘ready for the harvest’, to own and appreciate what God gives us.

The parable of the Mustard Seed stresses that we cannot underestimate what God can do, even with the tiniest of things. The smallest word, the smallest gesture can grow into something large and generous: that is God’s grace at work.

Exposition

Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

‘Are you the One?’ asked John the Baptist, confused by the type of Kingdom Jesus was preaching. His Kingdom was so different to what those first disciples had expected, different from what people down to our own age expect. It is not very ‘Kingdomy’ – too small and too humble for human expectations. Yet the attempts by Church leaders to be triumphantly in control seem only to bring the Church into greater disrepute.

In this series of ‘seed and growth’ parables, Jesus gives a very clear image of growth in his Kingdom: quiet, small, inconspicuous but its consequences are great – ‘a harvest’, and generous and welcoming– ‘a tree in which all the birds of the air can roost.’

So, in this present time, when much of what is being done in the name of the ‘Church’ disturbs and distress us, we need to ask ourselves, what and where is the Kingdom, the Church which Jesus is forming, and how should we each act within that Church. We cannot look for something great and impressive. Rather we should look to where the Spirit of God’s life and love is growing in people’s lives. The places to look will be small, humble and inconspicuous.

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

I used to be a serious gardener. I worked hard, got all the right information, put in plenty of hours and had a very good garden. But the more I did, the more I realised how little I was really doing. Yes, I prepared the soil, planted seeds, watered, weeded, fertilised but the actual wonder of growth was removed from my power. I often mulled about how all I was doing was providing the conditions for growth. God did the real work.

I find the parable of the Patient Farmer the most consoling in the Gospel. We do our bit for the kingdom and it often doesn’t seem much, but it is God giving the growth, often when we are occupied with other things. The presence of Jesus in our world tells us that God is on our side, utterly committed to the growth of goodness in our lives. We make our efforts, even do our best, and yet we often doubt the results. But our faith teaches us: God is working for good in our lives and growth into his life and love _is_ taking place, unless we actively put obstacles in God’s way.

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

– This is one of Van Gogh’s paintings of The Sower , an image he painted a number of times.

– Piety Choi’s  Parable of the Mustard Seed.

– Jan Knegt’s painting shows the superabundance that grows from the world’s smallest seed.

 

Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

Exercising
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Driving
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

During this week notice and mull on how growth takes place in your life and in the lives of those you love. When does it happen quickly, when dramatically? Can you recognise how God uses events, habits and failure to bring about growth?

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

Rest in the love of your God.

Consider the situations in your life when you have had to be patient – to wait for what was happening to run its course. Perhaps it was waiting for a birth, for a death, for an event to take place. Choose one of those events and slowly recall what happened over the period of time. Can you recall the emotions you had? What did you learn about yourself in the process of waiting? Did it contribute to your ability to live through the event when it happened?

Now consider situations in your present life about which you must be patient. Can you bring your knowledge from the past to these situations? Open yourself to the ways God could be bringing about growth now.

Rest in the love of your God.