January 27, 2017
by Mike Kelly
Creighton University's School of Law
click here for photo and information about the writer

Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 321

Hebrews 10:32-39
Psalms 37:3-4, 5-6, 23-24, 39-40
Mark 4:26-34

Praying Ordinary Time

Our reading from Hebrews 10:32-39 admonishes us to stay the path with our beliefs and be willing to suffer humiliations and worse from those who do not understand or accept.  Our reward is in the conviction of doing God’s bidding.  Notice the wording, “Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering. At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction; . . . . And joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, knowing that you had a better and lasting possession.”  Enlightenment, suffering, endurance, knowledge of a greater truth.  These elements are also very central to Buddhist teachings.  Perhaps it is no coincidence that the admonishment to know truth and peacefully defend it – find the divine path and then live it on Earth, is a shared theme?  I’m no doctrinal comparativist, but it emerged in an undeniable way during my reflection.

And in the Gospel of Mark, 4:26-34, Jesus is finding ways to effectively communicate with diverse audiences. To the people in the streets, he speaks in parables, “With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.” But with his disciples, who had been enlightened, he dispensed with this method and “explained everything in private.” He tailored what he was saying to make his message understandable by those hearing it. The agrarian parables of the seeds spoken to the agricultural based people would certainly do the trick. And switching to fishing metaphors for coastal people would too.

My reflection on the parable offered here equates sowing the seeds with gradual understanding by the people hearing Christ’s message. Once the seeds are sown, “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.”  Jesus sows the seed with his parable, the people think about what he says and it takes hold. Then it grows and, as they talk more about it and hear more parables, the full grain appears – this is their faith. When that faith is “ripe” the sickle is wielded and they are “harvested” – brought fully into our shared faith as believers.

Which then loops back to our first reading!  Once you are enlightened, once you are harvested for the faith, stay true to your belief though you are mocked and abused and must suffer for it. Be strong and go forth.  As St. Ignatius would say, “go, set the world on fire” with your belief and your ideas. You’ve outgrown the parables but can still find layers of meaning in them to teach others.

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