Kate Oxsen

June 16: 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 12, 2024

Walk by faith

Ez 17:22-24; Ps 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16; 2 Cor 5:6-10; Mk 4:26-34

This Sunday’s readings are ripe with natural and agricultural metaphors. Our reading from Ezekiel talks of a mighty cedar tree, which is echoed again in the day’s Psalm. The Gospel speaks to us about a farmer sewing seed and a small mustard seed.

At first glance these metaphors might appear to express the same thing. However, they each have their own nuances. When we bring all of them together, we can find a beautiful message of hope.

Ezekiel’s parable of the cedar tree comes from a section of the Book of Ezekiel where divine judgement is presented in the form of divine absence. The people of Israel are in a difficult place, exiled from their land and their temple has been destroyed. The prophet explains to them how they are responsible for their current situation, in a way that is difficult and painful.

The parable of the cedar appears amid this litany of divine absence and represents a return to divine presence. This parable is a vision of restoration for the people of Israel. One day, God will be among them once again, and they will live safely in God’s care (17:23). The restored kingdom will tower over those of all the other nations (17:24a). This work is something only God can do, and the people are assured that God will do it (17:24b).

Our Gospel parables today are coming from a different angle. Both parables imagine seeds and then some sort of sudden, miraculous growth rather than the restoration of a cedar tree (Ez 17:22). The man who sowed seeds has no idea how they will sprout (4:27). Those waiting for the mustard seed to sprout are expecting small plant (4:30) but are surprised to find something akin to the cedar tree we hear about in Ezekiel. It becomes a plant large enough for many birds to find shelter among its branches (4:32).

What I want to emphasize from these parables is the element of surprise present in all of them. The people of Israel in Ezekiel, the man sowing the seed and those awaiting the growth of the mustard seed do not know what is coming or how it will happen. Furthermore, with the parable of the mustard seed we are given the impression that one would likely assume an insignificant growth. Yet our assumptions are proven wrong.

In each case the results are a surprise that ends with the coming of God’s kingdom, where people will live in God’s care.

This is similar to how we live our lives today. We do not know what each day will bring. Often situations are not what they seem, and people have the capacity to surprise us no matter how long we have known them. These types of surprises can be good or bad — or maybe even a little of both. Either way, we have little to no control over life (Ez 17:24, Mk 4:28).

As such, the core of each surprise in these parables is hope. Hope that things will get better, that whatever we are waiting for will come in its time or that what is coming might be more than we expect.

Until life’s mysteries are revealed to us, all we can do is live our lives the best we can. As we read today in 2 Cor 5, we must walk courageously by faith (5:6-7) and try to live as justly as we can (5:10, Ps 92:13-15).

We cannot control the world or the people around us, but we can control ourselves. We can choose to be kind, generous, and forgiving. We can try to give our neighbors the benefit of the doubt and not assume the worse of them in moments of conflict. In those moments when our worst suspicions are proven correct, we can choose to walk away rather than escalate an already bad situation. All these things are difficult to do. We must choose to do them every day. Today’s readings remind us that our efforts are not in vain. We are in God’s care.


  • scripture