Fr. Wilson Andrade is the pastor of St. Ann Parish and the Native Peoples’ Mission, both in Toronto.
“It is with the smallest brushes that the artist paints the most exquisitely beautiful pictures.” These words from the Canadian saint, St. Brother André Bessette, help us summarize this Sunday’s Scriptural passages.
I would like to reflect with you on three words taken from the liturgical readings for 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Faith; Fruit; and Flourish.
“We walk by faith, not by sight” is a phrase taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. We may have even sung these words in church. The Psalmist thanks God for God’s faithfulness in each one of us. The images of planting and farming that appear both in the prophecy of Ezekiel that we hear this weekend and in Jesus’ parables show us the mystery of faith in action. We know the faith a farmer has when planting seeds. With knowledge and skills, the plants grow and produce fruit. A popular saying tells us to “Never underestimate the power of a planted seed.” We see evidence of the power of those seeds in nature, especially during the spring gardening season.
Faith is defined in the Letter to the Hebrews as: “a confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11: 1) St. Paul speaks of faith as having confidence in the Lord – trusting that God’s will shall find fulfilment in our life. Ezekiel’s prophecy gives the image of God as a creative gardener who plants carefully and then helps the plants to grow into trees. Jesus tells us that if we have faith as big as mustard seed, then we can move mountains.
Faith can shape our lives according to God’s plan. Let this Scriptural passage inspire us and challenge us: How does faith grow in your life? Do you have confidence in God, who is the source of all the blessings you receive?
“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” These words from St. Augustine help us to reflect on the idea that all faithful actions must lead into fruitfulness.
Ezekiel’s prophecy helps us to hope in God’s creative power working in creation, “that it may produce boughs and bear fruit.” The Parable of the Sower reflects on how seeds grow and produce more grains to harvest. As the Parable of the Mustard Seed tells us, “the smallest seed grows up to put forth large branches” to give shade and shelter for the birds.
We need to take time and reflect on what is the reward or aim of our faith. As we read in the Psalm, when we are with God, all of us – even at an advanced age – can still be fruitful, full of life or like the Psalmist imagine: “green and full of sap.”
Has our faith become fruitful in our life journey? Or have we become hardhearted and stagnant? Are we just lukewarm in our expressions of faith, in our relationship with God and one another? Do we take time to learn about our faith? Do we work on our faith formation so that it can lead us to be life-giving fruitful people of God?
Faith helps us to be fruitful and life-giving in our daily lives, in our relationships and in our ministry. At the same time, faith invites us to further flourish in the future. Faith aims us toward future growth. We are called to receive the fullness of life according to God’s plan. We hear this the reading from the Book of Ezekiel. And as we read in Psalm 92: “we will flourish like a fruitful palm tree and grow like a mighty cedar of Lebanon.”
We can see the miracle of God’s beautiful creation happening in our everyday life. A tender branch becomes a mighty tree, a seed grows and produces harvest, even a menacing weed-like mustard plant can become a welcoming shelter giving shade and food to the birds. God has faith in us and the seeds of His love have been planted in us, with the hope of bearing fruits and flourishing with God’s grace.
St. Paul says that our purpose of life is “to please God” because “all of us must appear before the judgement seat of Christ.” Do we have the faith to hold the promise of God’s future in our life? Do we have courage to explore the demands of our faith, crossing barriers of all sorts, to find fulfillment in God’s plan?
Today’s Scripture readings invite us to reflect on our faith. We need to ask ourselves if our faith is fruitful in our present life and whether it has the capacity to flourish further? The author, Helen Keller, said: “Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” We need to grow in faith to bear spiritual fruits and to hold onto the promise that we will continue to flourish every day, so that God’s plan of salvation is fulfilled. Just like the disciples asked of Jesus, we humbly pray: “Lord, increase our faith.”
Let me conclude with the words of Mother Teresa:
Faith in action is love, and love in action is service. By transforming that faith into living acts of love, we put ourselves in contact with God Himself, with Jesus our Lord. As we know God doesn’t call us to be successful, God calls us to be faithful.
This homily is based on the readings from the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B: Ezekiel 17.22-24; 2 Corinthians 5.6-10; Mark 4.26-34 – The Parable of the Mustard Seed.