Sunday, June 13, 2021


     Every life, every era has its own particular trials, tribulations and challenges. The last year has been one for many people. To put it into perspective, though, just study the impact of the Spanish Flu or the far worse Black Death. Just go to and look up the records of deaths in the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries. I had to do that while researching the lives of our deceased friars. It shocked me how many people died from TB and how many did not even make it out of childhood. It is easy to forget that our ancestors suffered poverty and oppression that we can only imagine.
    Israel, the Jews, also suffered. They believed God had chosen them. He had made covenants with them. A covenant is a free, sacred agreement established by ritual and oath. God’s covenants with them were the most sacred kind, the kind that established a permanent family bond with them “I will be your God and you shall be my people” He repeatedly told them. He did this with Adam, with Noah, with Abraham, with Moses, and with King David.

Festivities in Honour of King David by J..J. Tissot, (1896-1902), Jewish Museum, Brooklyn.

    God had said to David, "When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your seed after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.”(1 Sam 7:12; 1 Chr 17:11) But the Kingdom established by David had split in two after Solomon, Davis’ son, died. Then the people of Northern Israel were taken as prisoners to Syria in 734 BC and again in 722 BC. For a while the southern part, Judah and Jerusalem, remained until 587 BC when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Babylonians. Most of the people were deported to what is now Iraq.
    So Ezekiel wrote to console the suffering Jews in Babylon (Iraq) as their world fell apart.  In that quite depressing and traumatic time in the history of God’s people Ezekiel gives a prophesy of hope.  God had not forgotten the word he gave through Isaiah: "There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” (Is 11:1) Jesse was David's father and an ancestor of our Lord. God has a plan and his promise, his covenant oath to David, is not forgotten. There be will growth once more.  However no dynasty had ever re-established itself having been brought down.  People found this hard to believe. How could this happen?  Surely Ezekiel was mad?


The Flight of the Prisoners (1896) by J.J. Tissot, Jewish Museum, Brooklyn.

    The “just one” in the psalm is compared to a tree that flourishes, grows, and bears fruit. Behind this is the idea of the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil in Eden, the primordial orchard or garden-temple of God. Adam and Eve didn’t get to taste the fruit of the Tree of Life because they chose to take what had not yet been offered, what did not yet belong to them, the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil. The “just” are those who live their lives according to God’s will and they will become like the Tree of Life. The just will bear the fruit of holiness. 
    The true “just one” is Jesus Christ and He is the only one who is truly “just.” He is the true Tree of Life who bears good fruit in all seasons, eternally. There's an Irish prayer that goes "O King of the Friday, whose arms were stretched on the Cross.  O Lord who did suffer the bruises, the wounds, the loss.  We stretch ourselves beneath the shield of Thy Might.  May some fruit from the Tree of Thy Passion fall on us this night."  It is Christ who has made the Cross and all our personal crosses fruitful.  Baptism makes us part of the Body of Christ and in the Mass He feeds us with His Body and Blood, so we too are called to be the “just one" flourishing in hard times. 



 Crucifixion, apse mural, by Anton and Ekatarina Daineko iconographers, Minsk, Belarus

    The Lord, in the Gospel passage, tells two short parables. In both of them, the “seed” is the Word of God but in two senses. The proclaimed Gospel is the “word of God” and Jesus Himself is the Word of God.  In the first parable Jesus reminds us that a gardener cannot make the seed grow he can only provide the best conditions within his power. Jesus means that the growth of God’s kingdom is a mystery, the work of the Holy Spirit, and no more dependent on human effort than natural growth depends on us. We are responsible for planting the seed of the Kingdom by our words and deeds but the growth belongs to the Lord. We cannot control God's work in our own heart let alone another’s. It is the work of God and we must trust Him.
    In the second parable the Lord also tells us that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that grows into a great shrub.  The “smallest of seeds” and the humblest is in fact Christ himself, who is both the Word of God, and the “seed of David” whom God promised to King David to “raise up”.  Christ is the “smallest of seeds” because he is poor, humble and lowly, despised by all.  As the prophet Isaiah said: "For he grew up before us like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”(Is 53:2-3)  Those words were fulfilled on the Cross and from the Cross our Lord says to us "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”(Mt 11:28-29)
    Our Lord said the grain of wheat that dies bears much fruit:  "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”(Jn 12:23) After His death on the Cross our Lord was planted, that is buried, in the ground. With His resurrection the “mustard seed” of Jesus became the Church, which grew, despite persecution, and grows throughout the world still.
    In Christ, the royal Son of David, Ezekiel’s prophecy did come true but not as expected. Christ turned defeat into victory and the Cross into a throne.  The House of David was reestablished not in Jerusalem but in Heaven.  The new Kingdom of David is the Church that has spread throughout the world. It is an empire of Faith.


    Every life, every era has its own particular trials, tribulations and challenges. Without our Faith in Christ we are no good to anyone. Christ our King offers us the grace to grow spiritually strong and resilient despite life’s troubles, and to bear the fruit of the Spirit and of good works. It is our task to ensure that we are sowers of good seed not of weeds. When we speak well of others, forgive others, do good to others, when we speak the truth in love, and when we oppose evil we are sowing the seed of God’s word. When we do the opposite we are sowing weeds.
    Let us rekindle our faith in Christ and care for it as we would a cherished plant.  Let us have faith in Him and His power to save us. In this dark time when the world is tormented by viruses and lockdowns and their economic and social effects, when the Faith and the Church seem to be failing it’s helpful to remember that times were frequently darker in the past.
    Ezekiel prophesied in exile in Babylon.  Our Lord ministered under Roman occupation. How many centuries were our people oppressed and persecuted here in our native land?  Yet how many saints did our Lord raise up among our people? How many missionaries?
    The Lord prefers to work through the small, the weak and the powerless: mere mustard seeds. He prefers to work in and through ordinary people in ordinary situations.  In unseen ways He makes things grow and change. He cannot be conquered by death, He gives life and He makes things grow; He upholds and overshadows the whole Universe and brings eternal life to those that seek His shade. He is the Tree of Life and if we turn to Him He will feed us with the fruit of His Passion, His very Self, and we will flourish forever.

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