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God prefers small beginnings

Readings for June 15-16, Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Fr. Jack Treloar, SJ | For On Mission

Both the Old Testament reading from Ezekial and the Gospel reading from Mark are illustrations of the manner in which God works in the world. 

As human beings, we expect that big and important things will be introduced with loud, noisy displays of various kinds. The introduction of a new car model gets lots of TV, press and other media attention. The word used for this kind of approach to the new is “hype.” God does not work in the realm of hype; his entrance into our minds and hearts is gentle, quiet and sometimes even hidden.

Ezekial speaks of God taking a tender shoot from the cedar tree, replanting it and nurturing its new growth until it is a majestic tree serving as a home for birds. Ezekial summarizes God’s way of work by saying, “… I, the Lord bring low the high tree, lift up the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom. As I the Lord have spoken, so will I do” (Ezk 17:24).

Jesus in Mark’s Gospel picks up this theme from Ezekial in the two parables of the farmer who sows seed in the field and the mustard seed. The farmer sows seed: he watches it grow and, finally, reaps a great harvest. The mustard seed is tiny when it is sown and, over time, becomes a large bush for the birds to use for nests.

There are multiple stories in the Scriptures where God’s presence and work are manifested in the smallest events or occurrences. 

Elijah went into the cave to find God. There was a thunderstorm, fire and an earthquake. God was not present in any of these. Then Elijah discovered God in the tiniest of whispering voices. 

The same process occurs in the David story. When Samuel came to Jesse’s house, there were many strong, attractive and talented brothers. But Samuel could not find the new king among them. He asked Jesse if these were all of his sons. Jesse said, “No, there is still the youngest in the field with the sheep.” That son was David, the least of the brothers. Once again God chose the most insignificant to be a great king. 

Finally, who would have thought that the baby in a manger would be the Savior of the world?

God’s preference for small beginnings presents us with a way to look for God in our own lives. Sometimes, his voice in our prayer is barely audible, but when we recognize and follow it, there is more than we could have ever expected. 

Perhaps we, too, sow the mustard seed of care for another person in need, only to discover at a later time that the person now cares for many people in a hospice facility. In each of these instances we are like the farmer who sows seed and waits for the harvest. “This is how it is with the kingdom of God” (Mk 4:26). 

Fr. Treloar, an assistant director at Jesuit Retreat House in Oshkosh, has served as a professor, lecturer, author and academic administrator. 

The readings for Sunday, June 16, can be found at Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time | USCCB.

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