“Loving God, strength of those who hope
in you, graciously hear our pleas.
Grant us always the help of your grace.”
“graciously hear our pleas” makes me think how I often don’t know how to ask for God’s help. “please” sounds so weak and “give me” so impersonal; “graciously” sounds so much better.
Both the First Reading from the prophet, Ezekial, and the Gospel use plant life to image the work of God on the human scene. “a mighty cedar” refers to the line of David; Jerusalem is the ‘lofty mountain’; “a tender shoot” – Jesus; “the trees of the field” refers to the kings of other nations.
Whenever I read in the Bible about a ‘tree and its many branches’, I think of a very full Copper Beach tree on the grounds of Gonzaga High School in Dublin, Ireland. I spent a lot of time one summer, while on retreat, gazing at this tree: its deep roots and full branches spoke to me of being rooted in God and letting God help me to grow spiritually so that my various ministries (branches) might bear fruit.
The Psalmist (#92) presents us with words to add to “graciously” when we approach God in prayer: “Lord, it is good to give thanks to you, to proclaim Your kindness and Your faithfulness.” Thanks for the graces we have received at each time of our life: childhood, teenage years, as young adults, in adulthood, even unto “old age.”
In the Second Reading, St. Paul reminds us that our spiritual life is summed up as “walking in faith, not by sight.” The first disciples had Jesus; we, on the other hand, know the Lord in
our heart and in our spirit. One writer wrote about this dynamic: “When we walk by faith, not by sight, the hidden depths of things become apparent, and we remain vigorous and sturdy, bearing fruit even in our senior years.”
Many of us have been ‘walking by faith, not by sight’ for many years. On Friday, I celebrated my anniversary of Ordination: 49 years of this kind of walking!!
Even though the Apostles and other of Jesus’ close disciples had him in their midst, he often spoke to them in parables. The parables were ordinarily seen as teaching tools, imaginative ways of clarifying abstract truth. Scripture scholar Roland Faley explains: “Since parables communicated the truth obliquely, they also had an illusive side, a sort of riddle. St. Mark presents Jesus as presenting the truth of the Kingdom of God and God’s reign with only a certain measure of truth, adapted to the people’s ability to understand. Privately, Jesus gave a fuller explanation to his disciples. It is they who would later have the responsibility of instructing the faithful.”
Both of the parables in the Gospel urge patience and give reasurrance: seed scattered in a field, followed by a period of steady unassisted growth, matures; a mustard seed – this tiny seed produces a plant eight to ten feet in height. Each empathizes the impressive character of God’s reign as it grows and expands throughout the world.
Let us end as we began with this prayer:
Loving God, strength of those who hope
In you, graciously hear our pleas.
Grant us always the help of your grace
as we ‘walk by faith, not by sight.’