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Gospel for Sunday, June 16: Mark 4:26-34

XI Sunday Year B

26 He said, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed into the earth; 27 sleeping or waking, night or day, the seed sprouts and grows; how, he himself does not know. 28 For the earth produces spontaneously, first the stalk, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 When the fruit is ready, immediately he puts his hand to the sickle, for the harvest has come.”
30 He said, “To what can we compare the kingdom of God or with what parable can we describe it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown on the ground, is the smallest of all seeds that are on the earth; 32 but as soon as it is sown, it grows and becomes larger than all vegetables and makes such large branches that the birds of the air can shelter themselves in its shade.”
33 With many such parables he announced the word to them according to what they could understand. 34 Without parables he did not speak to them; but in private, to his disciples, he explained everything.

Mk 4:26-34

Care sorelle e fratelli della Misericordie, sono Carlo Miglietta, medico, biblista, laico, marito, padre e nonno ( Anche oggi condivido con voi un breve pensiero di meditazione sul Vangelo, con speciale riferimento al tema della misericordia.


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It is very important this chapter because Mark’s Gospel generally gives much space to gestures, and little to speeches: therefore, this literary composition in which Jesus expounds to those who are “inside,” with him, the Mystery of the Kingdom acquires a particular value.

The parable of the seed that grows by itself (4:26-28)

We should be grateful to Mark even for this Parable alone. This is the only Parable that only Mark has: it is not in Matthew, Luke and John. It is the Parable of the seed that grows by itself.

10 For just as the rain and the snow

come down from heaven and do not return to it

Without having watered the earth,

without having fertilized it and made it sprout,

that it may give seed to the sower

and bread to eat,

11 so shall it be of the word

that came forth from my mouth:

it shall not return to me without effect,

without having worked what I desire

and without having accomplished that for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11).

God’s Word is always fulfilled, this is our great confidence, this grounds our serenity, this makes us understand why every time IHWH appears in history, every time God reveals Himself in Jesus Christ, the first word He says is, “Fear not, be still,” from Exodus 14 until the Easter event.

Psalm 127 reminds us;

“If the Lord does not build the house,

in vain do the builders labor in it.

If the Lord does not guard the city,

in vain does the keeper watch.

2 In vain you rise early in the morning,

late you go to rest

And eat bread of sweat:

the Lord will give his friends some in their sleep.”

II seed grows – Mark says – “automate,” meaning automatically, on its own. This is truly a source of great serenity for us: one must have patience and trust, but the Kingdom of God always comes. This Parable is an invitation to optimism: no matter how much we fret, the Kingdom progresses only by its own intrinsic power, and we have only to conclude, as Luke will say in another passage, “We are useless servants. We have done what we were supposed to do” (Luke 17:10).

Ignatius of Loyola said, “Act as if everything depended on you, knowing that then in reality everything depends on God”: this is a great motto. So let us rely on the gladness of contemplation, let us accept that we are saved by the gratuitousness of God’s Love, and not by our own efforts.

Let us also not be afraid of not responding to God’s Word, of failing to understand His will for us: let us not be too upset. Instead, let us know how to be amazed at this Word that always comes to pass, that always bears fruit, whether we get busy or fall asleep. This is a great consolation for us who often do not see the Kingdom advancing, who are often sad because it seems that the forces of evil are winning, who often in our daily experience feel overwhelmed by sickness, death, suffering, sin. Instead, here we are told that the seed automatically grows: the Word that has been sown in us, the sonship of God that has been sown in us in Baptism grows and transforms us into new men, victors over evil, sickness, sin, death. It is the parable of serenity.

Verse 29 that concludes the parable, realizing this final harvest for us, quotes Joel 4 and gives an eschatological meaning to the Parable, that is, it is a verse that assures us that the time of the final restoration of the Kingdom of God will come. The harvest was seen as a sign of the final trial, of the coming of the Kingdom, as the feast of God’s judgment that saves the poor and oppressed against the wicked bullies.

The parable of the mustard seed (4:30-32)

In Palestine the smallness of the mustard seed was proverbial. Here Jesus wants to insist on the relationship between the humble beginnings of the Kingdom and its growth among people. This small seed becomes a great tree: the figure of the great tree is a Jewish figure that pointed to the Kingdom of God. Just look at Psalm 80, all the hymns of Qumram: this tree of the Lordship of IHWH, as the prophet Ezekiel said in ch. 17 and ch. 31, and Daniel in ch. 4, this tree will offer a great shade under which all nations will shelter, just as the cloud in the wilderness offered this great shade to the People on their way. This tree, says Lamentations 4, will be the sign of the Messiah who will welcome all nations, and all will protect them. There is only wonderment, praise worshiping that God who crashes the cedars of Lebanon, as Sl 29 says, but makes this little seed of God’s Kingdom grow.

Again the logic of being small, of dying in the earth, leaving the power and strength to God. We would almost say that pains, trials, hiddenness, smallness, humility are always the criteria for discerning the coming Kingdom of God.

Why Jesus speaks in parables (4:33-34)

These verses describe the absolute transcendence of the Kingdom that cannot be explained, but it is understood by those who are “endo,” that is, who live in the private of Jesus: only by being with Jesus, only by loving Jesus, only by being rooted on Jesus do we understand the Mystery of the Kingdom.

Once again Mark’s Gospel is a Christological Gospel: it is only in private with the Lord that we are able to understand the Mystery of the Kingdom. You see the centrality of the figure of the Lord Jesus, of our membership. Matthew for example will speak of this Parable in another context, in a sapiential context, in a didactic context; here instead Mark insists on the need once again to adhere to the person of Jesus in order to understand the Mystery of the Kingdom.

Between these five Parables there is a logic. There is a “red thread” that continues in crescendo from the first to the last. In the first Parable, the Parable of the Sower (4:1-20), only a remnant of the seed bears fruit, some of the seed goes scattered, among the stones and brambles, not producing. Only a small remnant welcomes the Word. This Word is the light that comes, the light that comes upon us (here is the second parable, that of the lamp on the bushel: 4:21-23). If we welcome the seed by measuring it as a huge thing, by making room for it, by enlarging our measure for it (here is the meaning of the third parable, that of the measure: 4:24-25), behold, the seed grows by itself, “automate,” automatically (fourth parable: 4:26-28), and it becomes the great tree of the Kingdom (fifth parable: 4:30-32) on which all people gather; “birds,” according to rabbinic terminology, was a way of defining the pagans, the distant: even the distant would find a welcoming place on this tree.

It is a crescendo. Only a remnant bears fruit (first parable). Welcoming the coming light (second parable), making room for this light (third parable), the seed grows by itself (fourth parable), and becomes the great tree that gives conversion, joy, and deliverance to all men (fifth parable).

Buona Misericordia a tutti!

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