Sunday Church at Home
during the Coronavirus Pandemic
From Little Seed to Large Tree.
The leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All reply: Blessed be God for ever
Leader: Jesus proclaimed the nearness of God’s kingdom. Almost unnoticed, the kingdom is present among us, growing and accomplishing God’s will. We gather today to give thanks for the presence and love of God at work in our world.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
First Reading: Ezekiel 17: 22-24
Introduction to the reading: Ezekiel was a major Old Testament prophet who ministered to the Jewish people exiled in Babylon. He often used parables and dramatizations to convey his message. In this passage, Ezekiel uses the image of trees to talk about the restoration of Israel and the fall of the Babylonian empire.
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel
Thus says the Lord God:
“I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar,
and will set it out;
I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs
a tender one,
and I myself will plant it upon a high and lofty mountain;
on the mountain height of Israel will I plant it,
that it may bring forth boughs and bear fruit,
and become a noble cedar;
and under it will dwell all kinds of beasts;
in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest.
And all the trees of the field shall know
that I the Lord bring low the high tree,
and make high the low tree,
dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish.
I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.”
The word of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 92: 1-2.12-13.14-15 (R. see 1a)
Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:
R/. It is good to give thanks to you, O Lord.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to make music to your name, O Most High,
to proclaim your loving mercy in the morning,
and your truth in the watches of the night,
The just will flourish like the palm tree,
and grow like a Lebanon cedar.
Planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God,
They will still bear fruit when they are old,
still full of sap, still green,
to proclaim that the Lord is upright.
In him, my rock, there is no wrong.
R/. It is good to give thanks to you, O Lord.
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:6-10
Introduction to the reading: We continue today to read from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. In this section of the letter, Paul describes our life on earth as a pilgrimage home to heaven.
A reading from the second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
Brothers and sisters:
We are always of good courage;
we know that while we are at home in the body
we are away from the Lord,
for we walk by faith, not by sight.
We are of good courage,
and we would rather be away from the body
and at home with the Lord.
So whether we are at home or away,
we make it our aim to please him.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
so that each one may receive good or evil,
according to what he has done in the body.
The word of the Lord.
The seed is the word of God, the sower is Christ; all who come to him will live forever.
Gospel: Mark 4: 26-34
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark
At that time:
Jesus said to the crowds,
“The kingdom of God is as if a man
should scatter seed upon the ground
and should sleep and rise night and day,
and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how.
The earth produces of itself,
first the blade, then the ear,
then the full grain in the ear.
But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle,
because the harvest has come.”
And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable shall we use for it?
It is like a grain of mustard seed,
which, when sown upon the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on earth;
yet when it is sown
it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs
and puts forth large branches
so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
With many such parables, he spoke the word to them,
as they were able to hear it;
he did not speak to them without a parable,
but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
The Gospel of the Lord
Reflection on the Readings
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
The great playwright and poet Oscar Wilde had been arrested for being gay. He was being brought down from his prison to the Court of Bankruptcy, between two policemen, when he saw an old acquaintance waiting in the crowd. “He performed an action so sweet and simple that it has remained with me ever since,” wrote Wilde. “He simply raised his hat to me and gave me the kindest smile that I have ever received as I passed by, handcuffed and with bowed head. Men have gone to Heaven for smaller things than that. It was in this spirit, and with this mode of love, that the saints knelt down to wash the feet of the poor or stooped to kiss the leper on the cheek. I have never said one single word to him about what he did … I store it in the treasure-house of my heart … That small bit of kindness brought me out of the bitterness of lonely exile into harmony with the wounded, broken, and great heart of the world.”
We plant the littlest of seeds and it helps the Kingdom to grow. The seeds may be little acts of kindness which take root and bear fruit.
The gospel of Mark was the first of the gospels to be written and so is closest to Jesus’ death. The world of the early Christian community was also the oppressive one in which Jesus lived. The fragile Christian community needed to hear a message of hope and that’s what Mark addressed from the first words of his gospel. He gets right to the point, “Here begins the gospel [“good news”] of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark1:1)
One of the key features of Mark’s gospel is its emphasis on suffering – the cross was very much on the minds of the early believers. Not only the cross of Jesus, but also the cross Jesus promised for those who chose to accept his invitation to follow him (Mk 8:34-36).
The first disciples must have felt overwhelmed by the enormity of the task of bringing the good news to the world. So the extraordinary parable of the seed that grows by itself must have been hope-building for them.
The title in my Bible for this parable is, “Seed Grows of Itself.” There are other possibilities. How about, “the Parable of the Lazy Farmer?” Or, “the Surprise Parable?” Or “the Sleepy Sower.”
Parables are exercises in imagination. Can you imagine this casual farmer, who “scatters seed” then goes to bed? Do you see him, or her, reading in bed, with a light on the night table, along with a warm glass of milk, or something stronger? Meanwhile, the seed is not sleeping. It is very busy producing, first the blade, then the ear, finally the ripe wheat in the ear.
Continue imagining this scene. One morning, after breakfast, the farmer slaps his, or her forehead and says, “I almost forgot the seed I scattered. I wonder how it’s doing? So, the farmer goes out to the field and is surprised, even startled. “Look here! All that wheat just ready to be picked!
I grew up in Carletonville. It is a mining town and so I am rather ignorant of farming techniques. But those of you who live in farming areas, must have had it pretty easy, at least according to this parable. You just plant seed and it grows while you slept!
But even this city kid knows this parable doesn’t sound like real life farming. We all know how farming is incredibly hard work.
Well, Jesus wasn’t giving a lecture on a carefree and easy method of farming. Remember it’s a parable and Jesus is inviting us into a world he is creating to give us an experience of how God works. The parable is not about the diligence, hard work, or intelligence of the farmer. It’s about that seed.
The seed that is fertile, and will sprout, despite the fact that the farmer “knows not how.” The seed is an image to think about the “kingdom of God” : how it is when God is in charge; when God is at work; and how God works. Jesus is sharing his perspective of God’s reign with us. No matter what: God’s seed will grow; God’s harvest will come.
The parable speaks to any of us who try to teach our faith to our children and ask “Have I done enough?”
It encourages us when:
- we wonder if we have words to console the grieving;
- when we take Holy Communion to someone who is housebound or dying;
- we minister in a parish, sing in a choir, and be a reader at Mass;
- we write to a politician about the lack of service delivery;
- we protest about the slow rollout of the coronavirus vaccines, etc.
We pray and then “scatter seed” by our words and actions.
We don’t always see immediate results, but Jesus reminds us, “This is how it is with the reign of God.” We may feel we have not done enough, but the parable reminds us that it is not all up to us. The seed has a life of its own, even if we should drift off, or fall asleep. Jesus tells us not to be fretful and anxious. There is no doubt in this parable. There will be a harvest and it does not all depend just on me.
But this is not a parable about sitting back and doing nothing.
The ministry of God’s Word calls for a lot of hard work, especially during these pandemic days. We are challenged to apply ourselves where the needs are, which might be as close as in our own homes. We will work hard and do our best.
But still, there is this parable. Jesus is reminding us about God’s presence and action in our world. Yes, we will work as hard as we can with all our heart, education and skills.
And we will pray hard. We pray for wisdom and a clear vision. We pray for patience and sustained hope, despite present appearances.
Jesus wasn’t just telling fairy tales to children. Instead, the parables are God’s Word and, if we let them, they can open our eyes to God up close, very active and present to us now. The parables sustained the early Christians in trying times and they can do the same for us.
From today’s Gospel reading:
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow.”
In the parable the seed grows by itself. Jesus is reminding us of something we can forget in our daily efforts to do and accomplish good. God has not left us on our own, but it present, active and supportive in our efforts. Yes, we will work as hard as we can with all our heart, education and skills. And, we will also pray for trust in the God who guides and works with us daily.
So we ask ourselves:
- What difficult tasks preoccupy and worry us?
- How do we experience God working alongside us in our struggles
Prayer of the Faithful
Leader: God wants every creature to find rest and security in the kingdom. As we look for the coming of that kingdom in its fullness, we pray for the needs of all peoples.
We pray for the Church: (pause) that the seed of faith planted in the heart of each believer may grow into a bountiful manifestation of God’s reign in the world.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for public officials and leaders on our country: (pause) that God will help them to fulfill their duties, seek the truth and the common good in all the issues that arise, and be open to learning from one another.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for growth in hope: (pause) that God’s faithful love will sustain us in times of discouragement and empower us to persevere through difficult times with the confidence that God makes all things new.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for the tender shoots in our midst: (pause) that God will give abundant growth for the young, to those new to the faith, and those beginning their ministry and guide them to maturity of faith and service.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for the protection of the human family: (pause) that God will strengthen those who are working to defeat the Covid virus, speed resources to those in crisis, and bring healing to all who are sick.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for Joan Kuhnert and Anya Heinz who died during the week.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine on them.
May they rest in peace. Amen
Leader: Let us pray our PRAYER DURING THE CORONVIRUS PANDEMIC:
we turn to your mercy and compassion
in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
We pray for healing for those who are sick.
Help them recover fully.
We pray for those who have lost loved ones into death.
Bring comfort as only You can provide.
We pray for medical providers.
Give them wisdom to know
the best course of action to take.
We pray for those in roles of service.
Give them strength to complete their tasks.
We pray for leaders, government officials,
and those in authority
that they would have the knowledge and desire
to distribute the vaccines efficiently
for all our people.
We pray for the conversion of those who spread misinformation and lies,
that they may return to the Lord.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.
My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Leader: O God,
at whose bidding the seed will sprout
and the shoot grow toward full stature,
hear the prayer of your assembled people.
Make us trust in your hidden ways,
that we may pray with confidence
and wait for your kingdom now growing in our midst.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.