YEAR B: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE ELEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: BIG FOR SOMETHING
BY: Fr. Christian Eze
First reading – Ezek 17:22-24
Second reading 2 Cor 5:6-10
Gospel – Mk 4:26-34
One cannot help not laughing when one hears the names Nigerians give to different brands and models of automobiles. You can imagine such names as “pure water” “baby boy” “first lady” “orobo” “end of discursion” “pencil light” “evil spirit” “muzzle” and so on. The one that made me laugh so much was the 2003 model of the Toyota Camry that was named BIG FOR NOTHING. I tried to no avail to figure out the reason for such a name. However, there was a seeming bulky build on the body structure of that car when compared to the 2000/2001 model “envelope” which it preceded. What many people tend to see is that the big body size of that car gave it no advantage over its predecessors. It could be true, it could be argued against. At any rate, it is not how huge a thing is that matters most times; rather, it is how functional it is.
Today, Jesus concluded his second parable (of the mustard seed) by noting that the tree grows into a big shrub, and “the birds of the air come to take shelter in it”. I was attracted by the fact that the tree was not just big. It serves the function of providing shelter for the birds of the air. It was big; and big for something. A painful thing is that many of us have actually grown so big, bigger than the mustard tree, but we have also failed to provide shelter or support for anyone; we became big for nothing.
I see a serious link between the first and second parable in today’s gospel. The mystery of the growth of the seed in the first parable should call to mind the many thanks we owe to God who alone knows how we have come to be whom we are today. We all began like a seed in our mother’s womb. Through so many mysterious cell divisions which science must explain with due respect to God, we came out the way we are. Like the man who planted the seed and never knew the cause and course of its growth, so did we know nothing about our formation in the womb. Psalm 139 got it right thus: “It was you who created my inmost self, and put me together in my mother’s womb; for all these mysteries I thank you: for the wonder of myself, for the wonder of your works” Psalm 139:13-14. Many of us do not even realize that they have grown big. But if we pause a while and reflect on our life’s journey so far, we would be moved to praise God. Among what we must learn from the support God has given us is that we must not be reaping the harvest for our own use alone. God has seen us through to have “grown” thus far in order that we may provide shelter for the young.
The birds of the air were described by Jesus somewhere in the gospels as a species incapable of neither sowing nor reaping – “Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap…” Matt 6:26. This means they rely on Divine Providence. All of humanity relies on Providence. Yet God provides for us in order that we too might provide for those who may not have been equally favored as we are. Thus when someone says the prayer: “give us this day our daily bread”, we must realize that such daily bread could be in our hands. Yes, it has been put in our hands so that we can deliver to them. There are many of the brothers and sisters out there and around us who must need the shed that we must provide. St Paul had to bless God “who supports us in all our troubles, so that we can support others in their troubles using the same support we have received from God” 1 Cor 1:3-4. An important question we must ask is: now that I have grown to become a Priest, a manager, a father, mother, and worker; have I ever given shelter to anyone? If I have thus grown big, and I never gave shelter to anyone, then I am big for nothing.
There is a problem in becoming big for nothing. We must not forget the barren fig tree which Jesus cursed for being big for nothing. “Next day, as they were leaving Bethany, he felt hungry. Seeing a fig tree in some distance away, he went to see if he could find any fruit on it, but when he came to it he found nothing but leaves. ..And He addressed the tree saying ‘may no one ever eat fruit from you again’” – Mk 11:12-14. We know what became of the fig tree. Now that we have “grown big” we must work hard to let the birds of the air take refuge under our shelter. If not, as the prophet Ezekiel tells in the first reading, it is the same Lord “who stunts tall trees and makes the low ones grow, who withers green trees and makes the withered green” – Ezek 17:24.
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