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The WORD. The TRUTH.

“Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.”

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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 16 June 2024
Ezekiel 17:22-24 ><}}}}*> 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 ><}}}}*> Mark 4:26-34
Photo by author, Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 12 July 2023.

While preparing this homily, I cannot resist thinking of this poem by Joyce Kilmer because of its similarities with the first reading from the Book of Ezekiel and partly with the parables of Jesus in the gospel.

Kilmer tells us in his poem that trees are God’s presence among us, a sign of His own majesty, a reminder of life’s mysteries, something many of us seem to have learned only recently after the scorching heat of last summer when everyone was posting on Facebook the need to plant trees!

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos, MD, April 2020 in Infanta, Quezon.

In the first reading, the Prophet Ezekiel picturesquely imagined how God would plant a great Lebanon cedar on a mountain as a sign of His divine intervention for our salvation that was eventually fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s coming.

Ezekiel lived during the Babylonian exile, the lowest point in life of Israelites when they did not have a country, nor a temple, not even a future. They felt abandoned, punished by God due to their sins; hence, Ezekiel was sent to give them hope. Through this beautiful allegory of the future Israel, Ezekiel tells his countrymen including us today how God would eventually intervene in a very personal manner to fulfill His promise of salvation.

Thus says the Lord God: I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar, from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot, and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. It shall put forth branches and bear fruit, and become a majestic cedar. Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, every winged thing in the shade of its boughs. And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom. As I, the Lord, have spoken, so will I do.

Ezekiel 17:22-24

Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos, MD, April 2020 in Infanta, Quezon.

That beautiful imagery of the cedar tree planted in Israel reminds us that in whatever state of life we may be – whether we are like a tall or a lowly tree, a green or withered tree – it is always God who has the final say in life because He is the very reason for our existence.

Jesus declared to us in one of the Sundays of Easter, “I am the true vine and you are the branches…without me you cannot do anything” to show that more than a giver of life, He is life Himself because He is the tree planted firmly by God in our midst.

Incidentally, the word “tree” which is treowe in Old English is the root of the word true which connotes something firmly rooted, steadfast and faithful. From the same word treowe came trust because the roots of a tree signify relationships or interconnectedness. That is why the Anglo-Saxons have always traced their ancestors and family by using the diagram of a tree from which came our concept of “family tree” today.

How lovely to imagine that tree planted by God in our midst is Jesus Christ, “the Way, the Truth and the Life”, the One we must trust always!

Hence, Mark invites us today to listen more attentively to the Lord’s teachings, asking us to not just sit beside or around Him but try to “get inside” Him by taking into our hearts His words like Mary His Mother as we have reflected last Sunday.

Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos, MD, April 2020 in Infanta, Quezon.

Again, Mark surprises us in his story of Jesus teaching the people about seeds and plants, and ordinary activities like sowing we take for granted but so rich in meanings. That is what a parable is – a simple story with deep meanings about life.

Our life itself is a parable wherein we find the most profound realizations in the most ordinary things and events in our lives. And that is where Jesus Christ comes too often. He is in fact the kingdom of God He spoke so often in His teachings and parables.

Jesus said to the crowds:  “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 he knows not how (Mk.4:26-27).”

Mark 4:26-27

This parable of the seed growing by itself tells us of that reality of God living among us, right with us in Jesus Christ. The seed is His word germinating in us if we cultivate it daily in prayer and good works.  Just like the fecundity of the tiny seed planted in the field, God grows in us beyond all our hopes and expectations because He is never absent nor distant from us.

Photo by Ms. April Oliveros on Mt. Pulag, 2023.

Look back in your life this past week or past month, examine how many times you were blessed, of how you were pulled out and saved from a dire situation in the nick of time.  Surely you can offer a lot of rational explanations but, when you come to think of it, there’s always an “Invisible Hand” saving you, guiding you.

That’s the point of the parable of the seed planted without the farmer knowing how it grows:  God works best in our lives in silence.

This is the reason why St. Paul tells us to “walk in faith, not by sight” (2Cor.5:7): our life is a journey of faith wherein we cannot see everything clearly, cannot appreciate right away the extent of how God works His miracles in us daily.

Yesterday we celebrated the 40th day of my mom’s passing then tomorrow, June 17, is her 85th birthday which is also the 24th death of my dad. I told my sisters and brother that maybe that is the reason why dad died on mom’s birthday 24 years ago: so that it would not be difficult for us to visit their graves on June 17. Isang lakad at punta na lang para matipid!

But kidding aside, though it is so difficult and painful to be ulilang lubos (orphaned), I still feel so positive more than a month after my mother’s death because in those 24 years when my father died, God never abandoned us. With mom’s passing, I’m sure God will never forsake us too.

When I look back at how many times God has blessed us in the past, I also see that soon in the future, if we remain faithful to Him, Christ shall unfold in us and around us in ways we never imagined.

Photo by Ms. Analyn Dela Torre, March 2024.

Time flies so fast indeed these days; we are almost done with the first half of the year. In a short while we shall be hearing Jose Mari Chan singing again “Christmas In Our Hearts” as the Christmas countdown begins even before September first.

And that’s what I have noticed these past 20 years: with all the comforts in life, we have become impatient that we rush everything, even Christmas and holidays. We live in a world of instants that we cannot wait anymore like the farmer in the parable of Jesus. Or the Prophet Ezekiel imagining God coming soon.

We don’t have to discard the modern amenities we have in life today for most of these are gifts from God Himself. However, we must remember these are not everything, that many times in life despite all our careful planning, things still do not turn out as we expect.

There is only one thing we can be sure of, Jesus Christ silently in our midst. Look at any tree around you, the many years it had weathered all kinds of storm and heat. Still standing, still green, reminding us of Jesus. Let us pray:

God our Father,
teach us to be patient
like the farmer who sows seeds
to his field, not knowing at all
how these germinate and grow;
teach us to be faithful to You
in Christ Jesus, always open
to find Him and embrace Him
in the ordinary things in life;
teach us to have more of You,
God in Jesus through prayers
and Sacraments,
to have more faith than gadgets,
more hope than instant gratifications
and more love than social media.
Amen.
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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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