Fr. Rick’s Homily: 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 16, 2024

Ez 17:22-24; Ps 92:2-3, 13-16; 2 Cor 5:6-10; Mk 4:26-34

The first reading today from the prophet Ezekial curiously has him predicting this rather grandiose rise of the Davidic Dynasty which had reached its high point almost 600 years earlier.  He proclaims the Lord’s promise:  “I 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;
on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.
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.”

The proclamation ends with, “I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do.”

What is actually happening in Ezekial’s time is the end of any real visible semblance of King David’s Dynasty.  The nation of Babylon is on the verge it’s final attack and destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple there.  The survivors will be exiled into the Babylonian desert for roughly 70 years.  Very much a low point in Israel/Judah’s history.

With our modern understanding of salvation history, we can devise that Ezekial’s prophetic gift enabled him to ‘foretell’ the ultimate revival of the Davidic Dynasty. David’s descendent, Jesus Christ, would be the shoot that would be planted ultimately on the cross and in the sepulcher in Jerusalem.  This shoot would “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.”

Today’s Gospel from Matthew Chapter 4 declares that “out of the smallest mustard seeds shall spring up the largest of plants and put forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”  Scholars claim that references to the wild birds in the Old Testament usually refer to the Gentiles, the ‘everybody else’, of the world.

Jesus would fulfill the promise to reestablish David’s dynasty and far more. The new dynasty realized in the Catholic Church would welcome people from all over the world.  Now up to 1.3 billion Catholics from all continents.  The new royal dynasty would be a place of refuge for all peoples; where the wild birds would be gathered together.

This vision would have been inconceivable to the human mind in the time of Ezekial… as the Babylonians were leading the survivors of the Jerusalem siege into their desert exile.  God had made a promise that the Dynasty of David would prevail and it has.  We are now the Dynasty of God’s kingdom established on earth.  We are most acutely participants in this Kingdom during Mass when we most deliberately enter into eternal time.  The unthinkable, the humanly inconceivable has happened.  This seeming absurdity is a recurring theme throughout God’s revelation to His people.

Psalm 92 today delares that “the just ones shall bear fruit even in old age; vigorous and sturdy shall they be.”  This has got to be at least a little heartening as we see the old ones, really old ones, continue vying for power in the American Dynasty… that is still under siege in many ways.  Mostly from within.  Likewise the Catholic Dynasty, if you will.

The right type of fruit will not be born out of more weapons scattered about the most troubled spots throughout the world.  God’s vision is much bigger and accessible only to the just ones as stated in the psalm.  Only the vision of God and His true prophets is adequate for the times we are living in.

Our modern political discourse is not lacking in its warnings about the demise of democracy or the battle for the soul of America.  We can only hope that our hope is in the Lord and not in the guidance of mere mortals.

This past week I listened to a rather lengthy talk online from Robert Cardinal Sarah, from Guinea in West Africa who was addressing a group of Catholic influencers at a combined gathering of the Napa Institute and the Busch Foundation.  Cardinal Sarah, now retired, served as Secretary of the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples under John Paul II, was made a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI, and became prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments under Pope Francis.  I guess we might say that he’s a ‘man in the know’.

He actually spoke rather highly of the spirit of the Catholic Church in the United States and Africa, especially as compared with the Church in Europe which he described as somewhere between dead and dying.  He expressed concern about the cafeteria Catholicism espoused by our Catholic president and warned about the drip, drip, drip of the European experience.  He reminded the crowd that our help is in the name of the Lord and none other.

This is also a great day to be inspired by those who depend on the name of the Lord as we honor our Father’s on Fathers’ Day.  The family leadership of our fathers provides enormous stability to the marriages and families which are the basic cell of a civilized society. Grandfathers and even great grand fathers can be heartened again by todays Psalm 92 which reminds us that, “the just ones shall bear fruit even in old age; vigorous and sturdy shall they be.” “Just” in the biblical sense that refers to right relationship with God, with each other and right relationship with the rest of creation.

This week we might take some quiet time and consider some of the darkest assessments of the current state of our democracy and our Catholic Church.  There are many such dark assessments.  And THEN we should draw on the inspiration of Ezekial and think Biblically.  A true reversal of possibilities occurs when we leave God in charge.