11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Picture: cc Harshil Shah
My dear friends, given a choice, where would you like to live? A recent survey has named Auckland as the most liveable city in the world in 2021. This is because of its success in containing the Covid-19 pandemic, while keeping its society open. So, if given a choice, will you move to Auckland?
The reason I ask is because our readings describe a place for us all to live. This place was not included in the survey. Actually, it’s not a geographical place, but a spiritual one. The psalm refers to this place as the house of the Lord. And, in the gospel, Jesus calls it the kingdom of God. What is it like to live in this place? How does one come to live there?
Pondering the readings, we find three aspects, beginning with humility. Humility realised in two ways. We may call the first way the humility of gift. In contrast to countries like our own, where foreigners are admitted based on merit or money, access to the kingdom can only be received as a gift. We see this in the first reading, where God chooses a shoot, and plants it on the high mountain. The shoot itself does nothing to deserve God’s choice.
Also, along with the humility of gift, there is a humility of growth. The first reading tells us that God is the one who stunts tall trees and makes the low ones grow. And, in the gospel, God causes seed, sown in the soil, to grow in ways that farmers themselves cannot explain. Which is not to say that our efforts are not important. Of course they are! Yet, it’s even more important to realise that, however hard we may work, we cannot make things grow. It always remains God’s prerogative to grant growth according to God’s time. What we need to cultivate is the humble willingness to start small and weak and fragile, as well as the perseverance to work hard, and the patience to wait upon God’s good pleasure.
The humility of gift and growth leads to another aspect, which is hospitality. Both the tall cedar in the first reading, and the fully grown mustard plant in the gospel have in common a wonderful ability to offer shelter to every kind of bird and every winged creature. Similarly, in the kingdom of God, a warm welcome is extended to all who require shelter, all who are in need of a home, regardless of race or class or gender…
Home. This is also the third aspect. The kingdom is not just a place in which to live, but a place to call home. So the second reading encourages us, even while we are still living in the body, to seek to make our home with the Lord. How? By always being intent on pleasing him. As a result, like St Paul, we become full of confidence, no matter how difficult the challenges we may have to face. Humility, hospitality, and home. These are more than just features of God’s kingdom. They are also steps by which God draws us to help make our world a more liveable place for all.
Sisters and brothers, especially at a time when the temptation is great to act contrary to the humility and hospitality of the kingdom, what must we do to continue making our home with the Lord today?