ELEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Waiting for the First Sound of the New Thunder

First Reading ( Ezek 17:22-24 ) : Prophesies about the Messiah
Second Reading (2 Cor 5:6-10 ) : Whether alive or dead, we aim to please the Lord
Gospel (Mk 4:26-34 ) :Two parables: the mustard seed and the seed that grows alone
Chinese Classics:
- “Standing on earth and following the will of the Heaven above. Following the H will of heaven so as to bring good to humankind.”(1)
- “Take good care in making funeral arrangements for one's parents and to offer sacrifices to remote ancestors; People's character returned to simplicity.”(2)
- “Though creatures do not speak, they have feelings, at the end of every winter, spring is felt; A thousand and million shades of red and purple are arranged, just waiting for the first sound of the new thunder.”(3)
- “Kind acts are like the grass in a spring garden, we don't see its growth, but we see it becoming bigger every day; evil deeds are like the stone for sharpening knives, we don't see the damage, but we see it diminishing every day.”(4)

The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow. The kingdom of God is like a 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.” ( Mk 4:26-32 )

Our religion emphasizes two elements: the supernatural and natural, heaven and earth. Vatican Council II's “Constitution on the Church” states, “The Church is a visible assembly and a spiritual community. These are not two realities; they form one interlocked reality comprised of a divine and human element., an earthly church and a church enriched with heavenly things.” (#8) This is our Church, made up of earthly and heavenly, human and divine, elements. Focusing on one element to the neglect of another, will not give us a correct viewpoint.

The Western world's view of religion strongly emphasizes the divine and supernatural elements; the Chinese view tends more to the human and concrete elements. Tong Kwan Ngai saw Chinese religion as “Standing on earth and following the will of the heavens above. Following the will of heaven so as to bring good to humankind.” The unity between heaven and humanity and the co-operation between God and human beings “nurtures growth and change of living things on earth”. We must stand up on our two feet, commit ourselves to this world and anchor our lives firmly on this earth. Then we can raise our hearts to heaven, follow heaven's direction and, according to its will, do good deeds for humankind.

Confucius asked people to “Take good care in making funeral arrangements for one's parents and offering sacrifices to remote ancestors”. This sounds very religious but the purpose was to help “People’s character return to simplicity.” This was, in fact, very social and very human! In the hearts of Confucius, Chinese intellectuals and many Chinese, religion existed for the sake of life. Ultimately, to “Take good care in making funeral arrangements for one’s parents and to offer sacrifices to remote ancestors” was to help “People's character return to simplicity.” It was done so that the customs and morals of the people would be simple, honest and unspoiled.

Once I attended an FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops) meeting. At the closing liturgy the presiding Bishop asked the assembly, “If Moses had not accepted God's call, would the ‘Exodus’ have occurred? If the Virgin Mary had not accepted God's invitation, would God the Son have become a human being?” Everyone answered ‘no.’ Of course we can say that whether these people would have agreed or not, God would have carried out His plan. Had Moses refused, God could have summoned Henry. Similarly, if Mary, the Jewish maiden, had not answered God's invitation, could God not have approached a young Chinese girl? It is true God could carry out His plan and in His wisdom arrange events otherwise. But God would have found a way to enable people to respond, for God seldom acts alone. No matter how God's plan came to pass, God's kingdom would have been established on the earth. That is one of our fundamental beliefs. Though life includes both fortunate and unfortunate events, yet we continue to have firm faith in God and in the accomplishment of God's will.

God's Kingdom will come, it is just a matter of time. Its realization is inevitable, though it might be very slow. It will grow as silently as the seed, so silently that we are not aware of it. It will grow like the mustard seed which when fully grown becomes bigger than all the other plants. This reminds me of a couplet:
“Kind acts are like the grass in a spring garden, we don't see its growth, but we see it becoming bigger every day;
Evil deeds are like a stone for sharpening knives, we don't see its damage, but we see it diminishing every day.”

The Kingdom will grow and God's word will blossom in our hearts. Perhaps our experience is the opposite – we see rather the spread of evil, disaster all around, human beings' evil intentions, pollution in the environment. But our faith in God's Kingdom helps us to survive these difficulties and persevere.. And when the Kingdom is realized, God will be victorious. We must work together with God to build up the Kingdom towards the fullness of creation and the coming of the Kingdom.

For a seed to grow, it needs sunshine, air, water and fertilizer. And of course it needs good soil and a suitable climate. I remember a poem written by Cheung Wai Ping: “Though the creatures do not speak, they have feelings, At the end of every winter, spring is felt. A thousand and million shades of red and purple are arranged, Just waiting for the first sound of the new thunder.” The first sound of the new thunder will wake up all living creatures. Then the sleeping world will awake and change to new clothes of a thousand and million shades of red and purple. This is what we are waiting for and also what God is waiting for.

Our fervent hope is to try our hardest to obey God's will. God's view is that He has done as much as possible and now waits for our response. If we, the faithful, can really work together with God, the Kingdom of heaven surely will come. God will be King of Kings and God's plan will be accomplished in all its fullness.

“ Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is the prayer of Christ, and it is our heartfelt desire.

(1)立地以上承天,承天道以隆人。
(2)慎終追遠,民德歸厚。
(3)造物無言卻有情,每於寒盡覺春生;千紅萬紫安排著,只待新雷第一聲。
(4)為善如春園之草,不見其生,日有所長;為惡如磨刀之石,不見其損,日有所消。

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