IN ORDINARY TIME
Waiting for the First Sound of the New
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
Gospel (Mk 4:26-34
) :Two parables: the mustard seed and the seed that grows alone
- “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
- “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
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
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.