2 Corinthians 5:6-10
The readings this Sunday speak to the growth of the Kingdom of God through the idea of trees and plants. From the tiny mustard seed to the Cedar of Lebanon we are given earthly examples that give us solid ground to stand on. As the Gospel reading points out today, Jesus spoke to the people of that time and continues to reach us through scripture with parables and examples. "With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it." Mk 4:33
Cedar trees are prevalent in the bible and we see them twice in today’s readings.
I, too,will take from the crest of the cedar…It shall put forth branches and bear fruit and become a majestic cedar. Ez 17:22-23.
The just one shall flourish like the palm tree, like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow. Ps 92:13-14.
Today, these cedars of Lebanon can still be found, some standing as high as 300 feet! These trees represent strength, majesty, stability and security, and it is no mystery why they were used by the great kingdoms to build and sustain.
How can we stand as tall as cedar trees daily? As I continue on my faith journey, I encounter many more stories about faithful men and women who lived and died for their faith. These martyrs stood and as members of the church triumphant continue to stand tall for the faith and Church in their own unique way. Blessed Niceforo of Jesus and Mary (Diez Tejerina) and his 25 martyr companions were all members of the Passionist Community of Daimiel. Their martyrdom took place against the background of the strong anti-clerical climate that was sweeping Spain during the time of the Spanish Civil War. Blessed Niceforo even called this their own "Gesthemene" because they knew what was to come. These men did not run or hide from their persecutors but faced them head on. Even the soldiers admitted that some of them died with the crucifix in their hands and crying out ‘May Christ the King Live! (Mercurio, Roger, 1991. The Passionists).
When I read these stories, I think to myself "If I could just have an ounce of that passion and courage." We already all posses that passion and it has been instilled in our souls. God has implanted us with this spirit and it has the ability to grow and live. "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."Mk 4:26-27
Just as the tender shoot from the cedar of Lebanon possess the great qualities to become majestic and strong, we also are able to become and build up the kingdom of God.
While we are to be the great glory that God has called us to be, we are not to become proud in ourselves, but proud of our faith and to encourage that same growth around us. To lift up the lowly of spirit, mind and heart so that each person can flourish, and become strong in their faith. Even the smallest of all the seeds can sprout and become majestic. It is like a mustard seed that , when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown it springs up and becomes the largest of plants. Mk 4: 31-32
As we learn to become this great cedar, we aspire to be like our Creator, from which we came. Like growing children who are eager to please their parent, so we are to our Father. May we always strive to please Him and not solely ourselves. We are called to be strong and faithful, and as St. Paul says in the second reading "We are always courageous…for we walk by faith, not by sight." 2 Cor 5:6-7
Let us be like these trees, bearing fruit for the kingdom of God, encouraging growth around us, standing tall and securing a future for the Church.
Kim Garcia is the Pastoral Associate at Holy Name Retreat Center in Houston, Texas.