Franciscan Gospel Reflection: Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

June 15, 2018

It’s time to prepare for the Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time. We share this Franciscan Gospel reflection and questions written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection June 17 2018. Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Please include this information when printing.

Photos: Holy Family Convent, Manitowoc, Wisconsin

Mark 4:26-34

[Jesus said to the crowd] “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man was to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”

He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? 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 and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.


The gospel text for today is composed of two short parables that draw on the common experience of people of the day. Both parables reflect the experience of planting seeds, and how they develop into mature plants. Most of us would consider their undertraining to be very primitive. But the reality for them and for us how plants grow from seeds to a mature plant is still very much a mystery. But we all know that the farmers must do their part – weeding, fertilizing, and watering. The fact that the farmer is doing none of these things in the first parable would be immediately noticed.

Agriculture was also one of the places where people of Jesus’ time could be surprised by abundance. For the most part, people believed that everything had already been distributed by God, and there was no more where that had come from. If a person suddenly had more of almost anything than they had the day before, it was assumed that they had gotten it by some improper means.

Thus, the woman who finds her lost coin throws a lavish party to celebrate finding the coin. She makes her discovery public, warding off suspicion and speculations about how she got the coin. It is also much less likely that neighbors will be critical if they have enjoyed a portion of its fruit.

But farming was one of the places where the surprise of abundance might be experienced without the presumption of foul play. At the same time there was also an understanding that if one did have more than they needed for their survival, the abundance was to be shared with those in need. Thus the familiar parable of the farmer who thought he would build larger storage bins for an abundant harvest and live off his surplus for years in the future. He died enjoying neither the abundant harvest, nor the good reputation he could have had by sharing the abundance with those in need. Instead, when he died, a different reputation continued on after his death.

Reflection Questions

1. When I think of people who spend their lives as farmers…
2. The reign of God is like…
3. When I think of my experience of the mystery of the reign God…
4. When I think about watching a seed grow into a large bush or a tree…
5. When I consider Jesus explaining the meaning of the parable to the disciples…
6. Can you take some time to talk to God about his use of farming parables, or your sense of the realm of God unfolding around you, or whatever arose in you as you considered these two parables?

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