Readings: Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34
Today’s First Reading, as well as the Gospel, directs our imagination to the image of a sheltering tree. Centuries of interpretation nudge us to think immediately of the Church. I’m not denying that application but such a correlation could be as lifeless as it is unquestioning.
When I see a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup, do I ever consider what it means? Do I picture the factory, the working condition, the profits made at the employees’ expense? Do I even imagine what real tomato soup might taste like?
At this pint in the twenty-first century, isn’t the concept “Church” not unlike the concept “Campbell’s Tomato Soup”? I’m acutely aware of the disillusionment, anger and lack of expectations that many Catholics carry in regard to their Church. I could confess my own disappointments; thankfully, I’ve never been damaged by the Church. But both you and I know people who have. Granted, a few have gratuitously taken offense but two many have been cruelly wounded; and positive concepts of what the Church should be or could be, do not heal such wounds.
You and I are nonetheless here this morning. Could a mere concept bring us back to this altar week after week? In this day and age, social pressure doesn’t force us to show up. Presumably some experience, some hope, perhaps some person, keeps bringing us here.
The theological concept “Church” can’t achieve that. That’s what parables are about: not concepts but life experience. Parables describe things or situations we already know. Recall them and we can taste them. We’ve been there; we know how we feel in that context. Then Jesus says: Hold that! Now that’s what this other reality is like. Do you recognize that? Haven’t you already experienced that in your life? I’m not asking you to suspend disbelief. I’m urging you: don’t overlook the treasure right under your nose.
It’s the reality, not the label, that counts. How many of us have discovered the roots of our healing, tailored to our specific experiences, actually in the wound itself? How often has scanning the horizon for the magical solution blinded me to the tools, right there at my feet, the tools that can really help?
What is the Kingdom of God like? Well, what insignificant seed in my life has grown into an unexpected shelter? Where have I found my nesting place? When did I last have that sense of coming home?