Considering the Person Jesus was—our Savior—it’s no wonder that I am so surprised by the many “common” things we know about Him because of the way He speaks, history and tradition. We know He was a carpenter and so He worked with His hands creating useful, simple (and I like to imagine, beautiful) things that people needed in their everyday lives. Because of this useful family trade, the family did “ok”—middle class for the time—and His people were more than likely respected for their contribution to the Community. So why am I surprised by Him when He uses everyday images and parables about every day things when He speaks? It’s a side of Him that I love; that He gets me because I, too, come from a middle class trade family, and His Words speak clearly to me. I may be surprised because I also know it is the Son of God, the Messiah, who speaks and acts and teaches through things that we can relate to in our daily lives.
Today in the Gospel of Mark for this Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, Jesus talks to the crowds about something they understand well: the sowing and growing and reaping of grain. He acknowledges that they don’t understand the actual science of this process—but they know what to do when, and what the result will be. He then compares the Kingdom of God to the smallest of seeds—the mustard seed—and talks of how it grows large enough to sustain and provide shade for all. Here is the Savior; speaking of planting and seeds and weeds and results.
I came later in life to gardening. Only after marrying twenty years ago and owning my first house did I learn of the joy of seeing the result of hard outside yard and garden work—something I had seen consistently in my life as a musician—hard work and results. The ground of any beautiful garden is watered by sweat—like the work and practice and dedication of a musician is one of “blood and sweat and (sometimes) tears.”
The house we bought had only one small 2 x 2 garden patch with a rose bush. My first garden was my “Mary-rock garden;” a smart first choice as the only living thing I had to plant was a bush framing Mary from behind. The rest of it is of rocks from all over (different vacations or experiences) that are placed carefully, with a near-by stone bench for prayer. Weeding was big for this garden, but I always enjoy the clean-ness of her space when I’m done. I love that statue as it was a gift from a parishioner whose wife had passed away and whose funeral I had played. He was moving out of state, and wanted a home for his wife’s Mary statue. He gifted Her to me, and so I wanted Mary in a special place.
Now I have gardens the whole length of one side of our backyard, all along the back of the house, behind the garage, out front with borders and many, many containers and boxes, too. It is a lot of work; but I am so cheered by the color and pleasure of pure life in front of me with which I get to play. Matisse (famous artist/painter) said gardening was painting world! So, what does all this have to do with Scripture today? We, ourselves, are the garden we need to grow and tend.
Think of it: we have our “ground” prepared by study and Sacrament; we sow the Word into our hearts and minds; we water our souls with the mass and Community, we nourish ourselves with the Eucharist for all the fruits of the Spirit. We weed away those things that may cause us to whither and die, and we thrive in the light of Christ. For me the analogy of caring for our souls works with the caring of a garden—and in the work of gardening one may hear the voice of God speaking and learn gratitude for God’s Creation and it’s beauty and wonder. Maybe more of us should garden at least a little bit; you never know when the Spirit will move you—and it’s a joy to be co-creators of something lovely—whether it’s a garden or our hearts and minds. How does your garden grow?
Just a Note: I found a few lovely sayings about gardens and gardening…
Moses in the Book of Exodus from the Old Testament today says: “All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do. He then speaks of the covenant between God and His people and uses blood to “seal the deal.” This was a blood oath—and there was nothing stronger and more binding than that kind of promise. We have that same serious covenant with the shedding of Christ’s blood for us—the sacrifice He made to “cleanse our consciences from dead works.” Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant—and so we are saved (St. Paul to the Hebrews). The Psalm (#116) and the Gospel today makes me revisit Holy Thursday from the Triduum—the covenant response, and then the story of the Last Supper in which Jesus reminds us: “This is the blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” Then He shares the bread and wine, the Body and Blood, with His Disciples and with us. We celebrate this today—a remembrance; but also an act in this moment and at this time.
I looked up synonyms for “remembrance,” and here are some of them: commemoration, commendation, keepsake, memento, memorial, recollection, gift, monument, reminder, reproduction, reminiscence…all good words for us to hold in our hearts and minds as we receive Eucharist—along with remembering the sacrifice that brought us to the table. The idea of a “remembrance” made me think about other important moments we humans experience, or do, as a remembrance such as going to the cemetery to clean and adorn the graves of our loved ones; or eulogies at funerals. But not all remembrances center necessarily around death and we celebrate many other things in our lives and mark them in remembrance: births, wedding anniversaries, sacraments, to name a few.
Remembering and marking moments is something we do for many good reasons—as humans we need the reminders of the past in order to move forward in our lives—and we always hope to learn from our experiences of “before” as we look toward the future. Here is some John O’Donohue:
“May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.”
“See the gifts the years have given,
Things your effort could never earn,
The health to enjoy who you want to be
And the mind to mirror mystery.”
We are told today to “heed and do” what the Lord says—and to remember that it is vital to understand ourselves, and that our remembrance is necessary. We remember the sacrifice of Jesus and commemorate His actions every time we receive the Eucharist—but wouldn’t it be wonderful to live “In Remembrance of Him” in all the different moments of our daily lives? What could it be like, that in this remembering, we live in a spirit of awe and wonder? No matter where we are or what we are doing we can live in a state of remembrance and reverence toward God. Lord, let me know You in the washing of dishes, the cleaning of the house, gardening, tending, and mending and fixing. Let me know You in the notes in right order, in the words on any page, in those we meet daily and in all the faces of those near and far. Let me know and remember You in all things, Lord.
Keep singing in your hearts!
Just a Note: Here are two songs of remembrance…
Break the Bread (Communion Song) - Worship Music
Our next opportunity to support AAAPRC is through the FLAPJACK RUN. The June 12th event will again be held at Hines Park, Nankin Mills Nature Center. Join the St. Aidan’s team on a 10K or 5K timed run, 1-Mile walk, or you can just donate by selecting Team Leader Laurie Ramsay via the “Donate” button. Oh, and besides a T-shirt there ARE flying flapjacks at the end of the race!
Click Here to Register/Donate
One of the best ways to attract new members to become Catholic and to join our parish is for them to hear personal stories from Catholics who are already living the faith. We therefore invite all of you to share something about your faith next weekend, June 5/6 after each of the Masses. We will be recording short video clips of our parishioners answering one or more of the following questions:
Remember what Saint Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15, "Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you".
Please consider sharing your hope.
Grace: Everything is a gift—the loving relationships that surround us, the call to significant work; the material provisions that meet and extend our needs, the beauty of Creation exposed by changing seasons. We know that the grace of salvation has been given to us—but so much else is grace, too. Grace is getting what you don't deserve and didn’t earn, and it is often defined as ‘unmerited favor’. Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace-filled moments are those moments of epiphany that occur; moments of inspiration and awe; a sudden recognition of God’s presence.
When the Disciples huddled together on Pentecost in the upper room, God in His grace, changed everything. It had only been fifty days before that they had abandoned Jesus and fled, leaving him to face the cruelty, the crowd and the cross, alone. The twelve apostles had seen one of their own number betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver and then hang himself. It had only been fifty days since Peter denied Jesus three times—less than two months! It had just been fifty days since they had all hidden in fear at the thought of what might happen to them next.
But much can change in just fifty days if you think about it: a simple trip to the doctor about a funny mole can change into a battle with cancer; a long agonizing struggle to conceive a child can change into morning sickness; a frigid cold winter can change into the warmth of springtime and blossoms; an office flirtation can change into an adulterous affair; a great job can change into a demoralizing trip to the unemployment office; long nights of studying for final exams can change into graduation, marriage, and a job.
When we pick up the New Testament and read about that great and special Pentecost, we hear how the Disciples are suddenly emboldened to speak powerfully for Jesus. They fearlessly and openly stood up before a mob and proclaimed that the Jesus whom they crucified was now Lord and Christ—after hiding in the upper room. Jesus' chosen leaders—brave and bold on that first Pentecost—had been liars, traitors, and cowards just seven weeks earlier. Now they were willing to risk everything, including their lives, to speak up for Him. That’s why it is fifty days of grace: we go from crucifixion to resurrection to ascension and to pentecost: fallen disciples, broken leaders, and shattered loyalty needed that time of grace to be restored and put right. Jesus needed to confront Peter about his failure. We can all be changed completely with fifty days of grace!
So here we are, fifty days after remembering Jesus' Passion, Death and Resurrection. Where do you stand in your faith journey with the Lord? Have you failed him; failed your loved ones? Have you disappointed yourself? Are you still beating yourself up for sins you committed several months ago, or several years or decades ago? Isn't it time to hear the message of these last seven weeks and the renewal of the Spirit? Isn't it time to believe that you can be changed for the better—to be changed into the person that God made you to be—in fifty days or otherwise?
Jesus was handed over to die because of our sins, and He was raised from the dead to make us right with God. Isn't it time we all really hear that and believe that? It is time for us to all believe that his death can cover our sins. It is time to trust that His resurrection ensures that He has the power to make us right with God--no matter what. It is time to believe that Jesus can take us and our past with all its good and bad and use us for His glory so people around us may see the triumph of His grace in our lives. Move on from the failures, the lies, the denials, the cowardice, and step up and live for Jesus in a powerful way because His Holy Spirit lives in us! This is Pentecost and the birth of our Church!
Much can change for us, if only we will trust that God can change us, bless us, and restore us because of what we saw Him do with those fifty days of grace! Happy Pentecost!
Keep singing in your hearts!
Just a Note: Some songs of grace…
David J. Conrad, M.A. Theology. Our Director of Faith Formation.