Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Ezekiel 17:22-24
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 92:2-3, 13-16
Second Reading: St. Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Corinthians 5:6-10
Gospel: According to St. Mark 4:26-34
On the third Sunday of June much of the world celebrates Father’s Day, but this is a recent innovation. A day set aside to honor those men who dedicate themselves to the children in their lives as both fathers and father-figures goes all the way back to the Middle Ages, and was held on the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19th. Today the religious significance of the original holiday, as well as that of the early 20th Century American versions started in various Protestant churches around the country, has been left behind and replaced by backyard barbecues and gifts of ties, golf clubs, tools, and the latest electronic gear.
The Church does not officially recognize Father’s Day in the liturgical calendar, yet the readings for this third Sunday in June do have relevance for dads, and offer them a wonderfully profound biblical foundation for their vocation as fathers.
In the Parable of the Mustard Seed Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God in terms of this smallest of seeds. Anyone who has ever held a mustard seed in her or his hand – or has ever used whole grain mustard - knows just how miniscule a mustard seed it, and the use of it by Jesus is meant to give a sense of the lack of size and importance of the Church at Her beginning.
As everyone familiar with the parable knows, the mustard seed grows into a tree whose size belies that of its origins. Throwing some relatively easy math at the average size of a mustard seed and the average size of a fully grown mustard bush will render the conclusion that the mature bush will be over 200 billion times the size of the original seed. Since it is estimated that about 100 billion people have ever lived on our planet, then we’ve got a decent way to go for the Church, presently at about 1.3 billion Catholics, to reach full mustard seed growth.
These numbers can draw one to think about the incredible nature of Jesus’ statement in John’s Gospel that “in my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” Hopefully, there’s room for about 200 billion of us. But more importantly, this large family is under the constant and eternal care of our Father in heaven, and every father on earth is called to participate in that everlasting fatherhood.
Not only the Kingdom of God, but also the Catholic family, can be seen in light of the Parable of the Mustard Seed. Each father should see his family as a place where not only the number of people will grow – especially from generation to generation, but also where others will, like the birds in the parable, feel at home. You don’t have to recall the opening dinner scene in the movie Rudy to realize that in Catholic families there should always room for one more. Dads are pre-programmed to want to throw more food on the grill and to be surrounded by lots of their kids’ friends during a Super Bowl party, and that’s because dads get their ‘dadness’ from God the Father, Who wants to bring everyone into His house.
Tapping into that ‘divine dadness’ (or is it ‘divine madness’?) is the essence of what it is to be a father, and it is that characteristic which is most loved in fathers by their children as well as all those other kids who just happen to show up right around dinner time.
Happy Father’s Day!