After the celebration and joy of the Easter season, followed by the feasts of the Holy Trinity and the Body and Blood of Christ – we finally settle back into the green of Ordinary Time – and the methodical reading – Sunday after Sunday of Mark’s Gospel.
We begin counting on this 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time all the way up to the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time – followed by the Feast of Christ the King and then the beginning of Advent. So time marches on. . .
And as we march through time – I think the Gospel today gives us a very simple question to answer along the way: are we growing the seeds of God’s kingdom ---
and the love, joy, peace, forgiveness, and grace of that kingdom --- as we mark this sacred time week after week – are we growing into the best person we can be ---------- OR----------- just stumbling along, being the same old people we have always been???
Since the day we were Baptized – the seeds of God’s kingdom were sown in us: the seeds that help us grow more and more into the image and likeness of Christ.
But along with these seeds of the kingdom of God sown in us – are also weeds of sin, sown by the evil one. These weeds will try to choke the seeds of love, so that there is not only no growth, but also will cause the seeds of love to wither and die.
So every choice we make and every decision – is one small step toward growing the kingdom within us and around us – or choking off its growth. . .
With this in mind, two related stories:
World War II produced many heroes. One such hero was Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.
One day his entire squadron was sent off on a mission. And after he was airborne, O’Hare looked at his fuel gage and noticed the crew had failed to top off his fuel tank.
He would not have enough fuel to complete the mission AND return to the ship – so he reluctantly signed off on the mission and headed back to the fleet.
As he was returning he noticed something that made his blood run cold. Off in the distance, he saw a squadron of Japanese bombers speeding toward the American fleet.
All the other fighters were off on mission – so the fleet was defenseless. Somehow, in order to save the fleet, he would have to divert the incoming bombers.
And so setting aside thoughts of his personal safety – he divided directly into the Japanese squadron. He charged in with guns blazing, weaved in and out of the formation and fired on as many planes as he could.
Completely surprised, the exasperated Japanese took off in another direction.
This took place on February 20, 1942 – and for his action Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare became the first Naval Aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. And today, O’Hare airport in Chicago is named in tribute to this courageous man.
The second story also takes place many years ago – when the crime boss, Al Capone, virtually ran the streets of Chicago.
Capone had a lawyer nicknamed “Easy Eddie” whose skill at legal maneuvering kept Capone out of jail for a long time. Which is how Eddie received his nickname – because life became pretty easy for him as he was greatly rewarded for his legal efforts.
In his comfortable life – Eddie saw to it that his only son had everything – including a good education.
And despite the way he earned his living – Eddie also
tried to teach his son right from wrong – wanting his son to be a better man than he was.
Yet with all his wealth and influence -- there were two things Easy Eddie could not give his son in his present line of work: he could not pass on a good name, or a good example.
And so Eddie decided to change. He decided to renounce his ways in order to clean up his tarnished name – and show his son the meaning of integrity.
But to do this, he would have to turn against Al Capone, and he knew that cost would be great. And it was. Within a year Easy Eddie’s life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago street.
So what do these two stories have to do with each other?
Well, Butch O’Hare, the heroic fighter pilot – was Easy Eddie’s son.
And so a point for us -- every choice we make and every decision – is one small step toward growing the kingdom within us – or choking off its growth.
And another point: perhaps THE strongest example children receive in their lives – is from their parents.
As we prepare to celebrate Father’s Day next weekend – I just ask parents of young children and grandparents to reflect this week on what kind of values you are – or are not – passing on to your children and grandchildren through your example.
And for the rest of us not blessed with children – what type of role model are we being for others? By our words and actions – are we taking the small steps we need – to grow the kingdom within us and around us – or not? Are we letting the weeds of sin to choke the seeds of love, so there is not only no growth ---- but also causing the seeds of the kingdom to wither and die? Because whether or not we know it – people, especially the young – are watching us – and learning from our example.
“The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed which is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown and springs up – becomes the largest of plants.”
Let’s go plant some seeds this week.
Moments in time...