14 June 2024

'Ag Críost an síol - To Christ the Seed.' Sunday Reflections, 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B


'Even unto the complete sacrifice of my life.'
Execution of Blessed Miguel Pro SJ, 23 November 1927, Mexico City

June is the month of the

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Blessed Miguel Pro’s Sacred Heart Of Jesus Prayer

Heart of Jesus, I give my heart to Thee; but so enclose it in Thee that it may never be separated from Thee. Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine; but take care of my promise so that I may be able to put it in practice even unto the complete sacrifice of my life. Amen.

The Sower
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel  Mark 4:26-34  (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

Jesus said to the crowds:

“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Reaper with Sickle (after Millet)
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle.

Just over 30 years ago I was parish priest of Lianga, on the east coast of Mindanao for 11 months, One evening in a nearby barrio I gave a talk on the beginnings of life, how from the moment of conception what we will come to be, the colour of our eyes, of our hair, our sex - male or female, whether we’ll be tall or short, the talents that will emerge, are already there. I could see that the people were awestruck at the wonder of our creation.

Today’s First Reading and Gospel give us an insight into that wonder, showing how God’s creatures are interrelated. Ezekiel tells us how a shoot of a cedar will sprout branches and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar, for every kind of bird will live beneath it, every winged creature rest in the shade of its branches. St Mark echoes this: The kingdom of God . . . is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing . . . is the smallest of all the seeds on earth . . . yet  . . . grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.

Humans are the only creatures on earth who can know this: God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. Only we can know, love and serve God here on earth and be with him for ever in heaven, as we learned from the catechism so many years ago.

Between the Solemnity of the Mother of God on 1 January 2019 and the end of last year more than 30,000 human beings made in the image of God were legally, violently and permanently denied entry into the Republic of Ireland before birth, denied the possibility of ever knowing a loving God in this life, of ever being loved by other humans, of ever loving others, of ever discovering their own giftedness and that of others, of ever discovering the wonders of God’s creation in this life.

In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis addresses this situation very clearly in the context of the interconnectedness of creation that the readings speak about today: Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? ‘If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away’.

However, Jesus tells us in John 10:10, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. Today’s readings speak of that abundance. St Mark tell us, A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing, how he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. We are blessed in St Columban's where I live here in Ireland to be surrounded by so many examples of new life as we go through the four seasons. And at the many funerals of elderly Columbans in the last few years I have seen young children, reminders of God’s abundance in constantly creating and nourishing new life, especially human life, passed on from one generation to the next.

I remember too  being at the Menin Gate in Ieper (Ypres), Belgium, in 2002 where each evening the Last Post is sounded by buglers for British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Great War (1914-18) in which the city was destroyed, Many of these were Irish. One was Corporal Laurence Dowd, a half-brother of my maternal grandmother. Anther was Fr Willie Doyle SJ, an army chaplain, who is now being proposed for canonisation. The Last Post ceremony particularly remembers the thousands of soldiers listed on the monument whose bodies were never found. When I was there a very old man laid a wreath. He was possibly one of the last survivors of the First World War. Standing near me was a mother with a baby not more than a week old in her arms. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly

We have all been blessed by knowing married couples, including our parents, welcoming children into their lives, trusting in the providence of a God who gives abundantly and raising their children in the faith. Some have children who need special care right into adulthood and until death, drawing out of their parents a love that is truly heroic. Such families for me are signs of hope, signs of God’s presence among us, of God’s presence in my own life, preventing me from being discouraged by some aspects of a very changed world so different from the one that we older people grew up in.

The Entrance Antiphon reminds us that God is merciful and loving: O Lord, hear my voice, for I have called to you; be my help. Do not abandon or forsake me, O God, my Saviour! One of the expressions of God’s love and forgiveness is a movement I am familiar with, Rachel’s Vineyard (Britain, Ireland, USA) . This offers healing weekends rooted in the Gospel for persons who have been directly affected by abortion: mothers, fathers, grandparents of aborted children, spouses of someone who has had an abortion before they met. So many of these carry a hidden and deep sorrow and shame, often for many years. On a Rachel’s Vineyard weekend they can experience God’s forgiveness, enter into a relationship with their aborted child. And most of the team conducting the weekend, along with the supporting team, have themselves experienced God’s loving and forgiving mercy through it and are now ministers of that mercy to others like them.

The Responsorial Psalm speaks directly to those of us who are no longer young: Planted in the house of the Lord [the just] will flourish in the courts of our God, still bearing fruit when they are old, still full of sap, still green, to proclaim that the Lord is just. In him, my rock, there is no wrong.

As we celebrate the Eucharist, the great act of thanksgiving, may we allow the response to today’s Responsorial Psalm take root in our hearts: It is good to give you thanks, O Lord.

Sheaves of Wheat
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

. . . because the harvest has come.

Ag Críost an Síol
Sung by Laudis Domini of the Second Presbyterian Church, Memphis, Tennessee. 
Arranged by Mark Armstrong and directed by Dr Gabriel Statom

Words written in 1916 by Fr Micheál Ó Síocháin (later Coadjutor Archbishop of Sydney), music by Seán Ó Riada in 1968. This hymn in the Irish language was intended by Ó Riada as an Offertory hymn but is often sung during or after Holy Communion. Fr Micheál Ó Síocháin (Michael Sheehan) was also author of Sheehan's Apologetics, used in religious education in Ireland's Catholic secondary schools in the 1950s and 1960s. The book was one of the seeds of my own vocation to be a Columban missionary priest. 

Ag Críost an Síol - To Christ the Seed

le Micheál Ó Síocháin /English translation by Thomas Kinsella

i n-iothlainn Dé go dtugtar sinn.

Ag Críost an mhuir, ag Críost an t-iasc;
i líonta Dé go gcastar sinn.

Ó fhás go h-aois, is ó aois go bás,
do dhá láimh, a Chríost, anall tharainn.

Ó bhás go críoch, ní críoch ach athfhás,
i bParthas na ngrást go rabhaimid.

To Christ the seed, to Christ the crop,
in barn of Christ may we be brought.

To Christ the sea, to Christ the fish,
in nets of Christ may we be caught.

From growth to age, from age to death,
Thy two arms here, O Christ, about us.

From death to end, not end but growth,
in blessed Paradise may we be.

Traditional Latin Mass

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 06-16-2024 if necessary).

Epistle: Romans 8:18-23GospelLuke 5:1-11.

Miraculous Draught of Fishes

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord' (Luke 5:8). 


Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Father Seán,
The story of Blessed Miguel Pro’s SJ, brought tears to my eyes.
How cruel people can be and then after killing him instantly, giving him a coup de grâce...
No doubt, Jesus welcomed him with open arms!
Life indeed is sacred and with all the abortions going on in the world nowadays it is hard to understand how one can ignore this fact.
The Irish language hymn Ag Críost an Síol sounds heavenly!
May the world more come to understand our afterlife and duty of giving love to one another.

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Sorry it should be: How cruel people can be and then after NOT killing him instantly, giving him a coup de grâce...