Our readings for today are a good reminder to us about how God operates, how God works. Especially how God rules what we call the Kingdom of God.
Very often, we use ideas and categories that come from the kingdoms of this world, in order to understand the kingdom of God. And so our readings are, are very, very much needed. Especially during this time. Well, the world has experienced being in a way paralyzed, you know, our powers, our scientific powers, our plans, all of those came to nothing. And even the richest person cannot handle a virus. The wealth of this world cannot buy one more breath. And then we pretend we are the rulers of this world.
Then we have these Gospels. It's interesting that Jesus started teaching the disciples by using parables after a crisis. His family thought that he was beside himself. They thought he was crazy. And then the scribes said, "Oh, he's doing all of these miracles, he’s casting out demons in the name of Beelzebul." So pati yung mga kamag-anak ni Hesus nagduda. “Nasa tama pa bang pag iisip itong si Hesus?” Kaya yata siya hinahanap ng pamilya eh para maitago at nakakahiya. Tapos ayun, no, marami siyang napapalayas na demonyo eh. Sabi naman ng mga ano eh kaya lumalayas yung demonyo kasi sumusunod sa kanya, kasi prinsipe siya. Kademonyohan.
So in this context of rejection that he started explaining the kingdom of God. But how? By using parables. Seeds. A sower. A mustard seed. The birds of the air. Now, I'm asking the priests who are studying here, during your exam when you feel your professor is really punching you, try to talk about the seeds.
In Collegio we now see tomatoes. And we have all these lettuce and cabbages…And then, why not follow Jesus? I'm sure you will be here for the next five years. You will not be allowed to graduate! But this is how Jesus presents the Kingdom of God. Even His methodology, not just the content, His methodology already speaks to us. You want to understand the Kingdom of God? Well, go to the ordinary things. That's how God works.
In the first reading, God promises the restoration of the Kingdom. But how will God restore? It is not the people in Israel who will restore the kingdom, it is God who will restore the kingdom. God will take a shoot from the cedar tree. At the top of the cedar tree, you have a shoot, a fresh branch and God will plant it on the mountain, and it will produce a much greater cedar. A much better and a grander kingdom. So it is not just a return to the former kingdom. It will be better, greater, but it will start with a shoot. That's how God works.
Tayo po kasi pag nagpaplano tayo ano kailangang, wow grande! But God? No. He'll start with a fresh shoot. But because it is God who plans it and God who will make it grow, then it will be greater than its source.
Basically the same ideas in the Gospel. The Kingdom of God is likened to a person who sows, who scatters seed on the land. That's a very ordinary activity - scattering seed and even the image… scattered around... Not even with a deliberate care. Scatter, scatter. Ganyan, 'no? Nagkakalat, kumbaga. Naghahasik lang. And the sower sleeps at night and rises at day and through his sleeping and rising, the seed would sprout and he does not know how. The land by itself will make it grow. He does his share. He scatters. And part of his share is to sleep.
If he keeps on going there and, "Tignan ko nga! Naku, ganun ka pa rin!", it will not grow. Sleep and let the land do its work. I see many people are doing ganyan (nodding). But you see, the seeming lack of activity on the part of the sower is contrasted to the harvest.
The harvest that will come greater than what he has in a way contributed. This man could be Jesus sowing the seeds. He himself is the seed that falls to the ground and sleeps and dies. But in his death, a rich harvest.
In the second parable is a mustard seed which was considered then the smallest of all seeds. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants. The surprise that God's kingdom and activity will give us. The disproportion that we human beings will find. Parang hindi bagay. Nagsimula sa maliit, pero bakit pagkalaki-laki? Sa atin pag gusto natin malaki ang resulta, kailangan malaki rin sa umpisa. Eh ang Diyos, hindi. Kaya ng Diyos sa maliliit na pasimula. Siya ang gagawa ng malalaking resulta. After all, it is God's kingdom. It is God's kingdom, not our kingdom.
So the same Jesus the bearer of the kingdom, the person of the kingdom is that mustard seed. Ignored. Rejected. "Who are you? Are you not the son of a carpenter?" But all other kingdoms have collapsed, but we believe the kingdom of God continues. And as St. Paul says in the second reading, even our lowly body, doing what we can contribute now, hopefully, we'll see a glorious resurrection.
Even our little efforts, dawn through our lowly body. Hopefully, we will go home to the Lord. And so that we might receive the glory. The glory that he has reserved for us. Humble beginnings. Humble, actions.
Sometimes when I look back, this past year, where so many of our grand plans, even for the Philippines, our 500th anniversary, wow... we have so many grand plans that did not materialize. Well, on the one hand, the practical thing during the time of the pandemic, we just have to accept that not all these things are possible - travels... But on the other hand, maybe it is also God's hand. You want to celebrate such a great, great event. Why don't we follow God's methodology? A simple shoot. Grains. Seeds. Sleep. Rise up and let the earth produce what we cannot produce.
Today is the 13th of June, the feast of St. Anthony. San Antonio. Well, he was born in Lisbon, Portugal, so in Portugal, they say he is St. Anthony of Lisbon. When you're here in Italy, they'll say he is St. Anthony of Padova. Yeah, we call him St. Anthony. He is for all and they say he is one of the most popular of saints. Even non-Christians venerate him.
But I guess God can work a lot of miracles and wonders through him. Because he followed. St. Anthony, by the grace of God, followed the methodology of the reign of God. He came from a well-to-do family in Lisbon, but joined the Augustinians and wanted to really spend his time in solitude and study. He was a learned person. And then he heard about the Franciscans. And he saw the burial of some Franciscans who were martyred in Morocco. And there was a call that he heard, felt he wanted to be a martyr also. So he asked permission to join the Franciscans. And he changed his name from Ferdinand to Anthony.
He was almost unknown as a Franciscan. He was sent to Morocco but he got sick. So he was sent back to Portugal. But because of a typhoon, the boat landed in Sicily rather than Portugal. In Sicily! And then it so happened that there was a general chapter of the Franciscans, so he was able to attend. But again, unknown until there was an ordination of the Dominicans and the Franciscans. And wow! They forgot to appoint a preacher. So last minute, "You peach, you preach!" And the Dominican said, "No, no, I'm not prepared." The Franciscan, "No, no, I'm not prepared.” So he was approached...by obedience.
And then they heard him talking in very simple terms. But when his heart was on fire, "Oh my! Who is this?" The discovery! And even St. Francis asked him, “Can you teach our brothers?” He is the first Franciscan to teach his fellow Franciscans. But St. Francis said, “Please teach them. But please be careful. We do not want to lose the spirit of prayer and devotedness and humility.” And that he did. And he maintained his teaching in a simple manner. He was attentive to the needs of the poor. And he said, he will combat heresies. Not by attacking the heretics, or the corrupt, but by showing them the beauty of the gospel and attracting them to the truth of the gospel. This very gentle saint is known everywhere as a miracle worker, and as a provider for the poor.
I think that's how the kingdom of God will really spread. Let us be humble. Let us be little and let us allow God to do the great things. Our great contribution is the littleness and the humility of our persons, and of our loving. It is not our kingdom. It is the kingdom of God.