Trees have always had significance in the Bible. They are first mentioned in the second Book of Genesis with the "Tree of Life." Along with mountains and the sea, trees are bigger than we are; they stand when we fall, and they endure when we pass away. Yet, unlike the sea and the hills, we can muster the power to overcome trees. We can chop them down and put them to use.
In today's readings trees are significant from a number of standpoints. One of our problems in Biblical interpretation lies in our inability to see the world as charged with the power and glory of God. We decide that, for example, the "tree of life" means something in particular. Yet, we can feel trees and smell them in many instances. Trees are important in today's readings.
The First Reading from Ezekiel makes reference to a tree to be planted by God: "I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar, from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot, and plant it on a high and lofty mountain." This is Ezekiel's version of the prophecy by Isaiah: "There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch will grow out of its roots." In other words, from something that was thought to be dead, God promises to bring forth a wonderful and productive growth — Jesus.
St. Paul offers another perspective of being a branch or a limb from a tree. The Body of Christ, the Church, can also be compared to a tree with many branches, perhaps each serving a different purpose, but all combining to produce the whole. That is what we as a Church are like and why each of us in his or her own way is important to the total. It is all held together by the Holy Spirit.
The presence of the Holy Spirit in Paul's life gave him great confidence, a confidence he feels we should share. When Paul writes, "We are always courageous," we must realize that the Greek word translated as "courageous" can also be translated as "confident." With the confidence he had, Paul knew that God was at work within him. Paul reminds us often that this confidence comes from the realization that we are to "set our minds on things above, not things on earth.
Thanks to the Lord we are part of the Body of Christ, what might be termed the great Tree of Life.
At the Heart of our Gospel Reading from St. Mark is the Parable of the Mustard Seed. Speaking of this seed, Jesus says, "But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches." Our Lord and Savior is the perfect teacher. It was through parables that He was able to present profound spiritual truths. His parables were often intended for simple people, but also to an agrarian population — that is, people familiar with agriculture and agricultural terms.
The mustard seed and mustard plan were something that would have been familiar to most of His listeners. As is the case with everything Jesus said, scholars have studied and examined and developed opinions on what He meant. The mustard seed was not the smallest seed, and the plant it produced was not the largest, but yet even to this day there are wild mustard plants over ten feet tall near the Jordan River. Jesus was most likely referring to black or white mustard seeds and plants. Mustard, as we know it, was made by grinding the seeds.
There were three important features of the mustard plant that the Lord knew his audience would understand — the small size of the seed, the large size of the plant, and the rapid germination and growth of the plant. That is part of the importance of all trees and large plants as they tend to come from seeds, perhaps not always tiny ones, but they come to life and they grow. That is what is supposed to be happening to us as well.
Today we ask You to bless our earthly fathers for the many times they reflected the love, strength, generosity, wisdom and mercy that You exemplify in Your relationship with us, Your children. We honor our fathers for putting our needs above their own convenience and comfort; for teaching us to show courage and determination in the face of adversity; for challenging us to move beyond self-limiting boundaries; for modeling the qualities that would turn us into responsible, principled, caring adults. Not all our fathers lived up to these ideals. Give them the grace to acknowledge and learn from their mistakes.
Give us the grace to extend to them the same forgiveness that you offer us all. Help us to resist the urge to stay stuck in past bitterness, instead, moving forward with humility and peace of heart. We ask your blessing on those men who served as father figures in our lives when our biological fathers weren't able to do so. May the love and selflessness they showed us be returned to them in all their relationships, and help them to know that their influence has changed us for the better. Give new and future fathers the guidance they need to raise happy and holy children, grounded in a love for God and other people - and remind these fathers that treating their wives with dignity, compassion and respect is one of the greatest gifts they can give their children. We pray that our fathers who have passed into the next life have been welcomed into Your loving embrace, and that our family will one be day be reunited in your heavenly kingdom. In union with St. Joseph, whom you entrusted with Your Son, we ask Your generous blessings today and every day. Amen.
St. Joseph the Worker will finally be getting a new overdue roof after many years of need because of generous parishioner bequeaths from Mr. Lawrence Butters and Mr. Joseph Hurlimann. Their love and support for St. Joseph the Worker is making this project possible. May God bless their souls. The roofing project is expected to be completed by early July.
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O Glorious St. Joseph, thou who hast power to render possible even things which are considered impossible, come to our aid in our present trouble and distress.
Take this important and difficult affair under thy particular protection, that it may end happily.
(MENTION YOUR REQUEST)
O dear St. Joseph, all our confidence is in thee. Let it not be said that we would invoke thee in vain; and since thou art so powerful with Jesus and Mary, show that thy goodness equal thy power. Amen.
St. Joseph, friend of the Sacred Heart, pray for us.
St. Joseph the Worker received a wonderful mention in the May 2018 issue of "FIRST THINGS" by renowned editor, R.R. Reno:
"On a recent trip to the Bay Area, I went to church at the Berkeley parish of St. Joseph the Worker. The priest celebrated ad orientem, which as I've noted many times in these pages accentuates the sacrificial character of the Mass and gives the entire service a stronger vertical thrust.
The Sanctus and Agnus Dei, along with a few other elements of the service, were sung in Latin with the natural dignity of plainchant. The congregants received the sacrament on their knees at the altar rail. All of this took place in a more than one-hundred-year-old building with modest iconography of a traditional sort.
I was reminded yet again that liturgical transcendence is readily accessible. There was nothing revanchist about the service at St. Joseph the Worker, nothing archaeological, nothing remotely alien to the experience of Catholics raised on the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Instead, the worship was elevated by the fact that the liturgy was not unnecessarily puerile and complacent.
I tip my hat to Fr. Kenneth Nobrega, the priest-in-charge at St. Joseph the Worker."