A reflection for the eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jim McDermott reflects on the readings for June 16, 2024.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year B):

Ezekiel 17:22 – 24
Psalms 92:2 – 3, 13 – 14, 15 – 16
2 Corinthians 5:6 – 10
Mark 4:26 – 34

Reflection: The universe is made to flourish

From the windows in my little second-story studio I look down a major avenue on the Upper West Side of New York, and also down a side street heading toward Central Park. Each morning I get to watch people headed to work, parents taking their children to school, neighbors standing around catching up.

And in the last month it’s all become something totally new, because the trees all around us have suddenly burst into life. It’s nothing flashy, really, just an abundance of shades of green—basil and olive in the shade, mint and chartreuse in the light. Hurrying by on your way someplace you might not even notice it. But sitting here in my apartment, I find myself relishing the colors, the play of the sunlight upon the leaves, the subtle breeze-born movements of the branches.

If you had to explain what Jesus was up to in the gospels, one good answer would be, he was trying to make the familiar strange again. He wants those around him to see their lives, their world, and their faith in a whole new light. Sometimes that would involve him teaching, saying, or doing things that seem shocking. Other times, as in the parables of the seed that he delivers today, his approach is more gentle and more subtle. “Look around you,” he tells his listeners, and also us. “Consider the plants that you harvest, the trees on every side.” We might tend to the growth of some—water the land, fertilize the soil. But even the seed we just scatter often bursts into life: “Of its own accord the land yields fruit.”


On the surface that might not sound like a terribly startling revelation. “Wow, plants grow! Tell me more!” But for Jesus, these stalks and plants and trees that we witness all around us point to a bigger truth of our existence: The universe has been designed to flourish. And it has been designed so that we may flourish within it.

Try saying that to yourself a couple times. “This whole universe has been designed for life, and for my life.” It can sound pretty narcissistic. How many people have justified strip-mining the planet by saying much the same? “This planet was made for me.”

But Jesus’ vision is about humanity not overwhelming or dominating the natural world, but rather existing within it. The trees on our streets, the crops on our farms, are for him reminders of the big-heartedness of the universe that we’re a part of. God so loved us and all of creation that God built that love into the structure of reality. We don’t have to do anything to make that happen, Jesus points out. We don’t even have to understand it. It’s just how it is.  

So many days I’m worried about how different things in my life are going to turn out, even where the next pay check is coming from. We all do. But looking at the trees out my window in the morning, watching them glow in the light and sway in the breeze, I am, I think, being shown the only thing I really need to know.

About the author

Jim McDermott

Jim McDermott is a freelance screen and magazine writer living in New York. He writes a weekly Substack on pop culture and spirituality called Pop Culture Spirit Wow.

Add comment