Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time • Year A

Joseph A. Genito, O.S.A.
Church of St. Thomas of Villanova
Rosemont, Pennsylvania

Ez 17:22-24
Ps 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16
2 Cor 5:6-10
Mk 4:26-34

The imagery of the Lord carrying Israel on eagle wings is profound and moving. Naturalists have reportedly observed eagles, after ushering their young out of the nest, letting them fall to make them learn to fly. But then they swoop down underneath to keep them safe, only to bring them up again and again, to fall until they can fly for themselves. Beautiful symbolism for the relationship between God and Israel in the covenant.

Our God cares for us but in a way that is supposed to teach us how to survive in the world. The covenant relationship gives us a clear indication of mutual interaction that speaks of our responsibility to fly on our own under God’s provident care. In the free-falling of learning throughout life, we might be tempted to think that God has abandoned us, but like the eagle, God will be there to keep us safe until we can handle our challenges.

Jesus was moved with compassion for people who seemed to him to be abandoned. His response was to instruct his disciples and send them into their midst to put into practice what he taught them by his word and example. Knowing that it would not be an easy venture for them, he nonetheless reminded them that they had the wherewithal to do this, having learned from him. Now it was their responsibility to fly on their own. “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give,” he told them, and so he also conveys to us who by our baptism have been given the gift of faith.

We are baptized into the priesthood of Jesus Christ, the same commission given by God to Israel through Moses when he said “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.” They were chosen as a special possession, not only for their own sake, but to be God’s instruments in the world, making known God’s love and goodness, and to be to others as God had been to them. But they strayed from this task, as witnessed by generations of prophets who relentlessly reminded them to return to the spirit of the covenant.

Jesus then came among us to show the way and imparted this mission to his followers who have passed it on to us. On this Father’s Day holiday we call to mind the exhortation to give as we have received. Our parents taught us the love of God, disciplined us in ways reminiscent of the eagle and its young. The message: to care about others as God has cared for us.

We live in the midst of a world full of trials and heartaches. People around us are hurting, like those Jesus observed in today’s Gospel, troubled and abandoned. Our call is to learn from his example, as we did from our fathers and mothers, to be compassionate people and to do what we can to serve others’ needs. Not an easy task, sometimes as frightening as free-falling because of the uncertainties of life, but a mission backed by our belief that God is always there to keep us safe until we can handle things. The good news is that we have the example of Jesus to guide us, visible in the gifts we have received from all those who model for us the love of Christ.