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  Word To Life

Sunday Scripture Readings, June 17, 2012

By Sharon Perkins
Catholic News Service

June 17, Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle B. Readings:

1) Ezekiel 17:22-24

Psalm 92: 2-3, 13-16

2) 2 Corinthians 5:6-10

Gospel: Mark 4:26-34

I recently heard a story about St. Katharine Drexel, the beloved North American saint, who was raised in Philadelphia as an heiress in the mid-1800s. Her compassion led her to found the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and dedicate her life to sharing the message of the Gospel and the life of the Eucharist among American Indians and African-Americans.

Mother Katharine traveled extensively and tirelessly, overseeing the flourishing of the almost 60 missions and institutions she founded (and funded), and encouraging her sisters. Then, at age 72 a serious health crisis curtailed all travel and rendered her nearly immobile. The commentator on her life then followed with a startling declaration: "At that point, St. Katharine entered the most productive period of her life."

As a busy, active person, I found that statement to be both amazing and counterintuitive. Katharine Drexel lived for 18 more years in a physical state that most would think of as anything but productive. Yet, she spent those years in intense prayer and contemplation of Jesus in the Eucharist, focusing her passionate devotional life as an intercessory offering for the same sisters and institutions that she had traveled to encourage. Active? Maybe not physically. Fruitful? Most certainly.

Today's readings place before the believer a paradox that is often difficult to fathom. Because our contemporary society prizes activity, problem-solving and a "can-do" spirit, Jesus' parable of the mustard seed as a paradigm for the kingdom of God strikes us as deceptively simplistic. It invites us to think: "Yes, that's a nice story for children, but ..."

We tend to think of prayer as a last resort after all our grownup endeavors have failed. However, as St. Katharine and many others illustrate, those "mustard seeds" of prayer bear incredible fruit, not only transforming the ones who pray, but changing situations and hearts in ways they could not have imagined, through the release of the Holy Spirit's loving, creative power.

Anyone -- young or old, in prime physical shape or in the feebleness of advanced age -- can plant a mustard seed.


Have you ever been tempted to turn to prayer as a "last resort"? What "mustard seed" of prayer can you plant today, trusting the power of the Holy Spirit to act in a difficult situation?


"They shall bear fruit even in old age; they will stay fresh and green" (Psalm 92:15).


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