Catholic homily outline for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – The King and the citizens of the Kingdom of God

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Jesus reading Isaiah in Capernaum (from Zeffirelli’s TV mini-series “Jesus of Nazareth”)

Central idea: Christ is the King of the Kingdom of God and we are called to be his subjects. Doctrine: Christ’s Kingdom is for us, the lowly. Practical application: We can “learn” Christ by prayerfully reading Sacred Scripture.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.) This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)

To view Lectionary 92, click here.

Central idea: Christ is the King of the Kingdom of God and we are called to be his subjects

Reading 1 Ez 17:22-24

Thus says the Lord 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;
on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.
It shall put forth branches and bear fruit,
and become a majestic cedar.
Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it,
every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.
And all the trees of the field shall know
that I, the LORD,
bring low the high tree,
lift high the lowly tree,
wither up the green tree,
and make the withered tree bloom.
As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do.

  • “I, the LORD, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree.” We hear prefigured Our Lord’s parable of the tiny mustard seed that becomes the greatest of plants. We also hear an echo of Mary’s Magnificat: “He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree” (Lk 1:52).
  • What is the human reality that corresponds to the majestic cedar? It is to have a splendid body, a mind infused with truth, and a will wholly oriented to goodness.
  • We are made to want to be majestic, to dwell in a majestic place, and to be seen by others as majestic. Yet if we find ourselves actually low and fruitless, we can have hope. God has a predilection for us!

Responsorial Psalm Ps 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16

R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praise to your name, Most High,
To proclaim your kindness at dawn
and your faithfulness throughout the night.

The just one shall flourish like the palm tree,
like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.
They that are planted in the house of the LORD
shall flourish in the courts of our God.

They shall bear fruit even in old age;
vigorous and sturdy shall they be,
Declaring how just is the LORD,
my rock, in whom there is no wrong.

  • Living an upright or just life and having real gratitude toward God are two sides of a coin.
  • To be planted in the house of the Lord is to take a stand to live an upright life. The fruit we bear—the good that we do—makes us happy to thank God.
  • But really, it is our gratitude toward God that makes us want to do good.
    • As Raniero Cantalamessa, the papal household preacher, points out, the Christian’s upright life, that is, his duties to live the commandments, to become virtuous, to avoid sin, to do penance—everything man “should do”—these duties toward Christ arise from our debt of gratitude toward his grace which he has given to us. This grace “comes before [our] efforts and . . . makes them possible.”

Reading 2 2 Cor 5:6-10

Brothers and sisters:
We are always courageous,
although we know that while we are at home in the body
we are away from the Lord,
for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Yet we are courageous,
and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.
Therefore, we aspire to please him,
whether we are at home or away.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
so that each may receive recompense,
According to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.

  • We are planted in the house of the Lord by baptism. We take root and grow by living an upright life.
  • In heaven we will aspire to please the Lord whom we see face to face. In this life, we also aspire to please him whom we only see by faith.
  • It takes courage to live this way simply because we don’t see the award which faith tells us is there and which the world tells us is not.

Gospel Mk 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”

He said,
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

  • Physical life is a wonderful mystery. It is less mysterious today because of our greater understanding, which makes it even more wonderful we see its incredible order, complexity, and intelligence.
  • The farmer is only interested in the final harvest of grains of wheat and he performs only a few actions—plowing, sowing, maybe weeding, and finally harvesting. Yet each wheat plant carries out trillions of actions to produce those grains of wheat.
  • Our spiritual life is similar. We do little things in cooperation with God’s grace: try to speak with God, receive the Sacraments, perform little acts of service; and underneath God’s grace is at work—we know not how—transforming us into something great—into a harvest for eternal life and happiness.
  • Like the mustard seed, we can be unimportant, our efforts seemingly without effect, our numbers few—yet the effect over time can change us and the world.
  • Our Lord offers two parables of the Kingdom of God. The King of the Kingdom of God is Jesus Christ. So the subjects of the Kingdom of God are those who serve Christ. To be a subject of Christ requires faith in him, which includes the effort to be upright.

Doctrine: Christ’s Kingdom is for us, the lowly

  • But who is the Kingdom of God for?
    • It is for everyone who wishes to enter it (CCC 543).
    • It is for the poor and lowly, that is, the spiritually and materially humble (CCC 544).
    • It is also for those who show practical love toward the lowly (CCC 544).
    • And it is for sinners (CCC 545). Although the Kingdom of God is, from Christ’s perspective, for all sinners, it is only really accessible to sinners who admit that they are sinners and that sinning is bad. This is why Jesus invites us to conversion. (CCC 545)

Practical application: We can “learn” Christ by prayerfully reading Sacred Scripture

  • We grow as subjects of the Kingdom of God by listening to the Word of God and putting it into effect.
  • The Church exhorts us to learn Christ by reading the divine Scriptures prayerfully (CCC 2653). Prayer accompanies the reading so that a dialogue takes place between God and man.
  • Is there any reason each sufficiently mature Catholic should not spend five or ten minutes every day listening to Christ in his Word and then responding to Christ in his or her own words?
  • Here are two ways this can be done.
    • One is to follow the Sunday (or daily) lectionary readings. Over time, these readings present a very wide range of the most important passages from both the New and Old Testaments. In addition, each set of readings is selected to be mutually enlightening.
    • Another is to steadily work one’s way through the New Testament with special emphasis on the Gospels.
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