Written by: Thomas Boyle, UF Student
The Word of God can seem abstract, but through today’s readings we are shown one way of getting a better understanding: understanding images of nature in the Bible.
In the first reading, we hear of all kinds of nature references from the Psalms. The description of the life cycle of a cedar acts as a form of prophecy for God’s plan for Israel to be a home to Christ. How do we understand this revelation of God from a short passage on a tree? Sometimes we wonder why God is not more explicit when telling us His plan and why His prophets use such different way of explaining reality. We get hints towards the answer of this question from Jesus in the Gospel, “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.” (Mark 4:35-36). This explanation from the Gospel of why Christ uses parables can also help explain the first reading. Images of nature are universally common to humanity, and thus they become a great way for God, as Creator of nature and true author of Sacred Scripture, to inspire the human writers of the Bible. With this in mind, we might better understand when the Psalmist writes of “majestic cedars” and St. Mark writes of Christ’s speech on “mustard seeds” in order to share the Word of God for all generations.
Jesus uses his example of the life cycle of a plant to explain the Kingdom of God to the public. When Jesus would speak with the Apostles He could explain in more detail, one potential reason for this is that He could answer questions from His 12 friends who knew Him well but questions from hundreds of people would not be able to be answered in a brief time, short of a miracle. We would be mistaken to think that God gave power to Jesus to reveal secret knowledge to a select few people since God’s Word is for everyone.
Through study and prayer we move closer to an intimacy with Christ which warrants a better understanding of the faith through the Holy Spirit, and these methods are open to all. For many years I did not know what a mustard seed really looked like, but even more so I did not fully understand what faith means. Through study I better understood the context of a mustard plant and so the parable made more sense, and through prayer I grew in my faith (still have a ways to go). With more knowledge of Scripture, we can grow in our faith, these two go hand in hand. We should also contemplate the words of St. Paul, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5). Even if we never see a mustard plant growing in person to realize the full reality of the nature parable, our faith can lead us to understanding of God’s Word. This is any Catholic’s true conviction that we know Him better since “all who come to Him will live forever.” Alleluia.