Always be in good spirits 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2018 B

Friends, I have always been fascinated by ancient Greek philosophical thinking. Now I'm thinking of Epicurus. One of his most popular quotes reads: "If God listened to the prayers of men, all men would have passed by; for they always pray for evil to each other. " Diving into the philosophical world can be compared to Jesus' use of parables in his preaching to the people. In parables we can sense how Jesus lived and taught. How do we interpret these parables? It goes a bit for us in the same way as Jesus' contemporary and also for his disciples. Parables are multifaceted invitations to believe in Jesus. The knowledge of God requires the commitment of the entire person. Philosophy is no subject for the indifferent and passionless. This is something that cannot be achieved without repentance. That means making a 360 turn in our mindset. In a world of sin, the self must be broken up and open to a new love. Jesus clarifies with parable how the kingdom of God grows and shelters all. Yet, every time we have to ask what Jesus wants to say to us with each individual parable (mashal).

Prophet Ezekiel prophesies how God breaks a twig from the top of the tall Cedar tree and plants it on a high and mighty mountain. The Cedar will eventually grow, grow branches, bear fruit and become a delicious cedar. One sign that this is the work of God is that the cedar becomes a blessing for the whole creation. Ys God makes the small tree great. When we read, "I am the one who stunts tall trees and makes the low ones grow, who withers green trees and makes the withered green ", it can be seen as proof that those who become rich or those who receive political power are directly favoured by God. The text can be interpreted as if everyone who is better placed materially, socially or politically has been blessed by God. Throughout the ages, people have reasoned in this way.

The prophet Ezekiel was priest in the temple in Jerusalem until 597 BC. He was deported with King Jehojakin during the first exile to Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took Jehoiakin's uncle, Sidkiah, and placed him on the throne of Judah. Ezekiel prophesied that the worst thing would happen to Judah, but God would also visit his people in his time and restore them. Instead of keeping the agreement that the king contracted with Babylon, he began to align with Egypt. Therefore, Babylon came to destroy the whole land and the temple.

Sidkia was unfaithful to both God and the people of Judah. He is similar to many rulers around the world today, especially in poor countries that only think of themselves. The Cedar is the kingdom of David in this context. The shoot is the seed of David. Despite the opposition, as time passed, God in Christ fulfilled his promise prophesied by Ezekiel in Babylon in 590 BC. Christ is the twig of the cedar top from David's kingdom. He has become a wonderful cedar for all people in all places and times. Christians are heirs of God's mercy, and boundless love that has been active in the world throughout the ages. The righteous like greens on a palm tree does not imply material wealth but the one that allows God to live in himself and becomes a blessing for all creation. It is a delight to live according to the word of God and not count oneself as more important than anyone else.

In this connection, let’s hear the opening prayer this Sunday: God, our hope and strength without who we can do nothing”. With the power of the Spirit he gives us, we can follow his commandments and honour him in thought, words and deeds. Does this in fact mean that we can do nothing without God? At a time when people reduce grace and blessing to money and wealth, it may be necessary to question this statement that without God we can do nothing. If we accept this simply, it can mean that all who become rich or acquired power in that case have done so through God. We know that this is not true to reality. For example, God has nothing to do with money or becoming materially rich. Nor can we say that someone who has been elected to a political position has been divinely elected or be seen as God's will or plan for this specific human being. If we critically interrogate this question, we discover that God, for the most part, has nothing directly to do with money, material prosperity or political position.

We live our lives in faith in Jesus Christ. Apostle Paul reminds of the ultimate judgment. We should, as Christians, hear this clearly today. Secularism is an ideology that has diminished, rejected the importance of religion in everyday life. This leads to people not understanding how important the word of God is. The consequence becomes churches and communities that have become less spiritual and more worldly. Studies made at different locations testify to this. There are Christians who no longer believe there is heaven and hell. They live on earth much like epicureans and hedonists. Make merry while you live, for tomorrow, we shall be no more. Many Christians want to do away with the doctrine of the final judgment. Many people find it hard to think of a loving God who will punish someone forever, those who did not accept his grace. We know that this is not a reasonable or sensible attitude that is supported by Scripture and tradition.

Today's texts leave no doubt that we will face the court of Christ and everybody will receive back for what he or she has done during his earthly life, good as evil. No matter what vision we have, the measure is, of course, the word of God. God has sown his seed in our lives. We shall be asked to account for how we nurtured this seed. It is not possible to be neutral in matters of God. Sweden is hardly a neutral country in religious matters. Its religious freedom turns into a kind of religious phobia. A concrete example of this is seen in the school politics of the Swedish National Agency for Education. Religion is considered dangerous to humans. Therefore, school are no longer permitted to have end of term in churches as it has been for decades. In the name of tolerance for people of other faith, the cross is being removed from public spaces.

Today, many Christians have an à la carte attitude to God's Word. We choose what suits and want to be masters over our lives and reject or deny what does not suit us. In this way we cut apart God off. In this context, we may understand today's liturgical texts. We can say that the same theme goes through today's first reading and gospel text. Jesus teaches his disciples by means of a parable. He compares the kingdom of God with a mustard grain which was the least of all seeds known in his time. The parable is found in Matt 13: 31-32; Mark 4: 30-32; and Luke 13: 18-19. Like a mustard seed, the kingdom of God grows from a simple beginning. In order to understand the parable, one must understand its important elements: the one who sows, the mustard seed, the big tree as it grows, and the birds that build shelters in its shadow.

The one who sows is Christ and the mustard grain is the word of God, the gospel. Birds in this context are people. The mustard grain that becomes a big tree grows beyond its natural capacity. It may be best described as a plant rather than tree. Many birds will live in its shadow. The gospel started simply but has grown into a power that protects many while others find it disturbing and try to destroy it. The parable is a prophecy about the gospel that continues to play out in the world. Christianity has, from its simple origins, become a power that becomes a blessing and grace for those who accept its message. Our faith, no matter how small it may be, goes beyond what we can think or wish. In vain do some try to fight its spread in the world. Therefore, Christians can always be in good spirits. Peace lies in being freed from all unfounded fears-irrational fantasy, myths, hypocrisy and superstitions. The hand of God will be against the prophets who see false visions and give lying divination 8Ezek 13:9). We should not be bothered by the wealth of men and women of this world who have made wealth their gods. Epicurus says something important in this context: "The things you really need are few and easy to access; but the things you may think you need are endless, and you will never be satisfied. " Being in good spirits means that you are contented in the small and in the big. Be grateful for what life brings your way and give God thanks in everything. Everyone will receive what they deserve when our Lord returns in His glory good as well as evil (2 Corinthians 5:10). Chikezie Onuoha MSP

Webbdesign: Peter Tynkkynen