Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today, for the first time in over 100 days, we wear green vestments on a Sunday, and will do so until the Solemnity of Christ the King in November. Green is the liturgical color for the (poorly named) season of Ordinary Time. It symbolizes life and flourishing – just as the world around us is green in this time, just so the Church in this time following the great feast of Pentecost is called to come alive and flourish in the power of the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, the color green is worn in the Byzantine Rite of the Catholic Church on Pentecost and on feasts of monastic saints, symbolizing the flourishing of the Holy Spirit both on the day of the Church’s birth and in the hidden life of monastery communities.
It is very fitting then, that the Gospel this weekend points us to the growth of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is like a seed planted in a field that begins to grow, though the one who planted it does not know precisely how it grows. It begins as a small seed, like the mustard plant, but grows into something far grander and more expansive than its small beginnings would seem to indicate. As we see the green vestments on Sunday for the first time in a long time, the Gospel reminds us that the Kingdom of God is growing for us. In fact, in the Church’s liturgy we can see a microcosm of the Kingdom of God. The liturgy itself is like a seed that grows in hidden ways, providing nourishment, shelter, and welcome.
The Church’s liturgical prayer is similar to these seeds. When we gather for Mass, God’s grace is poured out and grows in our hearts in ways we cannot yet fathom. Through the Mass, we are instructed in the Gospel, introduced to life in Christ, and invited to grow. Our understanding of Mass changes over time as we come to a more mature comprehension of language, of mystery, and of ritual. Regular reception of the Eucharist begins to have an effect in our lives, as the undeniable grace of Jesus’ true presence cultivates the soil of our hearts. That cultivated soil that welcomes the Kingdom of God each time we pray at Mass begins to grow and flourish, and so the effect of the Mass goes beyond the individual celebration and is carried into the world.
During Lent, we reflected on the idea of being turned more perfectly toward the Lord, reorienting ourselves spiritually so that we can truly be focused ad orientem, to the East, to the place where the Son rises to call us into His Kingdom. In this green season, I would like to renew that reflection. As we have endeavored in these last few months to turn to Jesus in everything, so may this time on our calendar and in our liturgy be cultivated, that the seed we have received in the proclamation of the Gospel and the celebration of the Church’s sacraments might take root. With the sacramental life of the Church firmly planted in our hearts, may our celebration of the Mass reflect the growth of the Kingdom of God among us and in our hearts. With the Gospel on our lips, may we extend our branches out in welcome, so that all we encounter may know the presence and power of God.