13 June 2021

Sowing the seeds of faith and
reaping the harvest of life

The Sower and the Seed … an image in the East Window in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 13 June 2021

The Second Sunday after Trinity (Trinity II)

9.30 a.m. Castletown Church, the Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion II)

11.30 a.m. Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Morning Prayer

The Readings: I Samuel 15: 34 to 16: 13; Psalm 20; Mark 4: 26-34

There is a link to the readings HERE.

‘The earth produces of itself’ (Mark 4: 28) … summer flowers in the gardens at Kells Bay House near Cahersiveeen, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

Chapter 4 in Saint Mark’s Gospel is the ‘parables chapter,’ recalling parables that make this chapter the central teaching section of this Gospel. Christ is in a boat beside the sea teaching a very large crowd who are listening on the shore (see Mark 4: 1-2).

In this morning’s reading (Mark 4: 26-34), Christ tries to describe the ‘kingdom of God’ using images of a sower scattering seed on the ground in the hope and expectation of the harvest (verses 26-29) and of the mustard seed that grows into a great tree (verses 30-32).

As in the story of David in our first reading, God’s work may have small beginnings, or in those we may see as insignificant or overlook.

We have been bereaved sorely in this group of parishes in recent months, with four funerals since Christmas, four funerals in less than six months in one small group of parishes.

But at each funeral I heard how Alan, Linda, Joey and Ena had the seeds of their faith sown at an early stage in life, how that seed grew into a strong faith in their adult lives, and how they, in turn, had sown the seeds of faith.

Like a sower scattering seed, I sometimes think of God sowing seeds in the minds of many people that eventually grow into full bloom.

In the Gospel reading, Christ tells two parables: the first is the story of how seed scattered on the ground sprouts, grows and produces full grain at harvest time; the second is the story of how the mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, grows into the greatest of all shrubs.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that people who set out to be high achievers regret that over the span of a career they have never blossomed into great trees. Instead, they think that in the sight of other people they have remained small twigs or leaves on the tree, and that when they die, like a falling leaf, they will be forgotten and be of no further value to others.

Yet, when death is at our doorstep, none of us is going to be worried about the obituary pages or whether we will be judged by our achievements.

When he was interviewed on RTÉ three years ago [29 May 2018] by Ray Darcy, the late Gay Byrne spoke of his achievements and regrets over a long career that spanned 60 years. He admitted candidly that his biggest regrets were having worked too hard and given too much time to RTÉ when he could have spent more time with his children as they were growing up.

Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse, has worked for several years in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She has counselled the dying in their last days and has tried to find out what are the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives.

Among the top, from men in particular, is: ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.’

There was no mention of media profiles or better job titles.

In her best-selling book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, which has been read by over a million people worldwide and translated into 29 languages, Bronnie Ware lists the top five regrets we have when we are dying:

1, I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2, I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3, I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4, I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5, I wish that I had let myself be happier.

What is your greatest regret in life, so far?

And what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?

Our intrinsic, individual value does not depend on how useful we were to the projects of others. It is seen, instead, when we we are truly ourselves, when we spend time with those we love and those who love us, when we are in touch with our feelings, when we value our friendships, when we are happy rather than ambitious.

We are blessed when we come to the point of realising that love is more important than ambition, when we know friendships are more important than careers, when we know we are blessed by others not because of what they do, but simply because they are.

And when we love, when we can cry together, then we can laugh together too.

John Betjeman was a press attaché in Dublin during World War II. He was immensely popular during his time in Dublin, and when his official stay came to an end in 1943, his departure made one of those great stories on the front page of The Irish Times.

In one of his less well-known poems, ‘The Last Laugh’ (1974), John Betjeman wrote:

I made hay while the sun shone.
My work sold.
Now, if the harvest is over
And the world cold,
Give me the bonus of laughter
As I lose hold.

When we recall friends and family members who have lost their hold on life, do we allow ourselves to put aside their regrets and our regrets in life?

As part of the great tree of life, whether they were tiny twigs, small leaves, little branches or great big trunks, we can remember them with the bonus of laughter and with the bonus of love. For without them, we would not be who we are today.

And so, may all we think, say and do be to praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

‘The seed would sprout and grow’ (Mark 4: 27) … trees and a shaded garden in Platanias in suburban Rethymnon, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 4: 26-34 (NRSVA):

26 [Jesus] also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’

30 He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’

33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

‘The seed would sprout and grow’ (Mark 4: 27) … the garden in the cloisters in Arkadi Monastery in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: Green

The Collect of the Day:

Lord, you have taught us
that all our doings without love are nothing worth:
Send your Holy Spirit
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.
Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Loving Father,
we thank you for feeding us at the supper of your Son.
Sustain us with your Spirit,
that we may serve you here on earth
until our joy is complete in heaven,
and we share in the eternal banquet
with Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Sower and the Seed … an image in the East Window by Mayer & Co in Saint Michael’s Church, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)


630, Blessed are the pure in heart (CD 36)
39, For the fruits of his creation (CD 3)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

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