11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 11, 2018 ~ St. Monica, Palatka ~ Father Ron
Ezekiel 17:22-24 ~ I, God, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree …and make the withered tree bloom.
Psalm 92~ Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
2 Corinthians 5:6-10~ We are always courageous…
Gospel: Mark 4:26-34 ~ Jesus said to the crowds, “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.”
A dad told me that he and his little boy were having a real man-to-man conversation as they were playing in their back yard. The boy said, “Dad, I know what I want to be when I grow up.” My friend, the dad, thinking his son would say, “Spiderman,” or some such thing, asked, “What do you want to be son…a fireman?” The child said, “No daddy, I want to be just like you.” You mean you want to be a doctor?” The boy said, “No, I want to be a father.”
Not all of us have had the best or most pleasant experiences with our fathers. The fruit of fatherhood often takes time to grow… first the blade, then the ear, and then the full grain in the ear. And sometimes fatherhood doesn’t bear fruit until long after the father dies.
The Gospel reminds me of a true story about a young man who left his native Italy and family just about five years after the 1918 flu epidemic. Antonio served in the medical corps back in Italy, during World War I. He came through Ellis Island past the Statue of Liberty on the S/S Bella Italiana with $50 in his pocket. Although he thought he was just visiting America, Antonio, only 27 years old, met a woman in Boston, Teresina, widowed with five children ranging from 14 to 5 years old. Antonio was both moved and pressured to marry her. After all, she spoke Italian and was beautiful.
The two grew as a couple saving up enough money to get all the children back from orphanages within a year. Together they had two daughters and then a son who died at birth. Then a year later they had one more son, Matthew. Antonio worked with his stepsons and son in construction. Teresina invested the money earned into real estate. You could say that Teresina and Antonio’s family grew, put forth branches and bore much fruit, wealth and grandchildren. Only Matthew and his six sons could carry his father’s name, they had a respectful, sincere but cold relationship.
Teresina and Antonio often argued loudly and dramatically as many Italians do, but they loved each other. No one doubted that love until Teresina died after 55 years of marriage. She managed the money and her will seemed to say to Antonio, “I neva lova you, I only lova my first husband!”
For the next five years, Antonio alienated just about every grandchild. One grandson who was 19 when Teresina died, would visit, but left as soon as his grandfather badmouthed his deceased grandmother in Italian. He usually left within 5 minutes. During the next five years, the visits got longer and longer until the grandson only left because he had to get back to school. He even took walks on the beach with his grandfather.
One day Matthew called his son who was in the seminary. This was before cell phones. “Son, last night, Grandpa was having a great time at his 89thbirthday party with the great grandkids. I brought Grandpa back to his apartment and was putting his food in the refrigerator when he insisted I come to him. He was in his chair. ‘Ya Pa, what do you want?’ He said, ‘Mateo, I lova you.’ I told him I loved him too.” A sigh, “But Son, your grandfather had never said those words to me before.” Matthew took a breath and told his son, “Your grandpa died some time last night. He never left that chair.”