Birds in an Orchard,
Painted by James Hautman (born 1964),
Painted in 2011,
Oil on canvas
© The Hautman Brothers

Birds in an Orchard,
Painted by James Hautman (born 1964),
Painted in 2011,
Oil on canvas
© The Hautman Brothers

Gospel of 16 June 2024

The shrub puts out big branches so that the birds can shelter in it

Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds: ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’

He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.

Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.

Reflection on the painting

Our painting is the work of James Hautman, one of the three Hautman brothers who are among America’s leading contemporary wildlife artists. Specializing in bird life, James’s artistry is evident in the striking burst of colors that vividly capture the essence of avian beauty. This piece showcases his unique talent and contributes to the renowned legacy of the Hautman family in the realm of wildlife art.

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that grows into the biggest shrub of all and 'puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade'. It is easy to see why Jesus used this analogy. Majestic trees are magnificent to look at. They convey might and power, just like the kingdom of God. But, Jesus is not mentioning a large tree here that the seed is growing into. No, he mentions that the seed will grow into a 'shrub'. A shrub doesn't sound all that attractive really. In that, Jesus is telling us not to worry about the size of the shrubs or the trees we will grow into. Some may indeed grow into majestic trees but others will simply grow into small but mighty and powerful little shrubs. Size doesn't matter, as long as we are fruitful and can attract 'the birds of the air that can shelter in the shade'.

Today's reading reminds me of an anecdote about Mother Teresa, illustrating the humble beginnings of her expansive ministry. At the start, she approached her superiors with a seemingly insignificant offering—just three pennies—and a request to build an orphanage. Her superiors skeptically noted that three pennies were insufficient for such a project. Mother Teresa responded with gentle conviction, “I know what you are saying, but with God and three pennies, I can do anything.” The rest is history. Like the biblical mustard seed, her modest start burgeoned into a vast network of centres providing shelter for the homeless... a vast network of homeless centres which are as branches providing shelter...

Share this Gospel Reading

Did you like this Gospel reading and art reflection?

Join in the discussion about this artwork & Gospel reading

Subscribe
Notify of
32 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jamie Cardinal
Member
Jamie Cardinal
1 month ago

Today in America is Father’s Day.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY …..
and a special Happy Father’s Day to Father Patrick.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 month ago
Reply to  Jamie Cardinal

It is here in the UK too!

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
1 month ago

My post has disappeared, after waiting for approval – heigh-ho! Have a good day, everyone – I rather like the American version “y’all”, so y’all, too!

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeanne M

It has returned Noelle!

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 month ago

Someone once asked me what Jesus meant when he spoke about the kingdom? I have to admit I struggled to reply. Is it just somewhere we hope to go? An eternal city where we live in complete bliss? A kingdom that is yet to be built on this Earth- one we are all striving to create what we believe that Kingdom should be? It is a concept I have always struggled with.
Yet I listened to another podcast on this gospel reading by a Dominican sister, who gave the fullest explanation of this parable I have ever heard. I wish I knew how to post the link because I thought it was a great listen.

I will try and relate the main points of what she said from memory, and some of my own thoughts I’ve added since.
The kingdom of God is not a metaphorical place but a person- a person of divine creation, spirit and humanity. This kingdom works unseen and often undetected outside of our awareness. Only when the seeds of grace come to fruition do we realise its presence. This is the culmination of God’s grace working in the world.

Jesus then goes on to talk about the mustard seed. Such a tiny thing. Jesus is that mustard seed- the tiniest germ of a person that grew in the womb of Mary- almost without any recognition. Jesus led a hidden life for thirty years, growing and being shaped into the man whose mission came to fruition on a cross and in a tomb. No one knew this until after the spirit was sent to enable the harvest of the church to begin.

That church itself- the very embodiment of the kingdom, grew from a very small huddle of people into the universal church we see in the world today. Sometimes we are invisible to others, they have no idea that this unseen work takes place, every day, every moment without their awareness.

The kingdom of God is Jesus Himself, and we come into His Kingdom through Him, with Him and in Him. This is what Mother Theresa knew when she went to her superiors, as Father Patrick said.

We come to our own shelter in the branches of tree of love, where we are all welcome and given safe haven. We just have to flap our wings and fly there.

This leads us to the final paragraph and why Jesus explains things to the disciples later. This wasn’t an exclusive act, as if the meaning was a hidden secret that not everyone had access to. The disciples were those that sought the explanation, and followed him.

We do the same, and if we wait and accept the small and invisible workings of grace then we too will come to understand.

God is good.

Have a restful and peaceful Sunday.

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
1 month ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

👍👍🌼 Thank you, SfG, you too.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jeanne M
Thimas@
Member
Thimas@
1 month ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

You are certainly doing a good job at trying to unravel a mystery SFG. However I’m not certain that mother Teresa was quite as good as portrayed and I kind of shudder when she is referred to. Here is an excerpt from somebody who worked with her. : she had a warped world view which glorified suffering, she should be a role model for nobody. According to those who’ve volunteered there, Teresa’s free clinics provided care that was at best rudimentary and haphazard and at worst unsanitary and dangerous, despite the enormous amounts of donations she received. Multiple volunteers at Teresa’s clinics, such as Mary Loudonand Susan Shields, have testified to the inadequate care provided to the dying. Despite routinely receiving millions of dollars in donations, Teresa deliberately kept her clinics barren and austere, lacking all but the most rudimentary and haphazard care.

Jamie Cardinal
Member
Jamie Cardinal
1 month ago
Reply to  Thimas@

Saint Mother Teresa pray for us and pray for those who want to distract from your mission.
As Saint Mother Teresa taught us: no one deserves to die alone…everyone has dignity…..
if we suffer it is NOT because God has abandoned us. We are loved and God is love.
Saint Mother Teresa as you often told us: suffering is not good in itself……..
to quote CS Lewis:
““suffering is not good in itself. What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, his submission to the will of God, and, for the spectators, the compassion aroused and the acts of mercy to which it leads.”
Saint Mother Teresa thank you for teaching us about empathy and compassion.
Saint Mother Teresa taught us that we should have compassion for the poor and the marginalized………
the abandoned people that were dying of AIDS in 1980’s homophobic NYC
to the lonely beggars in India dying in the street…everyone is loved by God.
Every life has meaning…God is love.
The mission of Saint Mother Teresa was to show us where Christ is!

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nation will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

VIVA VIVA PALESTINA! FREE PALESTINE! END THE GENOCIDE!

Saint Mother Teresa pray for us and intercede for us…..Pray that PEACE comes to us!
The devil and his minions tried to advocate against you and they believed in war and death.
Help us and intercede for us for peace and LIFE.
Oh Saint Mother Teresa your mission LIVES and will triumph over the devil’s advocate’s mission of death and war.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 month ago
Reply to  Thimas@

Others may disagree Thimas.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 month ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Indeed SFG. I will address those scurrilous comments of Thimas tomorrow..

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 month ago

Is it this one, or the ‘sower’ that ends with ‘Listen, anyone who has ears!” ? I think CA, for me, is one of the places where I can hear oh so familiar passages anew. We need that.
Such beauty in nature. I quite often look online at the bird webcams at Cornell University – many of the species in today’s painting are seen. The bright red Cardinal, frequently! They also have an app you can get on your phone to identify birdsong. I used it a lot in the forests in Spain where you could hear an absolute clamour of song. It’s excellent.

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
1 month ago

Well remembered about the ears, Patricia. And “he who has eyes” would be good here.

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
1 month ago

When I was about 11yrs old I joined a Natural History Society attached to.our local museum. We lived on the outskirts of a town, already surrounded by trees and birds, but then we went on nature walks down the lost lanes of Kent, learning the country names for flowers and trees, what they were used for, and which was edible; how to spot birds’ nests – look, don’t touch – and identify trees and bird song. I thank God for those experiences, but I grieve and worry for children who don’t know anything about the rich and complex world that surrounds them, for, as Jesus knew, the natural world teaches us so much. One of my favourite small charities is Farms for City Children, started by the author Sir Michael Morpurgo and his wife, Clare, where children live, work with livestock and explore the countryside for a week. Learning to care for and respect animals is one step away from caring for and respecting people.
Such lovely colourful birds. Our birds in UK are not so bright, but just as precious:
“The robin and the wren are God Almighty’s cock and hen / the martin and the swallow are God Almighty’s bow and arrow.” (Traditional rhyme).

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeanne M

This is so true Noelle, thankfully my grandchildren love the outdoors and they both live in cities. I also treasure the walks we went on as children, with school and with family. One of the benefits of lockdown was people connecting with their local environment. I know I’m lucky to live in a place of very humble beauty, but it sustains me so much.

I had a wren nesting in my small backyard this spring, in a battered little bird box my sister bought me during the pandemic. Seeing those little birds using it as their home was such a blessing. They have gone now but I was told they will return in the spring- is this right? I hope so.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 month ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

She stopped to pose for today’s painting though…☺️

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
1 month ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

I don’t know for sure, SfG, but I do hope so. Seeing them rushing around, always in a hurry, and hearing their loud, confident song gives such joy.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jeanne M
Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeanne M

Me too! I was brought up in Westbourne Park (now for some reason called Notting Hill🤔) a very busy part of London.
However, my aunt bought a house backing on to fields in a leafy lane in Kent. Staying with her in the school holidays, I discovered hedgerows, woods and the wonder of birds. It ignited a passion I retain to this day.

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
1 month ago

Great memories, Patricia, such a privilege.

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
1 month ago

We lived near NH for a short while, I can still remember the fireweed flowering all over the bombsites……rosebay willowherb?

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeanne M

Yep a common and much disdained flower. It grows by the side of railways tracks here- never heard it called firweed though, not sure which name I prefer?

Rya Lucas
Member
Rya Lucas
1 month ago

This morning, after reading this gospel, I could only bow my head and say: “Thank you, God, for Your power to give LIFE!! For the little seeds that grow to trees in which birds can built their nests and we find shadow, that grow to food for men. Thank You for the trees, the flowers, the grass, the babies that are born as little wonders; they give joy to me and all mankind. Thank You, God, that You are my Father. Thank You for Your Son, Jesus, in whom I am safe and secure, in spite of all sorrow and sadness in my life.
Thank You, my Lord and my God.

Geweldige-God
Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
1 month ago
Reply to  Rya Lucas

Beautiful, Rya, thanks and God bless you.

Rya Lucas
Member
Rya Lucas
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeanne M

Thanks, Noelle and God Bless you too.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 month ago
Reply to  Rya Lucas

Thankyou so much for your wonderful reflection Rya.

Rya Lucas
Member
Rya Lucas
1 month ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Thanks SfG. God Bless you.

Monica Doyle
Member
Monica Doyle
1 month ago

Morning All! Echoes of.. “I am the vine, you are the branches.” Outside my open window there is a tree with many dead branches, yet the most beautiful birds gather there and sing! This morning ( so far) only one little fella appeared, indistinguishable from the dead branches yet singing his heart out… Such is The Kingdom of God!

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 month ago
Reply to  Monica Doyle

How can we not love the birds and the trees?

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
1 month ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Good morning, SfG. In my banned post I spoke about my grief and worry for the children who have no experience of these beautiful creations, fundamental to our world. Thank God there is a considerable ground swell towards the preservation and encouragement of nature, I think it is widely taught now in our schools.

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeanne M

…banned post which has reappeared, you never know where they’ll end up!

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeanne M

It keeps us on our toes!

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
1 month ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Indeed it does! I thought it might have been the mention of a secular charity…

David Jones
Member
David Jones
1 month ago

Wonderful – the art and your thoughts Father – Blessings

Readings related to Mark 4:26-34

23 June 2024

Mark 4:35-41

Even the wind and the sea obey him

28 January 2022

Mark 4:26-34

The kingdom of God is a mustard seed growing in...

31 January 2020

Mark 4: 26-34

The kingdom of God is a mustard seed growing

29 January 2021

Mark 4:26-34

The Kingdom of God is like a Mustard Seed

Join our community

In addition to receiving our Daily Gospel Reading and Art Reflection, signing up for a free membership allows you to: 

The mission of Christian Art is to offer a daily Gospel Reading paired with a related work of art and a short reflection. Our goal is to help people grow closer to God through the magnificent pairing of art and the Christian faith.

CONNECT WITH US

Join over 70,000 people who receive our daily Gospel Reading and Art Reflection

Skip to content