We are all familiar with the hymn, “We walk by faith, not by sight,” that describes the meaning of the readings for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time.

This is a direct quote from the second reading: “We are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5: 6-10)

It takes courage to be a person of faith in today’s world, but it has always taken courage to be a person of faith. The martyrology of the Church reveals the courage it takes to walk by faith and become a living parable of faith to others. The parable of the seed scattered and sown tells us that the kingdom of God does not start out as some large presence in the world but rather grows with each seed of faith that is sown. “Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, the ear, then the full grain in the ear.” (Mark 4:28)

When St. Tertullian wrote in the year 197 A.D. that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians,” he was speaking about how with each Christian life laid down for Christ out of faith, the kingdom of God grew by leaps and bounds. Thus, this also explains the second parable in Sunday’s Gospel: “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” (Mark 4:26-34)

The first reading from Ezekiel 17:22-24 uses the same imagery as the Gospel of Mark 4:26-34; this imagery promises the restoration of the people of Israel. The people of Israel are compared to a great cedar tree that will grow from a tender shoot. This metaphor for the promised future kingdom is the hope of an Israel that is in exile in Babylon. God will make the withered tree that is Israel bloom again by re-establishing the kingdom and nation. The prophetic words of Ezekiel are spoken to give the people of Israel faith and courage.

The courage of faith brings about the kingdom of God and the faith is lived out through very ordinary experiences as well as the extraordinary experiences of life. A living parable is when our lives become a teaching witness for others. That witness may not be seen clearly by others or even understood by others. A person who is a living parable witnesses to the truth of Christ with their lives. Since we are called to be people of courage and we walk by faith not by sight, we then are called to be living parables pointing the way to Christ’s kingdom. Each of our lives becomes then an experience of Christ poured out for others in the same way the blood of the martyrs become the seeds of Christian faith. Our lives, poured out as a living parable, help to grow the kingdom.

There are many examples of what it means to be a living parable: the parent who sacrifices for their child’s education and well-being, or the doctors and nurses who put their lives on the line to save the lives of those stricken by the coronavirus. These and so many other examples achieve the same result: by living out our faith we help grow the kingdom and by growing the kingdom we bring more people to faith. The psalm for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time calls us to give thanks by living our lives as a living parable, “Lord it is good to give thanks to you.” (Psalm 92:2) The seed is not just randomly scattered and thrown, it lands on the soil the Lord prepared, by the blood that was shed on the cross and by the blood of the martyrs which follows the example of Christ, the greatest of all living parables.