15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A
“As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth… so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.”
… the edge of the path; … on patches of rock; … among thorns; … on rich soil: [^] … he is without understanding; [^] … there is no root in him; [^] … the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word; [^] … he hears the word and understands it.
Whenever I hear this parable I thankfully remember my time in the Apostolic Nunciature in Berlin. The short corridor to the chapel was decorated with original stained glass windows portraying this parable of the Sower and the Seed and every time I passed when it was light outside the windows offered me a reminder, let’s say an examination of conscience in terms of my responsibility to be a hearer and an “understander” of God’s word; even though I many times sin or fail, as Jesus says to His disciples and to us, I am most fortunate as I am among those who understand, as are you, for by His great gift I was granted access to the mysteries of the Kingdom. As He tells us in today’s Gospel:
“(T)he mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them… in their case this prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled: You will listen and listen again, but not understand, see and see again, but not perceive. For the heart of this nation has grown coarse, their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes, for fear they should see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and be converted and be healed by me.”
This phrase reminds me of a priest up in the U.S. who some people tout as a modern day Fulton J. Sheen. His name is Fr. Robert Barron and he has a network TV program in Chicago, but I know him from a powerful internet presence, especially his videos on YouTube. While he teaches on every imaginable topic, just like Bishop Sheen back in the 1950’s, I wish to mention his attention to the criticism of religion coming from modern day atheists, people on the edge of the path who just don’t get it; they don’t understand or won’t understand God’s word at all. Fr. Barron is of a mind that we should all be trained to answer these critics who reject God and His Church. Father would like to see a revival and not just for priests and seminarians of the study of apologetics, which Webster’s dictionary defines, and I think satisfactorily so for our purposes, as: “1: systematic argumentative discourse in defense (as of a doctrine) 2: a branch of theology devoted to the defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity.” For those of us who know our catechism, it is basically standing up for our faith.
Fr. Barron lives in hope of converting these atheists and that is good, for you and for me an apologetic stance in matters of faith and religion means putting our lamp, the lamp of faith, on the lamp stand where it belongs, and filling our space with light. For us it is first and foremost, as I say, lighting the lamp of truth, the truth which comes from God, and sweeping our house clean to make it ready to receive Christ, our Bridegroom.
We may not always be 100% sure about everything, but we do know and understand. In matters of faith we are not that patch of rocks without depth. Perhaps we could be more profound, we could take things more to heart and try better to understand, but we do know; we do understand. In point of fact it is the worries of this world and the lure of riches that choke the word in our lives.
Speaking of worrying, I worry an awful lot about young people especially, as they are really too exposed to noise and distractions today. One of the things which makes me cringe in traffic, for example, are young people in vehicles seemingly just driving around with very loud music blaring. Too much video and audio stimulation doesn’t deserve to be called stimulation because its effect on us is, has to be numbing. We need to think things through; we need to think things out and that can’t be done with the TV always there to one side or loud music pushing everything out of our space.
Older folk once upon a time listened to music: way back, maybe, there was a program on the radio which received their full attention every Sunday before dinner. I have a friend here in Trinidad who really listens to music yet; she gives it here full attention for that hour or whatever it is and even reads up on the artists or the composer. That is not the kind of sound I’m talking about; that is still an active participation in an art form and not something which just fills what might be an enriching silence and perhaps a space for prayer.
… the edge of the path? … on patches of rock? … among thorns? … on rich soil: where are you? Do a special examination of conscience for yourself on those points! You may not have a corridor of stained glass to remind you of the parable and for that matter neither have I for a long time, but the parable is familiar and easy to remember in its four distinctions; even without props we can still test ourselves for receptivity. God’s word bears fruit in our lives to the extent that we are attentive to the word and allow it a place deep within our hearts and for our lives. Why would anyone reject God and in favor of what? I really cannot imagine.
I wish you a quiet Sunday with space and time for reflection and thought. You may discover that the house of your soul needs sweeping out as it has become cluttered for lack of attention on your part. Let His light shine into every corner, clean well and make room for Him! Take on your mission in the light of His word! Be light and salt for this world of ours, which is often out of touch, without depth and totally distracted!
PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI