Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, (July 13, 2008) Mt. 13: 1-23
Today’s Gospel is commonly referred to as the Parable of the Sower. The Sower, of course, is Jesus who comes to sow his word among us. And the fruitfulness of that word, that seed, how much good it does, is going to be dependent on you and me and our openness and willingness to receive it and put it into practice. This parable acknowledges the free will that God gave us all when he created us. I can accept his Word or not. If I accept it, I will bear fruit. If I do not accept it, I will not bear fruit but will remain stagnant and very human. It is as simple as that.
The parable goes on to give four different ways the word of God can be received by us. I suspect that as we progress through our lives, we all experience at one time or another all four of these ways. The fourth way is where we belong as followers of Christ and let us hope we end up there with Jesus’ help.
The first possibility is for the word of God to fall on a path where people have walked. The ground has been packed down by many feet walking on it and the seed sown was unable to penetrate the soil to grow. It just laid there and died. For us, this sounds to me like head-trip activity. We receive the word into our minds that are walked on and made impervious by many things and the word of Jesus gets no further. We receive the word into our minds but do nothing to act on it. We do not let it into our hearts and it is useless. It lies there and dies within us.
The second possibility is for the word of God to fall on rocky ground. Again there is little soil. Only that which is interspersed between the rocks. The word finds some of this soil but it is not able to develop roots and eventually it will die. This happens to us when we are enthusiastic on hearing the word of God but then realize that to put it into action is going to take more work and effort than we are willing to put forth. The word then is given up and falls by the wayside.
The third possibility given by the parable is for the word to fall among thorns. In our experience this happens when once again we receive the word into our minds but then the materialistic values of the world weigh against
the word and win. As the Gospel puts it, worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.
The fourth and final possibility is the one we all hope to have happen in our own lives; that we will be truly open and receptive to God’s word, focus on it, concentrate on it, get it into our lives and practice and totally accept its values. Then we bear fruit a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold, as the Gospel says. Then we will reap the rewards of the word of God in the form of joy, happiness and peace in our lives.
It took me many years to even get close to experiencing this fourth possibility and I regret the many years I spent trying to do it my way. Now I am truly grateful to God for finally at least making me aware of and leading me in his way, truth and life. I pray that he will give me the grace to progress yet further in his way and come to completely receive his word that I may bear the fruit he desires of me. But I still have a long way to go.
Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time, (July 14, 2008) Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha
Today the Church celebrates the feast of Kateri Tekakwitha, the “Lily of the Mohawks.” She has the honor of being the first Native American to be declared a Blessed, the final step on the way to canonization. Kateri was born into the Mohawk Tribe near the town of Auriesville, New York., in the year 1656, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior. After her mother and father died of smallpox, she was raised by two aunts and an uncle and converted to Catholicism as a teenager. This didn’t set too well with the other members of the tribe and they saw to it that she suffered much for her faith. She was devoted to a life of prayer and caring for the sick and aged. She also had a great devotion to the Eucharist and to Jesus crucified. Kateri died on April 17, 1680, at the early age of 24. Blessed Kateri is responsible in her own way for the establishing of Native American ministries throughout the United States and Canada. She was beatified in 1980. Her feast day is July 14 and she is one of the patron saints of the environment and ecology.
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us.
Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time, (July 15, 2008) St. Bonaventure
St. Bonaventure (1221-1274), whose feast day we celebrate today, is another of the shining lights of the Franciscan Order. He is known as the “Seraphic Doctor.” He was baptized John, but received the name Bonaventure from St. Francis of Assisi who, foreseeing the future greatness of the child, exclaimed “O Buona Ventura” – O Good Fortune!
Bonaventure entered the Franciscan Order when he was 22 years of age and went on to become a great scholar and leader of the Order. At the age of 35 he was chosen General of the Order and tried to restore it from the many internal dissensions taking place at that time. He is also noted for his Biography of St. Francis of Assisi and for his Itinerarium Mentis Ad
Deum (The Journey of the Mind to God). He died while assisting at the Second Council of Lyons, on July 15, 1274.
St. Bonaventure, pray for us.
Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time, (July 16, 2008) Mt. 11: 25-27
“No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”
Today’s Gospel reminds me of Jesus’ words to Philip elsewhere in the Gospels: “Philip, if you know me, you also know the Father.” One of the main things that Jesus gave to us was the knowledge that God is our Father. This is one of the main things that distinguishes Christianity from all other religions. Jesus made it possible to know the Father personally through our knowledge of him. To see and to know Jesus is to see and know the Father because they are one. Because we know that Jesus loves us unconditionally, that he is compassionate, healing, forgiving, and caring for each of us and listens to our petitions in prayer, we know that the Father is the same.
This knowledge should urge us to give God thanks everyday for the gift of his Son, our Savior, and his Word. Everyday we read the Word of God, I hope! In it we find the practical, the real way, the only way, to the happiness,
joy and peace we all seek. All this and heaven too, as the old saying goes. And we, human as we are, many times take it for granted and let it go in one ear and out the other. Sometimes we are a foolish people, no doubt about it.
Jesus, help us to continue to know you and to hear you word that we may at the same time grow in our knowledge and love of the Father.
Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time, (July 17, 2008) Mt. 11: 28-30
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” At the present time in my life, I am trying to retire a bit from the more active life of the past. I sometimes don’t think I’m doing a whole lot anymore and find myself wishing I could do more. It seems like I spend a lot of time just sitting, reading, writing or watching sports on TV. And it seems like I get more tired now doing just this than when I was working. I used to stay up half the night doing whatever and now I find myself in bed at 9:30. But I have taken God at his word. Now I find more time than I used to have to just sit and pray or think of him and I find the rest that I am seeking. He is truly there to bring peace and quiet and serenity. Just sit quietly and say something like: “Well, Jesus, here I am. Please be with me now and give me your rest and your peace.” And you know what? It works!
These are busy times. It seems that people are just super busy in these times. We are all in a hurry to get somewhere, I’m not quite sure where. I am writing this on the 4th of July and I treated myself to going out to breakfast this morning to begin the holiday. The dear woman that waited on me at the restaurant told me in the course of our conversation that she has 5 children to raise. And there she is at 7:30 in the morning waiting on people in the restaurant. Don’t ask me how she finds the strength to do what she is doing. Raising 5 children would seem to me to be a full time job in itself. She has to be tired and I hope that she somehow finds the time during the day to just sit for a while at the feet of Jesus and listen and enjoy his rest. And I wish the same for all of you.
Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time, (July 18, 2008) Mt. 12: 1-8
Jesus, as we know from the many discussion about the Sabbath in the Gospels, gave new meaning, fulfillment, to the Third Commandment of God: Remember thou, keep holy the Sabbath Day. How many times we read in the Gospels the disagreement between Jesus and the Pharisees over keeping the Sabbath. And as we have previously commented many times, this was one of the main reasons for the Pharisees wanting to kill Jesus.
Observance of the Sabbath is still changing today. I am old enough to remember the so-called blue laws when I was a kid back in the 30’s. These laws prohibited mainly shopping and the purchase of alcoholic beverages on Sunday, the Lord’s Day. My, how things have changed since then!
What about now and the Third Commandment of God? How should we observe this day now? If you ask me, I would respond that it means going to Church and giving an hour or so of the week to the praise, honor and glory of God. To me, keeping holy the Sabbath means to make the day special, to set it apart from the other days in some way. This could apply particularly to some activity as a family. Families are separated today by work and by the many different activities of its members, It seems to me that there has to be a time when we are together as a family with those we love and who love us. Why not make Sunday a special time for this?
Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time, (July 19, 2008) Mt. 12: 14-21
In yesterday’s Gospel and again in today’s Gospel, (Matthew 12) there are two episodes in a row dealing with the Sabbath. Yesterday the Gospel spoke of Jesus and the disciples going through a field of grain on the Sabbath and the disciples picked some of the heads of grain to eat because they were hungry. The ever-watching Pharisees saw this and accused them of “working: on the Sabbath. In today’s Gospel, Jesus cures the man in the synagogue with a withered hand, again on the Sabbath Day. In today’s Gospel Jesus left the area when he learned of the Pharisees wanting to put him to death over this Sabbath controversy. And on and on it goes.
Tomorrow is Sunday. Maybe we should kind of re-read both these Gospels for today and yesterday and decide what we are going to do to make tomorrow a special day for this week.