Sunday, July 10, is the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
July 11 is the feast of St. Benedict. For a nice overview of his life, search on YouTube for EWTN travel veterans Bob and Penny Lord’s video.
Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 65:10-14; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23 or 13:1-9
Today’s Gospel is the parable of the Sower. It’s a multilayered Gospel. Here are a few key points:
1. The Sower is the Church.
Moral: The Church gives the word of God to the whole earth, without discrimination.
It seems almost a waste the way the Sower throws seed here, there and everywhere. But that’s how we are supposed to do it. While it is true that we must pick our battles, beware of the cop-out “Aw, X doesn’t need to hear from me about the Gospel. For X, that’s someone else’s job.” A great example of this is St. Isaac Jogues. He preached the Gospel to a people and region that never became Catholic. But apart from the fact that his story still inspires us today, his “failed” work yielded Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, whose memorial is July 14.
2. We are the seed plus the soil.
Moral: Our effectiveness is based on our ability to allow God’s word to act in us.
Here’s how Jesus put it: “The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word …” We can fall into the trap of thinking we are seeds, forcing ourselves to grow by our own strength. But that’s not possible. And we also aren’t just the soil, stuck with being either rocky, thorny or trampled. We are both responsible for receiving the seed, internalizing it, and then letting it grow out of us. We need to remove obstacles to the word from our lives: the rocks and weeds of bad habits and our propensity to put ourselves in the way of the trampling feet of the culture (via bad media, bad company and bad pursuits).
3. The evil one is the devil.
Moral: Our first adversary is supernatural.
When we “hear the word without understanding it,” the word in our hearts becomes vulnerable to being stolen away. Think of Eve. She heard God’s word telling her not to eat the fruit in the garden, but was quick to accept Satan’s whispered suggestions. Compare Eve to the Blessed Mother, who “pondered these things in her heart.”
4. Roots are habits.
Moral: Our will needs to follow our intellect.
Commentators say that this parable is an example of the Christian’s battle with “the world, the flesh and the devil.” If the rocky seed is the devil, the rootless seed is the flesh. The idea is that if our faith stays superficial, we will still be the slave of our own human nature. We need to sink deeper roots. That only happens when we let the word affect not just how we feel, but what we do. Build up the habit of conquering your superficiality: Skip a soda; turn off the TV; do your bills instead of surfing the Internet.
5. The thorns are the world.
Moral: Gathering the world’s roses means a handful of thorns.
The world’s allure is powerful — and we tend to overestimate how much of it we can handle. The world offers fashion, fascination and frivolity that can draw one close only to entangle, so we must be vigilant.
As Paul tells us in the second reading, given the cost-benefit analysis, staying on God’s path is well worth it.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas.