Immersed in Christ: July 12, 2020
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
We are Called to Nurture Seeds with “Steadfast Love”
Have you ever wondered why God’s words seem to have such a small effect on people? Why, after two thousand years of Christianity, is there still so much injustice and violence in the world? Where is the “reign of God”?
The Entrance Antiphon celebrates the joy of seeing God’s glory: “In my justice I shall see your face, O Lord; when your glory appears, my joy will be full” (Psalm 16). But the Responsorial Psalm reminds us that the joy of seeing God’s glory is conditional on being “good ground” receptive to his word: “The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest” (Psalm 64). The reign of God waits on the response of humans.
In the Opening Prayer(s) we profess our belief that the Father’s “light of truth guides us to the way of Christ.” This way leads through “a world filled with lights contrary to your own.” And so we ask that “all who follow him may reject what is contrary to the Gospel,” so that “your love may make us what you have called us to be.” The readings develop this theme.
Isaiah 55: 10-11 makes it clear that God’s word is fertile seed: “My word… shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” The problem is not with God’s word, with God’s teaching, God’s instruction, God’s guidance. The problem is with us and our response to God’s word. But before we look at the readings which explain this, we should first stop and affirm the basic, underlying, immutable truth which we need to keep in mind always: God’s word achieves its purpose. It is good seed. “The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.”
Romans 8: 18-23 acknowledges the reality of our present condition in this world. Even though (see last Sunday’s reading) we are “in the Spirit,” and “the Spirit of God dwells in us”; even though we are “led by the Spirit of God [and] are children of God…. and joint heirs with Christ”; even though we know that “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God”; still, we also know “that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” Our spirits have been set free by grace, by our sharing in the divine life of God, but as long as we are in the flesh of our bodies in this world, we are subject to the world’s physical influences. We are surrounded by the spirit of this world embodied in words, actions, patterns of behavior that influence, entice and inhibit us, so that we cry out with St. Paul, “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members!… Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
The answer, of course, is, “Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. And even though his way leads through “a world filled with lights contrary to his own” we know that “all who follow him” are empowered to “reject what is contrary to the Gospel,” so that his love “may make us what he has called us to be.” God’s word has power to save. “The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.”
Good and bad ground
Matthew 13: 1-23 explains why God’s words do not always bear fruit. Jesus is not a unilateral Savior. He wants the human race to play an active part in its own salvation. God doesn’t scoop us up like inert matter and deposit us in heaven. This would discredit God the Creator by saying that the human nature he designed could be corrupted so totally by sin – by human action — that even God’s divine power could not make it truly operative again.
The “parable of the sower” gave the people of Jesus’ time the surprising revelation that God would not establish the Kingdom without human cooperation. Jesus tells us what blocks our response to his word: 1. enslavement to the “beaten path“ of culture which makes the Gospel message unintelligible to us, something we simply cannot relate to; 2. failure to reflect deeply on his words until they take root in decisions (the “rocky ground” of shallow listening); and 3. attachment of heart to the things of this world (the “thorns” that “choke the word”).
Conscious of this, Christian ministers, if they want their ministry to be effective, must both model and foster 1. emancipation from the culture through radical acceptance of Jesus as Savior; 2. the discipleship of deep reflection that leads to personal choices; and 3. commitment to a life of continual conversion (change) in prophetic witness against the darkness and destructive practices of established human society.
For the seed to grow, however, the ministers must build and maintain the “good ground” of Christian community, where seeds can be cultivated and grow together. This is the work of all who are priests by Baptism.
If we live out the five commitments of our Baptism by doing all of the above, then God’s power, working in and through us as stewards of the kingship of Christ, will establish the Reign of God on earth: “a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace” (Preface for the Mass of Christ the King). We will “renew the face of the earth.” “The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.” Then, “when his glory appears, our joy will be full.”
(For a development of the five commitments of Baptism, see Reaching Jesus — Five Steps to a Fuller Life. The Parable of the Sower is explained in His Word. Both books are available through www.immersedinchrist.com).
Do I believe things will change if people take God’s word seriously? Will I do it?
By word and, above all, by example, encourage people to reflect seriously on God’s word every day, responding with choices
View Today's Readings Here