Friday, July 27, 2012
1) Opening prayer
be merciful to your people.
Fill us with your gifts
and make us always eager to serve you
in faith, hope and love.
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 13,18-23
Jesus said to his disciples: 'So pay attention to the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the Evil One comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the seed sown on the edge of the path.
The seed sown on patches of rock is someone who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. But such a person has no root deep down and does not last; should some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, at once he falls away.
The seed sown in thorns is someone who hears the word, but the worry of the world and the lure of riches choke the word and so it produces nothing.
And the seed sown in rich soil is someone who hears the word and understands it; this is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.'
• Context. Beginning with chapter 12 on the one side we see there is opposition between the religious heads of Israel, the Scribes and the Pharisees, on the other side, within the crowds who listen to Jesus and are admired because of his marvellous actions, gradually, little by little a group of disciples is being formed, still of uncertain features, but who follow Jesus with perseverance. To twelve of these disciples Jesus has given the gift of his authority and of his power; he has sent them as messengers of the Kingdom, giving them demanding and radical instructions (10, 5-39). Now at the moment when controversy breaks out with his opponents, Jesus recognizes his true kinship, not in the lines of the flesh (mother, brothers), but in those who follow him, listen to him and fulfil the will of the Father (12, 46-50). This last account offers us the possibility to imagine that the audience to whom Jesus addressed his words is two-fold: on the one side the disciples to whom he has given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom (13.11) and who have the possibility to understand them (13, 50) and on the other side the crowds who seem to be deprived of this deep understanding (13, 11.34-36). Before the large crowds which gather together to listen to Jesus is presented, above all, the parable of the sower. Jesus speaks about a seed that falls or not on the earth. Its growth depends on the place where it falls; it is possible that it be hindered so that it cannot bear fruit. This is what happens in the first three types of earth “along the road side” (the ground hardened by the passing of men and animals), “the rocky earth” (formed by rocks), «on the thorns” (it is the earth covered with thorns). Instead, the seed that falls on “good ground” bears excellent fruit even if at different levels. The reader is directed to be more attentive to the yield of the grain than to the gesture of the sower. Besides, Matthew focuses the attention of the listener on the good earth and the fruit that this earth is capable of producing in an exceptional manner.
The first part of the parable ends with an admonition: “Anyone who has ears should listen” (v. 9); it is an appeal to the liberty of the listener. The word of Jesus may remain a “parable” for a crowd incapable to understand; it can reveal “the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven” for those who allow themselves to be upset or affected by its force. It is the acceptance of the Word of Jesus that distinguishes the disciples from the indeterminate crowds; the faith of the first ones reveals the blindness of the others and obliges them to look “beyond” the parable.
• To listen and to understand. It is always Jesus who leads the disciples on the right path for the understanding of the parable. In the future through the disciples, it is the Church to be guided in the understanding of the Word of Jesus. In the explanation of the parable the pair of two verbs “to listen” and “to understand” appears in 13, 33: That which has been sown in the good ground is the one who listens to the Word and understands it...” It is in the understanding that the disciple is distinguished, the one who daily listens to the Word of Jesus, from the crowds which, instead, listen to it occasionally.
• Hindrances to understanding. Jesus recalls, above all, the negative response to his preaching on the Kingdom of Heaven given by his contemporaries. Such a negative response is bound to the diverse impediments among them. The earth on the edge of the road; is that transformed by passers by into a trodden road; it is totally negative: “Throw the seeds on the pavement of the street, everybody knows that it serves nothing: the necessary conditions for growth do not exist. And, then people go by, step over it, and ruin the seed. The seed should not be thrown just any place” (Carlos Mesters). Above all, there is the personal responsibility of the individual: to accept God’s Word in one’s own heart; on the contrary, if it falls on a “trodden” heart, which is obstinate because of its own convictions and indifferent, he sides with the evil one who completes that persisting attitude of closeness to the Word of God. Then the rocky earth: If the first impediment was constituted by an insensitive, indifferent heart, now the image of the seed that falls on the rocks, on stones, and among bushes indicates a heart immersed in a superficial and worldly life. Such life styles are energies that prevent the Word of God to bear fruit. They begin to listen, but immediately it is blocked, not only by tribulations and trials that are unavoidable, but also because of the involvement of the heart in concerns and riches. It is a life that is not profound but superficial, worldly, it is similar to instability. The good earth: is the heart that listens and understands the Word; this one bears fruit. Such fruit is the work of the Word in the heart that accepts it. It is a question of an active understanding, that allows itself to get involved by God’s action present in the Word of Jesus. The understanding of his Word will continue to be inaccessible if we neglect the encounter with Him and, therefore, we do not allow it to overflow in us.
4) Personal questions
• Does listening lead to the deep understanding of God’s Word or does it remain only an intellectual exercise?
• Are you a heart that accepts, that is available, docile to attain to a full understanding of the Word?
5) Concluding Prayer
The Law of Yahweh is perfect, refreshment to the soul;
The precepts of Yahweh are honest,
light for the eyes. (Ps 19,7-8)