First Reading: Isaiah 55:10-11
Second Reading: Romans 8:18-23
Gospel Acclamation: 1 Samuel 3:9, John 6:68
This week, we are going to come at the Readings backwards. We will begin with the end in mind, as St Thomas Aquinas used to say. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells us the parable of the sower. I’m sure we’ve heard it many times before. But let us renew our hearts to receive it anew and ask the Lord to open things up to us that we may have never seen before. I encourage you to read at least the Gospel carefully, anytime between now and this Sunday’s Mass, and meditate on Jesus’ words and think about what kind of soil your life might be for the seed, that is, the Word of God spoken of in the First Reading.
“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 man who received the seed on the edge of the path. The one who received it on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once. The one who received the seed in thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word and so he produces nothing. And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.”
Moving on to the Second Reading, from St Paul’s letter to the Romans, we have an exhortation from St Paul to persevere! As Jesus has alluded to in the Gospel, trials and temptations will come to us, and must come to us. St Peter emphasises this fact in his own epistle: “… now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 1:6-7). St Paul, then, tells us the same thing in clearer terms and with a greater emphasis on what comes later: “I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us.” It’s a simple statement; but it’s packed with hope!
In addition, there is still another sentence in the same reading that gives us great hope and encouragement but is easier to miss: “but creation still retains the hope of being freed, like us, from its slavery to decadence, to enjoy the same freedom and glory as the children of God.” That's us! We have been freed from slavery. Slavery to what? To sin! Haven’t you ever realised that every time we sin we think “I just couldn’t say ‘no.’” Or, “It was too strong; I had no choice.” Or something like similar? Those are the words of a slave. Those are the words of an addict. Those are the words of a sinner. Jesus says in John 8:34, “Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin.” But we have been freed! By the grace that we receive at every worthy reception of any Sacrament, we are freed from sin and its chains. We no longer have no choice. We are free to choose. Choose wisely.
Lastly, our First Reading, perhaps the shortest First Reading found in the Lectionary (the book that the Readings are read from in Mass), unlocks the rest of our Readings in two ways.
First, this Reading shows us that God’s will is creative. Let me explain. God doesn’t do things the way we do things. We might think about making a car, then we plan how we are going to do it, and then we slowly execute the plan via a long process. God doesn’t do things that way. As soon as God desires a car to exist, the car exists in all its perfection; there is no process. If God was not thinking about the car after that, the car would cease to exist. His will holds all things together. That means that if you find yourself existing right now, God is thinking about you! This goes for everyone; even people in Hell. God will never stop loving you and therefore you will never stop existing. If you didn’t quite understand this point, don’t worry. As humans in this life before heaven, we have never had first-hand experience of this way of being and so it’s almost impossible for us to even conceive of it fully.
Now, if God’s will is such as this and God wills us to be holy and to be saints that we might dwell eternally united to Him, we should be living with much greater hope and a much greater expectation that He will bring us, with our persevering cooperation, to that end to which He has destined us. St Paul speaks to exactly this in Philippians 1:6 when he says, “And I am sure that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” But only if we don’t hinder Him
The second way the First Reading unlocks the rest of the Readings is by implying that the “seed” in our Readings is also called the “Word” in other readings. And even a cursory reading of John 1:1 and John 1:14 tells us that the “Word,” and therefore “seed” in our Readings, is none other than Jesus.
So I’m the soil and Jesus is sown into me? Right! Many times again, and again, and in various ways through the Sacraments. But in no way like will happen this Sunday during Mass where Jesus will give Himself to you and me, though unworthy, in His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity that His own life of grace might grow into a great and mighty tree that will spring up to eternal life. The Kingdom of God is inside you. Pray to the Father and He, with your cooperation, will make your soil rich.
“Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
See you next week on Seeking the Word!
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