This Sunday's Parable of the Sower for July 10, 2011 - 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - is plain. The seed sown is the word of God. The sower is our Lord Jesus Christ, by himself, or by his ministers. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with family, friends and church groups.
To respond to this parable adequately, we must view it from two different angles. The first is to look at the story as if we are the seed. On the other hand, we can look at the parable as if we were the farmer. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio tells us that as seed, our job is to get busy growing. As farmers, our job is to get busy sowing.
Hearing God’s Word
In no other instance does Jesus take such great pain to explain a parable more than in this one. Much of this story is about how many of us for various reasons do not receive what God wants to plant within us and then bring to fruition. And what God is planting is His word. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. explains that the sense of hearing cannot be better employed than in hearing God's word. He urges us to look to ourselves that we may know what sort of hearers we are.
Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB offers this as the positive spiritual teaching of Sunday's readings - we must allow God to plant the rich soil within us. He explains that we are not capable on our own but we know with certitude that God wants the best for us and so God wants us to be rich soil. To Fr. Charles Irvin, its important message is Jesus' promise that if we respond to and receive His gifts, His plantings, they will achieve their purpose and return yields in fantastic results.
Trusting in the Abundance of God
Too often this parable has been used to emphasize what happens to the seed -- carried away by the devil, dying from a lack of roots, choked by the cares and wealth and pleasures of this life. But how often have we considered the lavishness and generosity of God -- throwing the seed in every direction? God, from everything we can see, is so rich in love and mercy that He can afford to be wasteful, over-generous, and non-discriminating beyond our imaginations.
Jesus invites us to trust God. That's the invitation: To have a sense of God's abundance so as to risk always a bigger heart and generosity beyond the instinctual fear that has us believe that, because things seem scarce, we need to be more calculating. So must we pretend to be rich soil, though we know our shallowness? Fr. John Foley, S. J. says No. we must must fully be ourselves and allow God to do the rest.
In order therefore to be generous and big-hearted, Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us, we have to first trust in God's abundance and generosity. And so while we persevere through the storms of life, college student Catherine Stallings reminds us never to forget that our ultimate goal is Heaven.
Responding to God's Word
In Sunday's gospel according to St. Matthew, Father Cusick explains, our Lord recommends that we study and understand our faith, that we persevere in the times we've lost enthusiasm and that we practice detachment from the things of this world in preference to the gospel. The Word of God is spoken to us and we receive it and we make it welcome. It grows in us and is reflected in the way we live our lives.
But that is not all. Because we then open our mouths and speak the very same words. The task of the Christian is great but not burdensome because proclaiming the Word of God is our greatest privilege, our highest joy. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino tells us that we can be the good soil that returns to the Lord fruit beyond our imagination, but not beyond His imagination.
This week may the Word take root in our lives, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB prays. If we allow it to penetrate beneath the surface, we will begin to find ourselves, and find the areas of ourselves which seemed lost or broken, abandoned or forgotten, "unplugged" or "turned off" to the transforming power of God.
To be "humble of heart"
For many of us, the tendency to be stiff-necked to God's will is gradually softened by the power of grace, the medicine of the sacraments, instruction by God’s Word, and the humility that can come from these. But for some, however, Msgr. Charles Pope says the stubbornness never abates. In fact it grows even stronger as a descent into pride, and an increasing hard-heartedness sets up.
Stacy Trasancos, a convert from the Baptist church, offers herself as the perfect example of the lost and broken. Her life has been full of self-induced pain. She tells her story because as shameful as it is, it is real and needs to be told so others will know the dangers of life without a moral compass.
Indeed, it is much easier to be humble in word than humble of heart. In this regard, we turn to the writings of St. Benedict of Nursia who, in the seventh chapter of his Rule, establishes the twelve degrees of humility. Then we reproduce St. Thomas Aquinas' defense of the twelve degrees, recalling that the Angelic Doctor himself learned humility through his schooling under the Holy Rule as a boy.
Active Participation in the Mass
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a participation in the eternal liturgy of Heaven at which Christ is the celebrant. The priest, we know, signifies Christ and acts in the person of Christ. What do the laity signify? The Eastern Cherubikon, or Cherubic Hymn, describes the Catholic faithful as "mystically representing the Cherubim." Taylor Marshall offers a great piece on becoming active participants in the Mass. He says we have to be like Mary and the angels
It's easier said than done specially when you're parish is in a bit of a turmoil, like Rachel Balducci's. The parish is in the midst of another priest turnover. It's their third in five years. She offers great spiritualy in this article where she explains how this challenge portrays to his parish members what Catholicism is truly all about.
And by the way, we are reminded by Taylor Marshall that July is the month dedicated to the Precious Blood of Jesus. He says among devotions to the humanity of Christ (e.g., Divine Infancy, Sacred Heart), the Precious Blood of Jesus has the most biblical precedent since it is mentioned so frequently in the New Testament (over 75 times). Perhaps your family can include this Litany of the Precious Blood after your evening rosary this month of July.
Catholicism, Science & Magic
Is the classic definition of theology -- "the science of faith" -- actually a contradiction in itself? Does faith not cease to be faith when it becomes science? And does not science cease to be science when it is ordered or even subordinated to faith? Along this line, Pope Benedict reminded theologians gathered at the Vatican this week that God Isn't a Science Experiment. He also told a separate group that there is nothing magic in Christianity, no shortcuts, but God is patiently renewing humanity along the same path that Jesus followed. And still from the Vatican, it was announced this week that Pope Benedict will consecrate the youth to the Sacred Heart of Jesus during the prayer vigil at World Youth Day.
Here's an interesting question: Should Anointing of the Sick be given before surgery? No. Many of the Christian faithful (indeed, even many of the priests) are of the mistaken opinion that serious life-threatening surgery is, in itself, a cause for the administration of the sacrament of Anointing. Read the entire explanation here.
Marriage is a Vocation, not a Lifestyle
Once marriage was a vocation; now it is a lifestyle. As such, today it is little more than a legal sanctioning of two people’s sexual complementarity, usually involving an emotional bond, a general notion of physical exclusivity, financial intermingling, and the option of children. Gabriel Torretta explains the development of the Married Lifestyle and the role we played in making it such. While Anthony Buono asks whether unconditional love is realistic for Marriage? He anwers by explaining that it is indeed a popular notion that the love between a man and a woman should be unconditional. In fact, however, he says it’s humanly impossible to sustain such a situation. Sustaining such a situation would require God’s grace.
From Canada, their bishops came up with a much-needed pastoral letter that addresses same-sex attraction. Among other things, they explained that a human person is much more than just a sexual orientation or an identification with the homosexual or heterosexual lifestyle. Stressing the Catholic teaching that "every human person is a unique and irreplaceable gift created by our loving God," and must be treated with respect and dignity, the commission went on to clarify that it is the homosexual act, not the inclination, that is deemed immoral. Please take the time to read this and educate yourself regarding this issue that is a painful one among many Catholic families.
Summer for Kids & More
Got kids? Got summer? Got no do-re-mi? As it happens,Simcha Fisher is an expert in all three of these conditions. So, as the weeks of vacation spread out before us and she contemplates how much longer she can bear to listen to her sons doing what they think is an appropriate way to spend the day, she offers up this list of actual doable activities for the broke, low-energy parent with a houseful of restless kids of various ages. It's her Ten Cheap, Stupid Ideas For Summer With Kids.
And lastly, here's a technology video you must watch. The unbelievable 3D technology it demonstrates is a blast from the future. 3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing technology where a three dimensional object is created by laying down successive layers of materials. But enough with the boring technical mumbo jumbo. Just watch the video and be prepared to go "Wow!"
Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a happy and blessed new week.
Keep the Faith. Peace.
Publisher & Editor in chief
BURNING QUESTION: Is it Better to Pray or To Study the Faith?
FEATURED BLOG: A Person Is More Than a Sexual Orientation
PASTORAL HISPANA: La fecundidad de la Palabra
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