Hebrews 10: 11- 18 “But this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God; now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool...”
Psalm 110: 1, 2, 3, 4 “The LORD said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool.’…”
Mark 4: 1-20 “…Those sown among thorns are another sort. They are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit....”
Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (1567-1622) Francis studied theology and law at two schools before becoming a lawyer. To his father’s dismay, his continued discernment led him to choose the priesthood. It is said that his father eventually consented to this decision because of Francis’ gentle persuasiveness. He became a bishop at 35 and wrote many books (the most famous of which is “Introduction to the Devout Live”) and many tracts on our Faith (hand written, he slipped them under the doors of the people who wouldn’t let him into their houses). His single handed persistence led many in the Geneva area back to their Catholic faith after having left to become Calvinists. He is considered the patron saint of journalists. He also gave spiritual direction to the woman who started the contemplative order, Sisters of the Visitation.
From today’s readings I see two themes, the first reading from Hebrews reminds us that throughout the Jewish history of priestly offerings: only Jesus’ offering of himself on the cross has the power to take away sins. I thought of the ministry that each of us has and the sacrifices we make for the sake of the Lord. But, better than all of these sacrifices is the one sacrifice that was made for the forgiveness of sins, and we are all in need of this. Today’s reading feels like a call to the sacrament of reconciliation.
The second theme, found in Mark’s Gospel, is Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the sown seeds. Are you like me, where you listen to one of Jesus’ parables and you think, can you just spell out what you are trying to say for me? Jesus spells out the parable in today’s Gospel reading, you can easily go to the examples he gives and say that’s me, or I’m somewhere between this seed and that seed. So, the seed He says is the Word (another name for Jesus). The first example where the birds eat up the seed that falls on the path, Jesus says this is Satan coming and taking away the Word that was sown. The next is the seed sown on rocky ground, and while the soil receives the Word with joy, the roots don’t have depth. Then when trials and tribulations come because of the Word, the people fall away from the teachings. The Word sown amongst thorns, are the people who hear the Word but they are so consumed with anxiety and the lure of the world that the Word is choked out. And then there are those who hear the Word, in rich soil and bear fruit thirty, sixty and hundredfold. Can’t you just see where you are from this visualization? For myself, I see the Word falling on all of these soils from time to time, in particular, the rocky, the thorny and the rich soils. I know I need to keep plowing the soil (my soul) to be able to receive the richness of the Word. With the help of friends, a commitment to prayer and participation in the sacraments all support the effort of fertilization. Prayer really helps you hear/recognize God’s voice (Word).
So are we being invited to see what shape our soil is in today? Just like young children and teens are heavily influenced by who they hang around with; we too are easily influenced. Staying connected and active with the people from your Church can be a great way to encourage that constant tilling. For me, making a Cursillo weekend has been one of the stronger connections. It started with an invitation from a friend with whom I played softball. My prayer with a weekly Centering Prayer Group helps tremendously as well, not to mention how it has affected my ‘listening to God skills’. Without these influences, I would not feel grounded in my Faith. I’d be like the helium balloon that loses its tether and floats off until something brings it back to earth.
As part of our new year’s resolution, as we work to better our physical selves, might we consider correcting our soil/soul? How will the Word be received tomorrow, next week, for the rest of the year? Will it be received on the path or in rocks or thorns; or will it find your soil rich? Jesus tells us we have a choice, and through His Church offers many aids. Let’s begin that tilling with a good confession, start breaking up the soil. Seek out some good retreats and spend some time with the Lord. May God Continue to Bless Us All.
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