Today is the memorial for Saint Andrew Kim Taegon and Saint Paul Chong Hasang and their companions -- all martyrs in the early Korean church. What is so remarkable about the Korean church is that it was lay founded and the majority of martyrs were lay persons. Persons who believed so strongly even without clergy there to shepherd them, that they were willing to die for their faith. Clearly the roots for these believers were deep and anchored in faith. The readings today fit so well with the idea of such faith and the differences between where we are “planted” and how we are nourished in growth.
The first reading from the Corinthians challenges us to think about what it means to have eternal life. During the last few days I have really been enjoying the fruits of the growing season and observing the changes in the flowers as they ready themselves for winter. Even the squirrels have been completely engaged in preparation for what lies ahead. We find black walnuts from the tree in the park in some very odd places. The squirrels no doubt leave them along the way and then return to store them “properly.” The plants will soon experience a death of sorts and will then return in the spring in all their glory. Without this dormant period, we would not have the glorious riches of spring and summer each year. Indeed, as Paul proclaims, “What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies.” So we, too, must die to ourselves to be able to live the glorious life that is our reward. Paul reminds us that we are both earthly and heavenly. How difficult it is at times to reconcile the two. If only the earthly part did not so heavily weigh us down. At least for me, the human shortcomings are too often so evident and out shadow the heavenly influence. Indeed, I must overcome these shortcomings if I ever hope to experience the other. I am blessed that I do not address these alone and that it is the grace of God that sees me through every time.
The responsorial psalm echoes that image of not being alone. As the response reiterates, “I will walk in the presence of God, in the light of the living.” When I keep this image in my mind, I am much more serene in my approach to things – I am fortified. I know that whatever I’m dealing with – although it may be too much for me alone, it certainly will not be too much for me when I am in the presence of God. The image of the footprints in the sand reinforces me and my sense of God’s presence always.
The gospel is a beautiful parable so descriptive in the picture it creates. Again, the end of the growing season is a perfect time to reflect upon this – I can easily see the results of where seeds were sown (mostly by nature) and how they grew. The spinners from the maple tree that ended up in the rich soil near other plants flourished – quickly benefiting from the fertilizer and water that the plants received. Some of the spinners landed in strange places and while they had an early spurt of grow, they soon withered away. Of course, most of the weeds grew every where in all sorts of soil, sunlight, and moisture – it was just the prized flowers and plants that needed just the right combination of the three. So it is for us, so easy for the negative aspects of life to grow and thrive. Those aspects and behaviors that are most valuable require constant care and cultivation. The conditions must always be watched and the stray weeds promptly pulled or they soon take over. Both the gospel and my flower garden remind me that I must be vigilant if I want the “seed of the Word” to grow and flourish in my life.
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