Saturday, July 9, 2011

15th Sunday, A. We are "good ground" for the seed of Christ the Word when we receive Him in the Eucharist with adoring love

Not all seeds are equal. Some of my efforts at sowing in the garden this year did not meet with results. This could either be the fault of the seed or the sower.

There is one "seed", however, that is never sown in good soil without results: Jesus Christ the Eternal Word of God.

In the parable of the sower Christ tells us that the seed is the Word. The various places where the seed falls are the variety of souls who are exposed to the Word and react to this Divine self-revelation in different ways.

The seed of God's Word cannot bring results from superficial soil or rocky ground. Last month in New York on the feast of St John the Baptist, who was martyred for defending the truth about marriage as one man, one woman, for life and for children, one more body of elected officials vainly used their votes to attempt a redefinition of the vocation of holy matrimony. It does not matter, however, how much ink is spilled or how many trees are felled in order to print over and over again the many different laws that human beings are able to pass in order to attempt to redefine marriage or life or good or evil: these realities will not, and cannot, change. God has ordained creation in a particular way, leaving human beings free to either accept or not what God has set into motion, to choose to be "good ground" or not for receiving God. Marriage is one of a number of God-given realities that are currently under attack, simply as part of a worldwide effort to rebel against God in a kind of "theophobia" or hatred of God and all that He has made.

More important for us, however, are the ways in which we will be increasingly called upon to defend our faith. We may soon face increasingly injurious penalties for faithfulness to the "Word" of truth: fines, legal proceedings or jail. But we know Him in whom we have believed and we ask for the strength to be courageous witnesses today and always. To be the "good ground" which the Lord praises in the parable is to have good deep roots which can withstand the assaults of pagans and persecutors.

Another interesting aspect of the modern relationship between the Church and non-believers is the inability or refusal to see that Catholic teaching very clearly distinguishes between the sin and the sinner. This is one of the reasons for sacramental confession: God has made each of us in divine and eternal love in His own image. God does not make trash and so, in sacramental confession, He offers us the opportunity through the gift of His mercy to re-embrace the truth about our identity, to say we are sorry and to put distance between us and our sins, no matter what they may have been.

The Word of God in Christ is sown through the proclamation of the Word in the Church. Catholic teaching is readily available to any who seek it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is on the internet with a search engine enabling anyone to quickly find answers on any subject of faith or morals about which the Church teaches. Those who trivialize or caricature the faith today are "rocky ground", refusing to use their gift of intellect to understand the truth so as to love and to follow it in order the accept the graces of faith by which we are saved. Some persons simply do not want to know the truth, including some Catholics. We are responsible for choosing not to study, learn and and understand any aspect of the Church's faith and morals according to our ability to do so. This is called "vincible ignorance" and, if persisted in, it can be seriously sinful.

"Conscience can remain in ignorance or make erroneous judgments. Such ignorance and errors are not always free of guilt." (CCC 1801)

There are some persons who are unable, through no fault of their own, to work at an ever deeper and more sincere appropriation of the faith and morals of the Church by which we are saved. We do not speak of such persons here.

Culpability, or guilt, is ours when we fail to accept the Word of Christ so that he may work in us to strengthen our faith. In the many ways he offers Himself as "the Word of life" we have the opportunity to be fertile soil cooperating with Him as we grow in a fuller knowledge of the truth.

"This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man 'takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.' In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits." (CCC 1791)

To persist in attacking Catholics and the Church as "haters" because we proclaim what sin is and the truth that sin is the evil which can "cast both body and soul into Gehenna" is not to hate but rather to love others, and in a most selfless way.

Wolves who attack the flock of the Church are not interested in the distinction between the sinner and the sin because they want to destroy the Church and to separate Christ from souls as He associates Himself with them in the Church for the sake of their salvation. Wolves do not want to know the faith because to know the Faith is to accept Christ the Word. This the wolves do not want to do: they do not want to know or to love Christ the Word who offers Himself as the "seed", giving His life abundantly and generously to any who will receive Him. These are the rocky ground, closed to God and the life he offers.

Growth in the life of Christ, bearing fruit, is possible for us in the greatest way here at holy Mass. The seed of the Word is ours through both the "words" of the Scriptures proclaimed and the Word truly and substantially present: Christ's Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

In the moment of our communion at Mass we are called most fully and wonderfully to be fertile soil. Following from the truth that the Christ we receive is God, we rightly approach Him with adoration, stopping at the last pew and making a profound bow before stepping forward to physically receive Him from the priest. We must always begin in this way with a physical, bodily response of worship proper to God so the truth of the seed of Christ's Word as grace may grow abundantly in us.

Lord Jesus Christ, Eternal Word of Life, make us always rich and fertile soil so that we may receive you with sincerity and love and so bear the fruit of eternal life thirty and sixty and a hundredfold. Amen.


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