July 16, 2017: Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Catholic Social Teaching: Solidarity
English translation of Pope Francis’ Angelus address, July 13, 2014
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This Sunday’s Gospel (Mt 13:1-23) shows us Jesus’ sermon on the shore of Lake Galilee and, because a large crowd around him, he gets on a boat, moving away a little from the shore and preaches from there. When he speaks to the people, Jesus uses many parables: a language comprehensible to everyone, with images drawn from nature and everyday life situations.
The first is an introduction to all the parables: that of the sower who casts his seed freely on all types of terrain. And the protagonist of this parable is really the seed, which produces fruit, more or less, depending on the land on which it falls. The first three terrains are unproductive: on the path, the seeds are eaten by birds; on the rocky ground, the buds dry quickly because they have no roots; among bushes, the seeds are choked by thorns. The fourth ground is good ground: only there, the seed takes root and bears fruit.
In this case, Jesus doesn’t limit himself to just presenting the parable; he also explains it to his disciples. The seed that fell on the path signifies those who hear the proclamation of the Kingdom of God but do not receive him, so the Evil One comes and takes it away. Evil, in fact, does not want the seed of the Gospel to sprout in the hearts of men. This is the first comparison. The second is the seed that fell on stoney ground: this represents the people who hear the word of God, and receive it immediately, but superficially, because they have no roots and are inconsistent; and when trials and tribulations arrive, these people lose heart immediately. The third case is that of the seed that fell among thorns. Jesus explains that it refers to those who hear the word but, because of worldly concerns and the seduction of wealth, remains stifled. Finally, the seed that fell on fertile soil represents those who hear the word, welcome it, safeguard it, and understand it – and it bears fruit. The perfect model of this good ground is the Virgin Mary.
This parable speaks to each of us today, as it spoke to the listeners of Jesus two thousand years ago. It reminds us that we are the land where the Lord tirelessly throws the seed of His Word and His love. What is our disposition when we receive it? How is our heart? What does the ground look like: a path, a stone, a thorn bush? It’s up to us to become good soil without thorns or stones, but tilled and cultivated with care, so that it can bring forth good fruit for us and for our brothers. At every Mass, the good seed of the Gospel is sown in us ever anew, by means of the table of the Word of God: a seed to be accepted, to safeguard, to live. Even in these summer months, during the holiday period, it is important to participate every Sunday at this table, to draw light and strength for our journey.
First Reading: Isaiah 55:10-11
Psalm: 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14
Second Reading: Romans 8:18-23
Gospel: Matthew 13:1-23
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Jesus asks for childlike abandonment to the providence of our heavenly Father who takes care of his children’s smallest needs: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?”. . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (305) From the Daily Roman Missal, Introduction to the, Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:
Jesus takes up the entire Old Testament tradition even with regard to economic goods, wealth and poverty, and he gives them great clarity and fullness (cf. Mt 6:24, 13:22; Lk 6:20-24, 12:15-21; Rom 14:6-8; 1 Tim 4:4). Through the gift of his Spirit and the conversion of hearts, he comes to establish the “Kingdom of God”, so that a new manner of social life is made possible, in justice, brotherhood, solidarity and sharing. The Kingdom inaugurated by Christ perfects the original goodness of the created order and of human activity, which were compromised by sin. Freed from evil and being placed once more in communion with God, man is able to continue the work of Jesus, with the help of his Spirit. In this, man is called to render justice to the poor, releasing the oppressed, consoling the afflicted, actively seeking a new social order in which adequate solutions to material poverty are offered and in which the forces thwarting the attempts of the weakest to free themselves from conditions of misery and slavery are more effectively controlled. When this happens, the Kingdom of God is already present on this earth, although it is not of the earth. It is in this Kingdom that the promises of the Prophets find final fulfillment. (325)
The universality of this hope also includes, besides the men and women of all peoples, heaven and earth: “Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may sprout forth, and let it cause righteousness to spring up also; I the Lord have created it” (Is 45:8). According to the New Testament, all creation, together indeed with all humanity, awaits the Redeemer: subjected to futility, creation reaches out full of hope, with groans and birth pangs, longing to be freed from decay (cf. Rom 8:18-22). (123)
Romans 8:19-22 and Romans 8:20
With her social doctrine not only does the Church not stray from her mission but she is rigorously faithful to it. The redemption wrought by Christ and entrusted to the saving mission of the Church is certainly of the supernatural order. This dimension is not a delimitation of salvation but rather an integral expression of it. The supernatural is not to be understood as an entity or a place that begins where the natural ends, but as the raising of the natural to a higher plane. In this way nothing of the created or the human order is foreign to or excluded from the supernatural or theological order of faith and grace, rather it is found within it, taken on and elevated by it. “In Jesus Christ the visible world which God created for man (cf. Gen 1:26-30) — the world that, when sin entered, ‘was subjected to futility’ (Rom 8:20; cf. Rom 8:19-22) — recovers again its original link with the divine source of Wisdom and Love. Indeed, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son’ (Jn 3:16). As this link was broken in the man Adam, so in the Man Christ it was reforged (cf. Rom 5:12-21)”. (64)
Human activity aimed at enhancing and transforming the universe can and must unleash the perfections which find their origin and model in the uncreated Word. In fact, the Pauline and Johannine writings bring to light the Trinitarian dimension of creation, in particular the link that exists between the Son—Word — the Logos — and creation (cf. Jn 1:3; 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:15-17). Created in him and through him, redeemed by him, the universe is not a happenstance conglomeration but a “cosmos”. It falls to man to discover the order within it and to heed this order, bringing it to fulfilment: “In Jesus Christ the visible world which God created for man — the world that, when sin entered, ‘was subjected to futility’ (Rom 8:20; cf. ibid. 8:19-22) — recovers again its original link with the divine source of Wisdom and Love”. In this way — that is, bringing to light in ever greater measure “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8), in creation, human work becomes a service raised to the grandeur of God. (262)
Not only is the inner man made whole once more, but his entire nature as a corporeal being is touched by the redeeming power of Christ. The whole of creation participates in the renewal flowing from the Lord’s Paschal Mystery, although it still awaits full liberation from corruption, groaning in travail (cf. Rom 8:19-23), in expectation of giving birth to “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1) that are the gift of the end of time, the fulfilment of salvation. In the meantime, nothing stands outside this salvation. Whatever his condition of life may be, the Christian is called to serve Christ, to live according to his Spirit, guided by love, the principle of a new life, that brings the world and man back to their original destiny: “whether … the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor 3:22-23).(455)
In her social doctrine the Church offers above all an integral vision of man and a complete understanding of his personal and social dimensions. Christian anthropology reveals the inviolable dignity of every person and places the realities of work, economics and politics into an original perspective that sheds light on authentic human values while at the same time inspiring and sustaining the task of Christian witness in the varied areas of personal, cultural and social life. Thanks to the “first fruits of the Spirit” (Rom 8:23), Christians become “capable of discharging the new law of love (cf. Rom 8:1-11). Through this Spirit, who is ‘the pledge of our inheritance’ (Eph 1:14), the whole man is renewed from within, even to the achievement of ‘the redemption of the body’ (Rom 8:23)”. In this sense the Church’s social doctrine shows how the moral basis of all social action consists in the human development of the person and identifies the norm for social action corresponding to humanity’s true good and as efforts aimed at creating the conditions that will allow every person to satisfy his integral vocation. (522)
We know the parable of the sower and the seed, most likely quite well. The metaphor portrays Christ the sower and various paths for the seeds, our faith maturing or fizzling, by the influence of external elements. While the types of ground are enumerated little dialogue delves into the potential dynamics of soil:
Influence of water, without hard and impermeable, but excess causes the soil to flow like a river.
Changing composition of soil with addition of compost and mulch.
Various color of soil from the base elements, dark soil from decomposing peat bogs, browns of sandstones.
Soil containing rocks in a farm field or shells near ancient seashores.
Organisms in soil, like earthworms providing aeration.
Collectively, as the Body of Christ, what can we do to make the soil more favorable to foster the growth of seeds with a vigorous root structure producing a healthy vine and branches? Does the lack of catechesis past the Sacraments of Initiation render soil more like asphalt as people have scant enrichment to continue their faith journey? Or does the endless opportunities of faith based videos without dialogue leave people with more questions than answers to define and strengthen their faith? Do we water the earth by the witness of faith in our lives, to soften the furrows making it easier for others to follow our example? How frequently do we take time to break clods by sharing an enriching book to crumble impediments to faith? Yes, Christ sows the seed, but as disciples we are called to participate in preparing the ground where the seed will fall. For our faith journey exists not in isolation, but a collective bond of solidarity. Then the Word of God will not return to our Father void. For we have done His will and His word achieved the end for which it was sent.
Individual Reflection: Psalm 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14
July 22nd is the Feast of St Mary Magdalene. In 2016, Pope Frances changed her day from a memorial to a feast to “…reflect more deeply on the dignity of women, the new evangelization and the greatness of the mystery of divine mercy.” http://www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews/2016/pope-elevates-memorial-of-st-mary-magdalene-to-feast-day.cfm
“Christ cast seven devils out of St Mary; she ministered to him in Galilee, was one of the few who remained with Christ during his Agony on the Cross, and with two other women visited his tomb and found it empty. Our Lord first appeared to her after his Resurrection asking her to announce his Resurrection to the Apostles.” July 22nd Proper of Saints, Daily Roman Missal
How can we use the witness of Saint Mary Magdalene to enliven our Church and witness of faith?
Family Reflection: Matthew 13:1-23
As you prepare meals this week, reflect on the variety of seeds in fruits and vegetables and the types of soil and care they need to mature.
Lord Jesus Christ,
we remember with gratitude those people
who generously sowed the seeds of faith in our lives.
Pause for a time of reflection
Above all. we recognize how you have blessed our lives
with the gift of the Holy Spirit
so that our faith has miraculously and mysteriously grown.
We confess the times we fail to involve ourselves
in planting any seeds of faith in the lives of others;
the times when our personal agendas become more important than yours;
the times when we have denied others the opportunity to expand their faith
through our lack of interest or involvement;
the times when our lives become so entangled with the values of the world
that we forget what you have said and done and promised.
Lord Jesus Christ, we know that when we become disconnected from you,
our lives becomes parched and unfruitful and our faith becomes stunted and dry.
Bless and renew our lives, we pray,
so that we remain connected to you at all times and in all places,
strengthening our faith to expand and, growing strongly and vigorously,
to bear the fruit of your mercy, your love, your undying life.
Written by Moira Laidlaw, and posted on Liturgies Online.
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By Barb Born July 7, 2017 The reflection maybe used in parish bulletins, newsletters or for faith sharing groups without copyright concern.