Sunday, 10 July 2011

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, Shaftesbury

Mt 13:1-23; Rom 8:18-23; Isa 55:10-11
We just heard the parable of the sower, and the parable of the sower is one that most of us probably think that we know so well that we don't really need to listen to it at all -which is kind of ironic because the parable is all about people not listening!
Yet, if someone asked you WHY, in that parable, why it was that Jesus said that people didn't listen, I suspect most of us wouldn't know the answer.

The Lord Jesus gave His various detailed descriptions of how people failed to respond to the Word of God, failed to properly listen, like saying that thorns choking the growing seed are like the worries and riches of this world choking the Word,
however, preceding all of these detailed descriptions He gave a more fundamental reason why the people failed to hear:
they didn't WANT to hear
and the reason they didn't want to hear is that they were AFRAID.
They didn’t listen “for fear they should see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart"(Mt 15:13 quoting Isa 6:10).

Now fear might strike us at first glance as an unlikely reason why we should fail to listen to the word of God.
And yet the more I have been pondering this issue this week the more it seems to me that, dare I say it, I think the Lord Jesus is right!
Because there are many things I can see within myself that make me wary, make me fearful of truly being open to hear the Word of God.

The basic reason why we don't wish to hear the Word of God is that what He has to tell us may involve change, “fear [that they] be converted"(Mt 15:13).
Some of us may feel that our life is uncertain enough already, that we have enough burdensome difficulties already, that I'm only just about hanging on, and the last thing I need right now is to hear God telling me something MORE that I need to be doing.
Others of us might feel the reverse, that our life is pretty good right now and I don't want anything to disturb it, so I don't want God telling me something that might unsettle that.
And of course, many of us feel that although we are not perfect we are pretty much content to stay the mediocre selves that we are, so, again, we don't want God telling us something that will inconveniently stretch us to be something more.

But surely, haven’t we already heard and seen enough of the truths of the Gospel, enough to realise that God wants what is ultimately for our good, so that we should trust Him, trust Him enough to listen to what His Word is telling us?
Whatever "something more" that the Lord is asking me, it is only with the promise of an even greater "something more" that He will offer me terms of the grace and strength to carry it out, and the reward of a hundredfold (Mt 13:23) for doing so.
The words of the Lord Jesus that we heard said that the Word is preached to us that we might "be converted" but not merely that we might be converted but "be converted and be HEALED by me”(Mt 15:13) -this is for our benefit not merely for our obligation.

In our second reading, from St Paul to the Romans, we heard another reminder of how God is seeking what is for our good. St Paul spoke about the "glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us"(Rom 8:18), glory so great that "all creation is eagerly waiting" for its revealing.
And yet, we “fear”, we fear to trust God enough to listen to what His Word is calling from us.
If, instead, we listen: in prayer, in regular reading of the Bible, in attentiveness in the Mass, then that small seed will produce a great reward of the hundredfold (Mt 13:23) within us.

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