Meditation of the week

The challenge of listening

Matthew  13,1-23.

In ( Mt 12) there is mounting opposition to Jesus’ miracles and teaching which the religious leaders reject as the work of the devil (12,22-32).  Jesus shows how wrong their allegation is and rebukes them for sinning against the Holy Spirit – an unforgiveable sin because it renders them incapable of receiving the Holy Spirit’s help to ask for forgiveness. (12,30-32).  It is because of their lack of response that Jesus resorts to teaching in parables, as a therapeutic punishment for their unteachability. Their opposition contrasts sharply with the enthusiasm of ordinary people who stand on the sea shore listening to him.

The Parable Discourse (13,1-53), made up of seven parables, is the third of the five great collections  of Jesus’ teaching, in Matthew’s gospel.

Parables were stories drawn from ordinary human life and experience to teach spiritual truths and to get people to reflect on their own lives. Here Jesus takes the sowing of seed by the farmer as a parallel to the ways different people relate to the word of God in their own lives.

To help us appreciate the story better it is useful to know that, unlike modern agricultural practices, in the time of Jesus, the seed was scattered on the ground before the ploughing took place.

The well- worn pathways in the field on which people walked provide little cover for the seed against the birds. Hearing God’s word without understanding or appreciating it makes it as vulnerable to theft by the evil one, and replacement by his wickedness, as the seed is open to theft by the birds of the air.  The hardness of the paths could mirror our hardness of attitude towards God or others in our own lives.

The seed on the rocky ground is like the one who has superficially accepted the word of God but has not made it his/her own by prayer, reflection, meditation and study. The word has not penetrated the depths of their being and is of little help to them in times of trials or testing, persecution or challenge, illness or failure.  It has nothing to say to them because they are ignorant of its power and wisdom to help them. The cost of commitment may seem just too much for them, too.

The thorns which choke the seed’s growth are like the worries and cares of life, the lure of pleasure, power, position, prestige, money and celebrity which steal our time and our hearts, leaving no time or space in them for God and His word.

The fourth group represents the success and abundance of the harvest of God’s word – thirty, sixty and a hundredfold crop- despite the refusal of the religious authorities to believe in Jesus and his word. This is an important aspect of the kingdom which deserves to be noted. The kingdom will grow despite our deafness to the word or our best but flawed efforts to promote it. It is God’s project. It will follow His plan, not ours.

Most of us like to think we belong to the fourth category. We listen to the word of God and try to make it our own, try to understand its rationale and its relevance for this life and the next.  We are challenged to “Listen” to God’s word, which is done best in silence and quietness.

Are you attentive to the Scripture readings during Mass?

How often do you read the Bible?

Father Geoff O’Grady