Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Sexagesima Sunday—7 February A.D. 2010

Making the effort to understand, and to do what is required of us.

Blessed “are they who, with a right and good heart,
having heard the word, hold it fast,
and bear [good] fruit in patience.”[1]

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Lenten Observance

    “To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to the rest in parables, that Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”

    The Gospel this morning is rather straightforward in its message—and we have an explanation of the parable by our Lord Himself, so it would be foolish to try to explain what He was telling us.

    But there is one phrase in this Gospel that bothers many people when they hear it—this one that I just read— “Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”  It almost sounds as though our Lord didn't want everyone to understand His Gospel—as though He were holding salvation just a little bit out of our reach, to see just how high we will jump for it.

    In some cases, and I am thinking primarily of the Pharisees, our Lord seems to know that no matter what He says, His words will be rejected.  These were men who had hardened their hearts, and would do whatever they could to preserve their positions and the existing status quo.  They would be willing to listen to the High Priest when he urged the death of Jesus:  “it is expedient ... that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not....”  Otherwise “the Romans will come, and take away our place and nation.”[2]  So perhaps in the case of the Pharisees He actually did speak so as not to be understood.

    Well, certainly our Lord does want everyone of good will to hear and to understand His Gospel—after all, one of the reasons why He made us is to be happy with Him in heaven—and following the principles of His Gospel is an important part of getting there.

    But perhaps our Lord does want us to jump a little bit to achieve that happiness in heaven.  Remember that the other reason for His making us is to demonstrate His glory in this world.  A little effort and enthusiasm on our part is necessary.  We don't give God much glory if we just sit around waiting for Him to carry us off to heaven—or worse yet—if we ignore Him altogether.

    That may be why the Church has us read this amazing account of Saint Paul's tribulations as today's Epistle.[3]  In a very real sense it is an adventure story—robbers, traitors, shipwrecks, daring escapes—probably make a good movie— “Indiana Jones as Paul the Apostle.” [!]   But, more than an adventure, it is the story of a man who “jumped pretty high” to assure his salvation.

    But even Paul—before he embarked on his great missionary journeys—had to understand the Gospel he was going to preach.  And that seems to be the real thrust of our Lord's remarks today.  It is not enough just to hear the Gospel, or even to memorize it.  We have to hear it, understand it, internalize it, and act upon it.  The words themselves may be pretty, but they are not very useful until we process them through our minds, and use them to guide our actions:

    It doesn't do much good to sit at Mass an hour a week, just occupying space.  Every Catholic should do his level best to understand what the Mass is, and what the prayers say.  One ought to use a missal, and make the appropriate responses to the priest.  But, above all, we should attend Mass with the full understanding that we are standing at the foot of the Cross, reliving the central even of our salvation.  Together with the priest, we offer Jesus Christ to His Father in heaven, for the redemption of mankind and the forgiveness of the contrite.

    It doesn't do much good to memorize a lesson in the Catechism word for word, but have no idea what those words mean, or how they relate to other lessons.  An adult must understand his faith.  He should be able to explain it to others.  His Catholic education should not be inferior to his secular education.

    It doesn't do much good to read the Bible if the events we read about remain 2,000 years and 10,000 miles away.  For the most part the people are real—It is not a novel written for entertainment, but rather it is a true narrative written for our enlightenment.

    It doesn't do us much good to pray “Thy will be done. . . . forgive us our trespasses,” if these remain just words—with no influence on our beliefs and actions.

    Our Lord is trying to emphasize to us that hearing the Gospel is not enough—that we must “jump a little bit,” making a serious effort to understand what He is saying, and then to incorporate His will into our lives.  Like Saint Paul did, we ought to join with our Lord, doing His will in partnership with Him.

    If we think this is hard—and sometimes it is—we can take comfort from Saint Paul's words.

    We are not alone or unique in having difficulties in life.  Our own strength is probably not enough to bear them.  But, if we recognize our limitations and our infirmities, the strength of Christ will dwell in us -- God's “strength is made perfect in weakness.”

    And finally, we can take heart from this blessing that our Lord gives us in today's Gospel:

Blessed “are they who, with a right and good heart,
having heard the word, hold it fast,
and bear [good] fruit in patience.”


[1]   Gospel:  Luke viii: 4-15.

[2]   John xi: 50, 47.

[3]   2 Corinthians xi: 19-xii: 9.


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