Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Sexagesima Sunday—8 February AD 2015

Paul the Apostle - El Grecco
Paul the Apostle - El Grecco

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

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

    Our Lord often instructed His followers with parables: “the kingdom of heaven is like this or like that.”  Sometimes they are intended to be memorable—the agrarian people of Israel would certainly understand and remember the difference between the Good Shepherd and the hireling.  Sometimes they are more cryptic, as the one we read this morning--for sometimes our Lord reserves such things only for those who are of the Faith.  In any event, it is important to note that they are approximations of what heaven is like and may be subject to some interpretation.  Even in today's parable, explained to us by our Lord Himself, there is room for a little bit of explanation.

    To be sure, different people respond differently to the word of God.  Some are deceived by the devil.  Some are only after novelty, and will find another interest after the newness wears off.  Some will hear, but be attracted more by the pleasures of the world than by holiness.  And some will indeed persevere, holding fast to God's word, keeping His Commandments, and doing good works.  It would seem that the parable accurately reflects the real world and people as they are found in this life.

    It is important to recognize, however, that we human beings are not inanimate objects like seeds.  The seeds are incapable of independent movement.  They remain where they fall, unless they are blown by the wind, or carried about by an animal.  We human beings are capable of independent thought, and then intelligent action based on that thought.   In terms of today's parable, that means that we are able to take self‑interested action to hold fast to the word of God.

    We may be subject to temptation, but our intellect is generally capable of recognizing the temptation for the evil that it is, and rejecting it.  In fact, beyond rejecting temptation, we are generally able to arrange our lives so that we are not exposed to our stronger temptations.  We speak about avoiding the unnecessary occasions of sin.  Just like nouns, there are persons, places, and things that will cause trouble for us--and we must avoid them if at all possible.  And we should be honest with ourselves about what is possible.  For instance, a person might not want to admit that they have to find a new job to avoid the occasion of sin, but eternal salvation is worth far more than any of the difficulties involved.

    We are all attracted to the pleasures of life.  And many of those pleasures are harmless enough in themselves.  There is nothing immoral about sitting by the fireside on a cold winter night.  But even so, a wise person will avoid excessive self-indulgence.  That is one of the reasons why the Church urges us to adopt self-disciplinary practices like the Lenten fast, or Friday abstinence.  If we can become used to denying our self some of the innocent things in life, we are much more likely to be able to deny ourselves of the not so innocent things that come along.

    I should also suggest a regular schedule for prayer.  Beyond the obvious graces that we get from regular communication with God, a generous prayer life will also reduce the amount of idle time we have on our hands in which to get in trouble.

    As the parable says, the devil would like to take God's word away from you so that you “may not believe and be saved.” In the modern world the devil has many devices to fill our minds with disbelief.  We live in a world more information rich than in any time in history.  Not that all information is bad, but this richness requires that we become highly selective.  It is a mistake to just turn on the TV or the radio with no idea what you intend to see or hear, or to surf the Internet until something catches your fancy, or to buy a book or a magazine with no idea of what it contains.  The devil is just waiting to replace God's word in your mind with something evil.  Of course, on the contrary, being prepared with good information can be what is needed to counteract the influence of the devil.  It is a question of making good and prudent use of the information available to us.

    This morning's epistle narrates what may have been the greatest human endeavor to hold fast to God's word and to bring forth good fruit.  If you have been here a few years, you have heard me refer to it as “Saint Paul's adventure story.”[2]  Paul was a doctor of the Mosaic Law, and would have held a position of respect in Jewish society.  But instead he joined his entire life to the work of Jesus Christ. You will note that he did not just take a position in a safe and secure monastery, or a teaching position in a Catholic school.  Paul travelled about the Mediterranean at a time when travel was very dangerous, and when many people had an interest in silencing his message.  We know that the “laborer is worthy of his hire”[3] but Paul supported himself as a tentmaker in order to support his own ministry.[4]  Paul was truly doing his best to “hold fast to God's word and to bring forth good fruit.”

    The kingdom of heaven is like the sower sowing seeds, but the citizens of heaven are men and women who have consciously decided that “with a right and good heart, having heard the word,” they will “hold it fast and bear fruit in patience.”  You have the ability.  It is your choice.



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