15th Sunday, Year (A)
(Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23)
Jesus had just told the crowd gathered round Him the parable of the sower; His disciples were puzzled by what appeared to be story-telling and so they asked Him, in private:
Why do You speak to them in parables?
Why do You speak to them in parables?
He answered and said to them:
Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
As a man on earth Jesus was truly humble before His Father in Heaven, He knew full well that, as He said on another occasion (John 6:44):
No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws him.
He always noticed and appreciated what His Father was doing at any given time and in any set of circumstances, and it was for that very reason that He had just addressed the crowds in parables because, as He said:
To know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has not been given to them.
Notice that Jesus never felt any need to justify His Father before men … some so-called disciples in today’s Church, and most pagans in today’s politically correct society, not knowing the Father, will cry ‘injustice’ at such apparently preferential discrimination in God’s treatment of Jesus’ disciples as distinct from the throng of followers. Jesus, however, was both too humble to have anything but the utmost reverence for His Father’s actions and decisions, and also too truthful to have any ‘politically correct’, emotionally self-centered, appreciation of the people He had come to save.
He would certainly have been aware that the majority of those crowding round Him were not there because they wanted to learn from His teaching, but rather out of curiosity … for Jesus was the most renowned and controversial figure they would come across not only that day, week, month or year, or indeed throughout their whole lives … and their attention could only be held by the simple and interesting human story put before them in the parable, not by any consuming desire on their part for heavenly teaching or spiritual guidance.
Therefore, because they were doing just what Isaiah had foretold:
Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive,
Jesus spoke to them in parables so that, for the time being at least, they might retain something of the tale that had interested them and the words Jesus had used; later on perhaps, in His Father’s Providence, those words might still be able to bear fruit when and if the minds and hearts of those now listening had grown both more humble and mature in their human appreciation and more responsive to the working of the Spirit of God in their lives.
But there was more than that. Today people are so involved in communication of all sorts: not just TV. and radio, but above all, the mobile-phone networks offering seemingly endless personal outlets for whatever details of their lives people may be moved to open up to public awareness and discussion. Thus consulted at every hand, the opinion of the crowd is today accorded a fearful ‘respect’ it should not have in rational thought. The crowd can be fiercely partisan though only partially informed or even ill-informed; and yet, few in power or authority dare gainsay or resist it since it has something of the ‘infallibility’ of weeping women or of beautiful and innocent children obediently shouting out words put on their smiling lips by adults incapable of so beautiful a presentation.
It was not like that with Jesus: speaking with His disciples about the throng following Him. He quoted, and whole-heartedly approved of, the prophet Isaiah’s words:
Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.’
In Jesus’ appreciation of and response to the people He knew so well, we can glimpse something of the sublimely patient humility of God Who, though being infinitely wise, true, and ‘unfoolable’, nevertheless in His true love He here accommodates Himself to men’s needs by using simple parables to attract – even, perhaps, at times to lightly amuse – as well as to instruct them. In like manner, His Holy Spirit, given to us and working in and with us, constantly adapts His divine holiness and power to our wilfulness, weakness, self-satisfaction, and worldliness.
However, when and where Jesus was able to speak more directly and sublimely, it gave Him such great joy, as on this occasion, to say to His apostles:
Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
Many prophets and righteous men had not been allowed to see the Word of God made flesh; they had never heard words conveying divine truth spoken by God such as today Jesus had addressed to the crowd. Oh! most blessed Apostles what joy you are giving to your Lord surrounded by a throng of those:
So gross of heart, they will hardly hear with their ears; and have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes.
The expression ‘Word of God’ brings to our mind, first of all, the second Person of the most Holy Trinity, begotten of the Father from all eternity, before all time. Then it denotes, Jesus, the Word of God made flesh for us in time, Jesus the divine yet human Person Whom we have touched and seen, the Saviour Who will introduce us into the presence of His Father at the end of time. Finally, it speaks to us of God’s saving message, spoken originally through the prophets and culminating ultimately in the Good News of Jesus Himself, which -- enshrined in the Scriptures -- resounds through all time and in all the earth thanks to the proclamation of holy Mother Church. It is of this latter ‘word of God’ that Isaiah spoke in our first reading:
For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but shall do My will, achieving the end for which I sent it.
Ultimately that word of proclamation is one and the same word, whether heard softly in parables or sublimely in teaching; the only difference is due, not indeed to divine partiality, but simply to human preparedness to receive and willingness to bear fruit:
Behold, a sower went out to sow. As he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; some fell on stony places, and some fell among thorns; but others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
However, there is yet another way -- more pervasive and simple -- whereby the Word of God can reach and speak both secretly and most piercingly to men, and it comes from the world that sustains and embraces us, from the universe that challenges and inspires us, one and all created out of nothingness by the word of God:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And God saw that it was good. …. God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1: 1, 11, 16-18)
Still today the silent voice of creation sounds around us and it can, at any moment, strike up a deep resonance within us:
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their sound has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4)
The Spirit Who has been bequeathed to us in Mother Church as the Holy Spirit of both Jesus and the Father, the Spirit Who seeks to guide us along the way of Jesus back to the Father, is that same Spirit Who was present in the beginning:
The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. (Genesis 1:2-4)
He still hovers over what He has made – be it inanimate or just voiceless -- and, with supreme artistry, He is able to touch the strings of creation in such a way as to bring forth music of heavenly beauty for us whom He is seeking to lead along the way of Jesus, so that our lives too might resound with and reflect something of that soul-pervading harmony, and thus come to proclaim in faith and truth the glory of God our Father.
That music of what is voiceless, become sublimely beautiful thanks to the artistry of the Spirit, can thus express not only creation’s being but our own deepest selves as St. Paul well knew:
All creation is groaning in labour pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
Here again, in this context, we can apply those words of Jesus in the Gospel:
It has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
Therefore, creation looks to and waits for us, as St. Paul said:
Creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the One Who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.
People of God, our readings and our celebration today are meant to renew our awareness of and delight in the mystery and the majesty of our calling which is, indeed, hardly able to be outlined even in the Scriptures, witness St. Paul, who himself once experienced heavenly things he was unable to describe or speak of in human words. Nevertheless, we do find in the book of Revelation (21:1-5) – what is, perhaps, Scriptures final attempt to do what is not really possible with human words -- to reveal something of the goodness and glory of the Father in heaven:
I saw a new heaven and a new earth, and I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new."
That glorious new heaven and new earth will be centred on Christ for He will be its light and splendour; and because He is both Lord and Saviour of mankind His true disciples will dwell there, being held in high honour and knowing eternal peace and joy:
The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. There shall be no night there, and its gates shall not be shut at all by day, and the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light. They shall bring the glory and the honour of the nations into it, but there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. (21:23-27)
Into that glorious city of God the waters of life flow from the very throne of God and of the Lamb; and of those waters we are able to have a foretaste here on earth if we can but hear something of the beautiful song of creation around us, and if we will but allow the Spirit to open our hearts and minds to learn from the word of God preached, and the Word of God present, in Mother Church (1 Corinthians 3:21-4:1):
For all things are yours: whether the world or life or death, or things present or things to come--all are yours. And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.
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