Let's look at the Scriptures to see how others reacted to finding the tomb empty. Witnesses to accidents or other major events often disagree on some details because they see things differently or have a different perspective. So it is with the Four Gospels. The writers all agree on the basic FACTS.
Sunday, April 28, 2019
The incredible thing about the parable of the sower and the seed, which we find in Mark’s gospel - chapter 4 and Mathew’s gospel - chapter 13, is that we can find ourselves as the sower, as the seed and as the ground at different times in our lives. In this season of Easter – a time so closely associated with new life and growth we are going to explore this parable in a few different ways. This morning we will look at … Jesus as the sower….at ourselves as the ground/the receiver of the seed….and at ourselves as sowers of the seed.
Jesus the sower:
“Jesus is the sower. We note that, with this image, He presents Himself as one who does not impose Himself, but who proposes; He does not draw us by conquering us, but by giving Himself: He throws the seed. He strews His Word with patience and generosity, which is not a cage or a trap, but a seed that can bear fruit. And how can it bear fruit? If we receive it.”
That was a translation of part of the address Pope Francis gave on July 16, 2017 to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Pope Francis says ….IF WE RECEIVE IT- SO HOW DO WE DO THAT?
First, we need to acknowledge and understand that God is extravagant when it comes to offering the seeds of the Gospel to the human heart. In the parable, the sower is throwing seed everywhere, even in places where the seed has little chance to grow.
If you’ve ever planted seeds, you probably prepared the soil, picked the best place, with the most sunlight during the day and whatever else was needed. The way Jesus spreads the seed is so different, it could be considered wasteful, not at all the way a gardener or scientist would do it. The seeds aren’t placed individually in the soil. It’s done in a way the shows there is an unlimited supply, no fear of running out, never rationed or held back. This shows how much God loves us. We don’t have to be perfectly prepared or in the right place, He’s going to find us, He’s going to include us.
AND SO…… If God is the sower in the parable
…who is the rocky ground…we are. …who is the thorny shrubs…we are……who is the trampled path…we are…and If God is the sower… who is the good soil…we are.
He knows this.
It’s precisely why he throws the seeds everywhere. He knows that you and I will certainly be in one of those 4 areas throughout our lives. He throws the seeds out everywhere because sometimes we are all over the place. And that’s the Good News for today. He’ll never stop trying to reach us.
He’s aware that today you might be the rocky ground and you might be the thorny shrub…and I might be the trampled path.
But He also knows that at some point we get to the good soil and his seeds will land there too and they will take root and grow and we will return his generosity with a rich and holy harvest.
So stay with it…Be patient with yourself because He’s patient with us.
If you’re on rocky ground right now… If you’re trampling all over his seeds on the pathway your life…if you’re tearing at everyone and everything with the thorns of your dysfunctions
Hang in there and keep trying to get to the good soil.
When you get there He’s still going to be sowing seeds. Remember He’s got an unlimited supply and He will continue to sow them.
He knows that eventually his seeds will land on our beautiful...tilled…healthy…rich…soil in the gardens of our hearts.
And that’s why we come back here over and over again to nourish our soul gardens and be ready for his seeds. We come back to school of leaders, back to grouping, back to ultreya. Back to be nourished and weeded and cared for so the seed will thrive and produce a good harvest.
Us as the ground/receivers of seed: PIETY/STUDY
In John we read that Mary, when she gets to the empty tomb, mistakes the risen Jesus for “the gardener.” Maybe it wasn’t an accident. Jesus is “the master gardener” who came to clean up his garden and lead it into an abundant and fruitful life.
Jesus’ parable of the sower is aimed at everyone: the people who listen, and even those who don’t.
We know that God can create growth in spaces where the most seasoned farmer or gardener wouldn’t waste good seed. But all seeds have unexpected, unexplainable potential and possibility. All of us have probably seen growth coming from cracks in sidewalks, driveways, even in walls. Wherever a seed is willing to break open and try - there is growth.
A passage that complements the Parable of the Sower is John 12:24 in which Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” If instead of the word die, can we think of it this way… what a seed needs to do is “yield” or “relent” or “give in.”
For a seed to move from a state of dormancy to growth, it has to trust that the soil is warm enough, that there is enough moisture, and that there will be enough light to break through and grow.
Think of what will happen when we allow the compelling nature of God’s love to break through our “seed shells” so we give in to all that God offers and promises.
God-the-Sower uses rocky soil, rich fertile soil, and plants that were once thought of as weeds. If we pay attention to the Spirit… already creatively cultivating her holiness in us and all around us… our brokenness will make way for growth.
Even what might be considered weeds by some have purpose and value. They retain the soil’s moisture, reduce erosion when the roots hold on to soil, and attract birds and insects needed for pollination. Weeds are a part of an ecosystem we don’t totally understand, they are part of the natural world-God’s creation.
Everyone counts, everyone can contribute. We don’t or can’t always see it or understand it
God measures by a different set of standards. In the parable of the sower, we learn that God throws himself upon the earth and shares himself with each of us and does not expect anything in return.
In the end…. it is up to us how we respond to God’s call.
Will we accept the word of God and allow it to soften the edges and break up the hard earth in our own lives?
We have been given the personal freedom to choose to accept God’s love. By choosing yes, we agree to cultivate the soil of our lives, so we may bear abundant fruit.
Among Christ’s parables about the land, this one about the sower and seed stands out in its teaching about how the seed of the gospel is sown and works in the field of life. No other parable shows us how the devil, the allure of the world and the cares of life conspire to root us from our lives in God.
Our world is full of distractions—the rocks, thorns and birds that conspire to prevent God’s Word and His calling from taking root and bearing fruit.
Those of us who have had a backyard garden know that it requires effort. Each day we have to check on it. If it hasn’t rained, it needs to be watered. If there are harmful bugs and choking weeds, we need to get rid of them. If not, these things will overgrow or kill the plants. Even if good ground is properly cared for …. when it’s left to itself - everything else moves in. Nothing useful can grow until it is cleared out. We need to be aware of what is growing.
And we need to know when it is time to harvest. For us as receivers of the seed…hearers of the word … it might mean it is time to grow in faith, it might mean it is time to go out into the field and become spreaders of seed ourselves. It might be time for ACTION.
Us as sowers: ACTION
Let’s hear what scripture tells us about our action.
We reap what we sow- Galatians 6:7-10
Requires patience- James 5:7-8
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.
Avoid wanting credit for what grows- 1 Cor 3:3-9
How to do we sow and reap this harvest?
We can’t think, pray, read our way to a harvest.
Let’s suppose you want to plant a vegetable garden.
But, if you wanted to plant a garden and you hoped and prayed and read about tomatoes, but didn’t actually sow a tomato seed, well, you’d get nothing.
To have a successful harvest you must know what you’re planting.
So you want something different? Is there some habit you want to change? Is there someone God has put in your life that you want to get to know, to make a friend…?
St. Jose Maria Escriva once wrote: “May Our Lord be able to use us so that, placed as we are at all the cross-roads of the world- and at the same time placed in God- we become salt, leaven and light. Yes, you are to be in God, to enlighten, to give flavor, to produce growth and new life. But don’t forget that we are not the source of this light: we only reflect it.” (St Jose Maria Escriva, Friends of God, 250)
At the end of the story, Jesus says “they who have ears, let them hear.” In other words, he wants us to be aware, to learn something and take action.
To get the few that bear fruit, lots of seed must be sown by lots of people. So regardless of whether or not we think we have green thumbs, we farmers are being commanded through this parable to get the seed out there, sowing it everywhere we go, undeterred by the birds, the weeds, and the scorching sun.
So the parable of the sower has a twofold message:
As seed, our job is to get busy growing.
As farmers, our job is to get busy sowing.
The images of seed sown and leaven kneaded into dough, both of these reflect the reality of our lives, God’s call, and our cooperation with His grace.
The seeds, the living Word, have been planted within us. Then, we’re to become the seed, the salt and the leaven for the Divine Sower who continues His redemptive mission in a world waiting to be reborn in Him.
However, the power contained in the yeast is not activated unless it is mixed and kneaded into the dough. We can’t just think about it...talk about it.
It isn’t usually flashy because when you work the leaven in, it’s hidden to the eye… but it transforms that loaf! So it is with us in our culture!
All we are asked to do is to mix it up.
We have to get in the loaf. We must be in the world - where Jesus is - in order to be used to accomplish His ongoing work of redemption. Leaven that is not used in time spoils and loses its ability to work; it must be active or it becomes useless. Once hidden in the loaf, active leaven always raises the dough. That’s how it is with our cooperation with grace.
We pray for those in our lives with overgrown or overcome hearts. Often the stresses and circumstances of life can create a small clearing where a seed can actually germinate and take root. (plants in cracks in sidewalk) These divine moments can be opportunities to offer ourselves in the process of sowing, watering and reaping. We pray to be aware of those moments…when God is putting us with that ONE person in need.
FOR THOSE GRACE FILLED MOMENTS
It all begins with awareness/care..one person, one seed, at a time.
Right now you are holding a “bag of seed” – the word of God in your hand. The word of the Kingdom of God is always being sown in your life.
You can spread it wherever you go OR you can keep it for yourself.
St. Josemaria Escriva wrote,
"The sower went out to sow, to scatter the seed at all the crossroads of this earth. What a blessed task we have. We have the job of making sure that in all the circumstances of time and place the word of God takes root, springs up and bears fruit."
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
In Piety, our whole life is directed to God; study helps up establish a better relationship with God, and to come to know His will for us. Action is the exercising of our mind, will and senses—basically doing something. However, in the life of the Christian, our action has Jesus Christ as the focus or reason we do a thing—the things we do and say—our actions are a consequence of being Christian.
Apostolic Action takes Christian action a step further. Apostolic Action is exercising the power of Love; love of God and love of neighbor to bring them closer to Christ. Apostolic Action is important to us. James reminds us that faith without works is dead.
If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. [James 2:15-16]
• On Ash Wednesday, in the Best Lent Ever, Matthew Kelly reminds us that as Christians we are called to act in the world; not to be spectators. We are called to take action—to take bold action—to be involved, to be engaged in the life of our culture and our country.
• Matthew reminds us that it is easy to get distracted by all of the things that we have little to no control over and that we can’t influence. When we get caught up or discouraged by the things that are outside of our control or influence, we often wander away from what Matthew calls our ‘sweet spot.’ That place in our lives where we can have the most impact.
How often have you heard the phrase, “Walk the talk and not merely talk the talk?” Apostolic action or to be apostles means living in Grace so that God can work through us to bring others to Himself.
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear much fruit.” [John 15:16]
Finally, Apostolic Action is essential to the Church
If we don’t act, the Church is not able to carry out its mission to, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” [Mark 16:15]
How do we participate in the Church’s mission to ‘proclaim the Gospel to every creature’? Does that scare you?
It’s hard for me to recognize my Action. I believe my action is something that just flows from who I am. For me, I can see moments when I have been Christlike in my actions, attitudes, and thoughts. But until they become intentional, I’m not sure they are necessarily apostolic in nature.
On the weekend, we learned that for our action to be apostolic it needs to be more than just being kind or considerate towards our neighbors. A non-Christian and non-believer can perform good deeds. To clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the sick or in prison are all good things, but if we fail to introduce them to Jesus, we have missed the punch line. Remember, “The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today” ― St. Francis Of Assisi.
On the weekend we learned about the qualities of Action:
• Rational – we need to employ our mind. We need to have a plan of action.
• Resolute – our apostolic action needs to be bold, decisive, intentional.
Part of our Lent, we are praying for the conversion of poor sinners. I believe we need to go after the most influential who are doing the most damage. First, what comes to mind are those who lead Catholics in the wrong direction. Especially, but not limited to, those who are in positions of power and profess to be Catholic, while advocating falsehoods and immorality, leading Catholics to believe this is somehow the "New Catholicism." "LOVE YOUR ENEMIES LENT" goes for 40 days, starting on Ash Wednesday and going until April 15 (Day 54). We will name a person each day and keep a running list. I encourage you to keep a notebook, and record each name, and pray over that notebook each day. Let's ask God to convert these poor sinners!!!
• Enthusiastic – our apostolic action needs to be enthusiastic.
• Constant – it is ongoing. We need to look for opportunities. We must avoid discouragement.
I can read or hear about the laws being proposed or signed into law that are anti-life. Laws that promote the killing of unborn children and even infanticide.
After attending the March for Life in Washington DC, we woke to the news about the law being proposed in New York that was to make New York the abortion capital. It was disheartening to hear about the law being voted on in New York that would expand the killing of infants and the planned celebration by the supposedly Catholic Governor.
It was a cold morning, but we knew that no matter how cold it was we had to attend the NJ Right to Life Rally in Trenton. We couldn’t tell the legislators of New York how we stood on abortion but by attending the NJ Right to Life rally we could show our support to any NJ Legislators that happened to walk by.
After hearing about the bill in New York state, I was a little discouraged and had to be reminded that the final battle is already won—Jesus wins.
• Supernatural – trust in God
It is His Grace, living in us, that helps us live out our Baptism; which in turn, helps to nurture the seed planted in their soul. People want to see it in you before they will want to hear it from you.
We know that our Apostolic Action is accomplished with Christ because our life in Grace and our prayer help us to trust that He is beside us. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.” [Psalm 23:4]
• Apostolic – everything we do, we do for the Lord, not for our own glory.
Jesus sent His Apostles, now He sends you and me to love and serve our neighbor through our Apostolic Action. As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” [John 20:21]
From the Cursillo perspective we all know the answer; we are called to proclaim the Gospel to those we meet in our moveable square meter by making a friend, becoming friends, and making them friends with Jesus.
• Make a friend. Probably the easiest step. All it takes is the will to take the first step; to introduce yourself. It is important that we are looking for them, don’t expect them to be looking for you.
• Becoming a friend. Live a true, Christlike life. Be interested in knowing them—what they believe and what they are interested in.
• Making them a friend of Jesus. This final step is not accomplished unless it is done for Christ, with Christ, in Christ and like Christ. Our Apostolic Action must be focused on Jesus; we desire that others love Jesus, and we are not worried whether or not they love us.
We need to be open to and look for opportunities.
Recently, on our flight to California, I was sitting next to a gentleman that appeared Asian. I noticed the book he was reading and writing in looked like a bible. When the opportunity presented itself, I introduced myself to him and asked him if the book was a bible. It was a bible, in Korean and English. We talked for a few minutes. I learned that he was returning home to California. He had been teaching bible studies to Spanish-speaking people in north Jersey. He said that he goes to New Jersey several times a year to teach. When I told him that I was Catholic, he shared that his parents were Catholic, and he was raised Catholic, until in his words, “I got saved.”
I wasn’t ready for the “Catholic until I got saved” comment. I spoke with him a little more sharing my faith but felt insecure and inadequate to ask why left his Catholic faith. After landing we both wished each other a safe trip and a blessed day. But I felt like I missed an opportunity to share deeper.
As a couple, we complement one another. We need each other’s support to get out of our own way.
Recently, after the birth of their second daughter, our son let us know that he might need some financial help. Richard’s response was, “If he needed help, he would ask”. Similarly, our niece who has asked for financial help in the past, indicated that they were having financial issues. When we hadn’t heard from her for several weeks, Richard felt we should reach out to her. For my part, I wanted Richard to reach out to our son and see if he needed help. I was more willing to help our son than our niece, while Richard was more willing to reach out to our niece.
Sometimes our feelings and attitudes can get in the way; but together we can be open to all the opportunities that present themselves in our lives. Maybe that’s why Jesus sent the disciples out in twos—to support each other; to be strength to the other when they are tired or worn down; and in our case, to reveal the attitudes that may get in the way of our being Christ to someone else.
We also need to be prepared for successes as well as failures; sometimes people will be open for the message of the Gospel and there will be times that people are not willing to hear the Good News. There will be times that you may see success in your apostolic action but there are times you may not. As St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta said, “God does not call us to be successful; He calls us to be faithful.”
Our oldest son grew up Catholic, and got married in the Catholic Church, but ever since he and his wife have not had anything to do with God or the church. When asked about Baptizing their first daughter, they said that they would let her choose. Now, they have two daughters and all we can do is love them and pray that God works in their lives. I’m sure there were things we could have said or done differently, but you can’t worry about what was, only what happens from now on. We pray and hope and try to be an example of Jesus Christ in the world.
Sometimes that is all you can do. Remember, you may be the only bible that someone ever reads or hears. Let me leave you with one last thought from Matthew Kelly:
“Go out tomorrow and create one Holy Moment. Just one Holy Moment. Not a holy day, not a holy hour, not a holy fifteen minutes, just one single Holy Moment.”
A holy moment is a moment where you set aside self-interest, you set aside self-will, you set aside what you want to do and you just do exactly what you feel God calling you to do in that moment.
Let’s begin praying with a reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew. Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.” He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open. He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand.” The Gospel of the Lord.
Sunday, April 14, 2019
a laundry bag from my Mom before one went off to college. My mom always was one for addressing needs and having a laundry bag was a priority. In my case, she talked constantly about needing a laundry bag prior to starting college. It was a “must have” item. Being me, I just listened to her. Mom bought a blue laundry bag for me.
I really liked my laundry bag which was made of blue cloth with a drawstring. It was durable, easy to use and store. My trusty laundry bag held up for thirty years. As I matured, the bag became more than a holder of dirty and clean clothes, it became an all-purpose bag. It carried Christmas and birthday presents. It carted housewares, party supplies and various miscellaneous items. I always remembered who gave me my laundry bag along with love and care attached to it
As each of the two grandchildren went off to college, the importance of a laundry bag arose, well for me. I did not have to worry about them buying one for themselves because it did not appear to be on their list of “needed” items. Memories flooded me about my bag. My approach was different than my Mom’s. I waited until packing time to give it to each one of them. Each was given a different color. One was gray and the other a marble white and green. Of course, they could have rejected it, but did not. Yes, they are using their laundry bag.
During this process, it hit me that this simple item meant more to me. Besides being a tradition, it became a symbol of love and care. This triggered the idea of passing on other things, such as, values and life skills. Like my parents had prepared me for the next phase of life, I hoped that my husband and I were doing the same for the grandchildren. Hopefully, when they see and use the laundry bag, they will be reminded of home along with the love and care attached to it.
walking on Captiva Island, Florida for about one hour. It was a short stop over until we left for the airport. We all dashed out of the rental car onto the beach and scattered in the same basic area in search of sea shells.
I searched alone. Finding small scalloped shape shells with at least one horizontal maroon stripe on the shell, I collected as many as I could. Once reuniting with the others, I was amazed at all the different types of shells each one of us had gathered. No one collected the same shell. Each of us focused on one particular shape and size. I could not get over this. Although I made a comment about it, we were in a rush so I do not know the reaction of the others.
I had never been on a beach with so many shells of so many varieties. Maybe I was, but never noticed it. The beauty of nature and God’s creation was right in front of me and I noticed it. I was so lucky to have been a part of that moment. I talked about the sea shell collectors on Captiva Island for months, showing everyone I could my shells. In my excitement to share the experience, I gave a few shells away.
In retrospect, the shells represented us, all different and unique. Although we were celebrating being forty years old, most of us never met prior to the trip. It was just a “friend connection’ based on our birth year. We all enjoyed the trip to Sanibel Island for a long weekend with Captiva Island being a side trip. We all respected each other and enjoyed each other company. More importantly, we became sea shell collectors together.
As I approached the church stairs, images of going to basketball practice invaded me. A huge smile overcame me since my favorite memories of practice occurred here at this same parish. The gym was across the parking lot from the church. Attending daily Mass became my new practice court. A journal and prayer book replaced the basketball. With God as my coach and the community as my teammates, I prepared for the game of daily life.
Greeting friends, entering into prayer, joining in the Mass, hearing the word of God, seeing the consecration of the host, hearing Eucharist prayers, receiving the Eucharist, receiving the priest’s blessing, alone prayer time and finally talking with various friends was the “practice” routine. Maybe, I would arrive early before Mass to recite the Rosary or stay later on Wednesdays to recite the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
Participating in daily Mass prepared me for the upcoming day. This happy time and place transformed me. A peace overcame me. By the time I left the church, I was ready for the day. In addition, I developed strong relationships at both parishes were I attended daily Mass. I maintain those friendships through attendance at Sunday Mass, church events, phone calls, cards, dinner dates and retreats.
I no longer attend daily morning Mass routinely. Being discussed with God, who fully understands, I have a shorter daily routine of “practice” with daily praying to God through journaling and devotions at home or at work. Depending on my daily schedule, I tend to switch up “practice” with adoration, and Mass.
Although my daily “practice schedule” has changed, God’s grace and coaching stays with me through my daily living.
Note from Joanne: "Since 2004, this reflection stayed in the writer’s heart. With renewed writing, this finally popped out."