Saturday: 14th Week - Year A - Matthew 10:24-33
Friday : 14th Week - Year A - Matthew 10:16-23
Thursday: 14th Week - Year A - Matthew 10:7-15
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 55:10-11; Rm 8:8-23; Matthew 13:1-23
Jesus tells us that the seed in this parable is the Word of God and you and our hearts are the soil. In this parable, Jesus identifies 4 types of hearts. That's what I want to look at today in this passage. The Shallow Heart, The Stony Heart, The Strangled Heart and The Surrendered Heart.
- The Shallow Heart
The seed that fell on the path, and the birds of the air scooped them up. Birds of the air, well there are different meanings attributed to this expression. There is The Shallow Heart. This is the heart which is constantly distracted. It has too many interests. There is no focus and a lack of vision. This is the heart that has enthusiasm without commitment. This is the heart that is pleasantly pleased with the prospect which the seed brings but makes no promise.
That's what Jesus meant by The Shallow Heart. It's the soil of the soul and of the heart that is so shallow the seed really doesn't take root but is immediately eaten by the birds of the air in the light of every day living and the regular trials and tribulations of being faith. It's hijacked and gone so quickly.
- The Stony Heart
Secondly there is The Stony Heart. This is the hardened heart. It can be packed and hardened by any number of things. Broken relationship, old wounds, dried out spirit or flagrant rebellion, one that has said no to God. No one or nothing is getting in. This is the wounded, bitter heart, totally surrendered to the world and anything NOT of God. In the Stony Heart, the seed of God's Word gets gobbled up by the desires of world before it even has a chance to even settle.
III. The Strangled Heart
And that brings us to The Strangled Heart. This is the heart that is filled with faith. It springs up and grows and even has deep roots. Unfortunately it is trying to grow where it always grew and it's distracted and subdued and defeated by the stuff and worries of the world. And there is a lot to be distracted by.
We have more choices in our lives than at any other time in history. And instead of down sizing, the list just keeps getting bigger and bigger. A trip to the grocery store and there's about 100 breakfast cereals to choose from, 200 kinds of soup, 50 to 100 blends of coffee, you get the idea.
Here, where we are blessed with so much, those choices often become a major distraction. There are so many things we want to do or see or try or experience. We want to enjoy life a little more before we make a serious commitment. And the minute that thought pops into our head, the thorns and weeds start to choke and take over.
That's The Strangled Heart.
- The Surrendered Heart
But then there's The Surrendered Heart. This is the Hopeful and Joyful heart. This is the heart that is most like the heart of God. You see, the sower in this passage is rather scandalous. When I was farming, you were careful with your seed. It was expensive. You only used the best and you only planted it in the best soil. You didn't just go throwing seed everywhere like this guy did. How wasteful. And maybe that's part of the point.
Sure this passage is about the soil of our hearts and the timber of our souls. But it's also about an extravagant God who blesses us beyond measure. An extravagant God who continues to scatter the best seed, His Word, to a world where there are still Stony Hearts, Shallow Hearts and Strangled Hearts. It was a shock and a scandal and still is, to those who think they have the inside track to heaven. Our God is truly and extravagant God who blesses us beyond all measure despite the fact that we don't deserve any of those blessings.
But we rejoice in the fact that we have and extravagant God who sows the seed of his love in places that may not, and probably won't ever take root and produce fruit. But remember, we believe in a God of miracles and sometimes that's exactly what happens. The seed does take root. It isn't gobbled up, dried out or strangled.
Instead, it takes root, blooms and prospers. And when that happens, God rejoices and uses that seed as an example of just how extravagant God's grace truly is. God's grace, can change the stony, shallow, strangled heart into the Surrendered Heart. This is the heart that makes a difference.
- Dr. Keith Wagner, of St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Sidney, Ohio tells the story of a small boy in Florida some years ago. It seems he heard that the Russians were our enemies. He began to wonder about the Russian children, finding it hard to believe that they were his enemies. He wrote a short note: "Dear comrade in Russia. I am seven years old and I believe that we can live in peace. I want to be your friend, not your enemy. Will you become my friend and write to me?"
He closed the letter, "Love and Peace" and signed his name. He then neatly folded the note, put it into an empty bottle, and threw it into an inland lake near his home. Several days later, the bottle and note were retrieved on a nearby beach. A story about the note appeared in a local newspaper and the media picked it up nationwide. A group of people from New Hampshire who were taking children to the Soviet Union as ambassadors of peace, read the article, contacted the boy and his family. They invited them to accompany the group to Russia. So, the little boy and his father traveled to Russia as peacemakers.
One little boy made a difference. He planted his seed and it bore much fruit.
And it doesn't take much if the soil is the soil of The Surrendered Heart.
We serve an extravagant God. The Son of God is the, the seed is not only the Word of God, but His grace and the offer of forgiveness which is given to each of us. The Sower continues to sow. The question for us is: How does your garden grow? Which heart do you possess. The Stony Heart, The Shallow Heart, The Strangled Heart or the Surrendered Heart?
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza
Guardian Angels Church
Wednesday: 14th Week- Year A - Matthew 10:1-7
Tuesday: 14th Week - Year A - Matthew 9:32-38
Monday: 14th Week- Year A - Matthew
14th Sunday: Year A - Zachariah 9:9-10; Matthew 11:25-30
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year. A
Zech 9.9-10; Rm 8.9,11-13 Mt 11.25-30
Our lesson for today contains a verse that many of us need to take to heart. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Jesus is describing many of us. He knows our situation. Tired. Stressed out. Battling fatigue. Our nerves on edge.
A young mother was describing a terrible day she had experienced. The washing machine broke down, the telephone kept ringing, her head ached, and the mail carrier brought a bill she had no money to pay. Almost to the breaking point, she lifted her one-year-old into his highchair, leaned her head against the tray, and began to cry.
Without a word, her son took his pacifier out of his mouth and stuck it in hers. It goes with the pressures of modern life. Some of us are stressed out and we are tired. Some of this is due to work. Studies show we’re working harder than ever. As a result many of us are not getting enough sleep. This is true for young people as well as adults.
Jesus says to us and to them, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” That’s encouraging, isn’t it? But what does it mean?
Most of you can visualize the kind of yoke Jesus had in mind. It was a kind of crossbar with two U‑shaped pieces that encircled the necks of a pair of oxen. The easiest interpretation of this text is that when we are yoked to Jesus, he walks beside us and helps us bear our burdens. We don’t have to bear the weight of our world by ourselves. That is the obvious teaching, and it is a beautiful teaching. But there are many ways in which being yoked to Christ gives us rest.
Note, first of all, that there are other forms of fatigue more draining than physical fatigue. Mental fatigue and emotional fatigue can wear on us far more than physical fatigue.
In 1863, the Civil War was raging and the end was far from sight. Abraham Lincoln was out for a ride with his friend and aide Noah Brooks. Brooks, noticing the president’s obvious fatigue, suggested that he take a brief rest when they got back to the White House.
“A rest,” Lincoln replied, “I don’t know about a rest. I suppose it’s good for the body, but the tired part of me is inside and out of reach.”
Lincoln was acknowledging a very important truth. There are many sources of fatigue. Physical fatigue may be the most benign. There is the fatigue that comes from stress. Fatigue that comes from worry. Fatigue that comes not only from worrying about the future, but also worrying about the past. Fatigue that comes from trying to be something we are not.
Physical fatigue, unless overdone, helps us sleep peacefully at night. Emotional and mental fatigue actually keep us awake. That’s when we get really, really tired.
For example, when we are yoked to Jesus we no longer have to prove to the world that we belong. Many of us have a vast insecurity in our hearts about our own self worth. This insecurity makes every task we handle more difficult. Often we expend an enormous amount of energy trying to be something we are not.
Some of you may have seen the Johnny Cash movie, Walk the Line. When Cash was 12-years-old his older brother died in a tragic accident. Cash’s father took his grief out on Johnny. “Death took the wrong boy” his father told him time and time again. His brother was the good boy. He should have lived. Johnny was the bad boy. If anyone should have died, it should have been Johnny. No wonder Johnny Cash spent so many years acting out his rage and his feelings of being “no good.” Can you imagine a father doing that to his son? No wonder that, for many years of his life, Johnny Cash engaged in self-destructive behaviour. It’s a wonder he survived at all. But isn’t it great that, by the end of his life, Johnny Cash discovered a Heavenly Father who accepted him just as he was.
Cash’s situation may have been extreme, but there are many people who feel for one reason or another that they do not belong, that their life has little value. That they are failures who can never measure up. Many of these rebel in anti-social behaviour. But there are many others who, while they do not rebel, put themselves under an intolerable burden of expectations that they cannot possibly live up to. These expectations produce both stress and fatigue. To be able to relax and be ourselves is one of the greatest benefits our faith gives us.
Soren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher who suffered bouts of extreme melancholy, undoubtedly due to a difficult upbringing. One day he wrote in his Journal, “And now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.”
What a liberating thought: “And now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.” Not what others expect me to be. Not some unrealistic image I have of myself. No, with God’s help I shall become who I really am. No more stressful pretending. No more misguided strivings. I will relax and be me. When we feel accepted by Christ, then for the first time in our life we become free. When we are yoked to Jesus we no longer have to prove to the world that we belong.
This is to say that when we are yoked to Jesus, we know that we are loved, accepted, forgiven. It is amazing how much inner turmoil can be eliminated from our lives when we know we are loved, accepted, forgiven.
There is an ancient legend that says that, in the region of Galilee two thousand years ago, all the farmers knew where to get the finest yokes for their oxen. There was a certain carpenter in Nazareth famed for shaping and smoothing the wood so that the burden on their oxen would be as light as possible.
Christ is still in the business of fashioning yokes to ease the burdens of his weary children. He still says to people today, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. And we could never fly.
Our Lord Jesus thanks the Father for giving a greater enlightened wisdom to the simple than the worldly wise people. That is why simple people are able to dig deep into God’s kingdom. Most of the complex type of people does not really enjoy life, and that is a fact. They are too much worried about their wealth, beauty, power and all kind anxieties to keep themselves fit and never really reach to enjoy the simple joys of life.
God has given each one of us the wisdom and strength to be what we are and to make the most of now than later. That is why we read the First Reading from the Book of Zechariah that promised the coming of our King who would arrive in Jerusalem, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. In fulfillment of what had been spoken through the prophet Zechariah, this event took place when Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem a few days before His crucifixion. (Mt 21.5; Jn 12.15) This event identified Jesus as the One who was to rule as the King of kings in the spiritual Jerusalem (Gal 4.25-6). His simplicity and humility should inspire us. He was not at all concerned what people would think and tell.
We hear Jesus say that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. When we live our Christian life as a new creation, enjoying the gifts that we have received we are overwhelmed with gratitude.
To explain this, while those of a worldly heart seek to accumulate their treasures, those of a spiritual heart give freely what they own. While the worldly minded hold grudges, those of a spiritual mind forgive. While those of the worldly way avoid Church attendance, the spiritual minded person cherishes the presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and continue to enjoy a richer presence of the divine in their daily activities.
So, let us, in all our daily thoughts, words and actions, let us remember to value our ongoing presence before the indwelling Spirit of God. Through Jesus, let us strive to worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship Him. (Jn 4.23) May we always remember to place God first in our lives. May we always remember to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. To succeed in this goal, we must seek to walk hand-in-hand with the indwelling Holy Spirit who is our Guide in all things. By doing these things, Jesus will find rest in our hearts and our souls will find the true and perfect rest in the Heart of Jesus.
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.'"(Mt. 11.25-30)
"Little children live intensely in the present moment, neither in the past nor in the future. As the French writer La Bruyre once put it, ‘Children have neither past nor future, but they have something we seldom have—they rejoice in the present.’
This is the child-like trait which the New Testament would have us imitate. Age quod agis—literally, ‘do what you are doing’…The future does not yet exist and the past is gone forever. What we have is the present moment. By it we are fashioning our eternity.…"
We are God’s Children
One winter day, a little boy was standing on a grate next to a bakery trying to keep his shoeless feet warm. A woman passing by saw the frosty-toed child and her heart ached. He had on only a light-weight jacket and no shoes, and the air was chilly, the wind sharp.
"Where are your shoes, young man?" she asked. The boy reluctantly admitted he didn’t have any. "Why don’t you come with me and we’ll see what we can do about that?" the woman said. Taking his hand, she led him into a nearby department store and bought him a new pair of shoes and a warm jacket.
When they came back out onto the street, the little boy was so excited that he immediately started to run off to show his family his gifts. Suddenly he halted, turned around and ran back to the woman. He thanked her and then hesitated, "Ma’am, could I ask you a question? Ma’am, are you God’s wife?"
The woman smiled and said, "Oh, no, I’m not God’s wife, just one of God’s children."
The little boy grinned and nodded enthusiastically, "I knew it! I just knew you were related!"
'I thank you, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.'
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Vancouver - Canada