Parable of the Sower Reflection

Representation_of_the_Sower's_parable

A little seed can germinate, grow, and bear fruit. From a little seed, you can wind up with a loaf of bread, or a plate of spaghetti, or a birthday cake. That little seed can help keep a family healthy, happy, and growing. [Español venga pronto.]

But plenty of hostile forces can get in the way.

They farmed on the craggy hillsides around the Sea of Galilee. Not many large, level fields there. Thorns and thistles sprouting up everywhere. Oxen, donkeys, and other people treading the paths that traversed all the cultivated areas. A scorching sun, high in the sky. And plenty of hungry birds, ready to peck up any seed they could find.

Faith in Christ is the great seed of peace and eternal life. To believe what the Blessed Virgin believed, when the angel came and asked her to participate in the salvation of the human race by bearing the divine Child, and she said Yes. To believe what the shepherds believed on Christmas Eve, when they heard the angels singing Glory to God and peace to mankind. To believe what St. Thomas believed, when he saw Jesus risen from the dead and declared, “My Lord and my God.”

To believe what the ancient bishops of the Church gathered in Nicaea believed, and the bishops gathered in Trent to sift through the teachings of the Protestants, and the Fathers at the Vatican sixty years ago, trying to understand the Church’s mission in the 20th century and beyond—to believe what they all believed, from Abraham to Saint Joseph to the living saints among us: to believe that Jesus is the Christ of God, the Word made flesh to save us and give us the Kingdom of Heaven. This faith is the great seed of human peace and death-conquering life.

seed germinationPlenty of hostile forces get in the way. Do we find ourselves at peace in our country? Growing in gentle communion with each other? Seems more like we have fallen into a bad national nightmare. Everyone wishes we could just wake up. 2019 wasn’t exactly a great year, but, gosh: could we take a time machine back a few months anyway?

Do we have peace in our Church? The steady life of fruitful growth, everyone growing together unto the fullness of Christ? Seems more like a lot of thorns and thistles in the temple, heavy footfalls trampling on the seedlings, and the soil feels shallow and dry under the relentless sun.

But wait. Let’s consider the sower in the parable. Where did He get His seed to sow? Southern States? Lowe’s? No. He simply has it. He didn’t have to go anywhere to get it. And He does not skimp in spreading it.

Why did He sow seed on the path in the first place? Or on the rocky ground? Or near the thorns and thistles? Is He blind, this Sower?

No. The opposite. He just has so much seed to sow that He spreads it everywhere. He never worries about running out.

God gives the gift of faith in Christ. God gives hope for peace and eternal life. God gives insight, patience, trust, and communion with heavenly love. God gives the interior seeds that can build up our relationship with Him, and with each other.

God doesn’t run out of grace. The hostile forces may get in the way and choke out some growth sometimes. But God has more seed in the seed bag. He tries again. He spreads some more.

caravaggio_incredulity_st_thomas1I have sought “mutual understanding” with the Lord, especially lately. Teach me Your will, Master. Give me the persevering courage necessary to do it. Help me understand. That’s our daily prayer, all of us.

But what does mutual understanding between a human soul and God really come down to, in the end? It’s not like an algebra lesson, with formulas and stuff. It’s this: He understands, and I don’t. I understand only that He fully understands everything that confuses me.

His plan leads to peace and life. His Kingdom comes–when I trust, and abandon everything for Him. The seed germinates within me, when I believe. Especially when my leg aches, because it’s infected from a dog bite, and I have no idea what my future holds, and all earthly hope seems lost.

It’s precisely in moments like that when He told us: Rejoice and be glad. Your names are written in heaven. I died on a cross and sojourned among the dead, in order to give you endless life.

Let the thorns and thistles try to choke off My harvest. Let them try. Let the birds peck, and the heavy footfalls crush. Let the hot, dry sun beat down. Let them all try to cause famine and death. Let them try.

I have visited the underworld Myself, the land of darkness and endless thirst. I stood there, with five gaping wounds in my flesh. And Life flowed out of them.

Our faith in Him will bear fruit. It comes from heaven as a gift. Let’s hold fast to it, so that it can grow.

7 thoughts on “Parable of the Sower Reflection

  1. May the Lord give you strength and guidance. For the sake of His sorrowful passion..

  2. Fr Mark…thank you for your profoundly moving words. They have given me strength for the journey as I move through a very difficult time in my life. Your pain, and the faith in which you carry it, is producing its own harvest in others like me. Thank you for your courage and perseverance. Stay strong in the Lord!

  3. Father mark… if you trust in god and his plan then all earthly hope should not be lost… these posts arent helping your cause… i think you should be able to blog but yourto the pount in turning everything about your situation instead of really drawing people to god. You are ceeating more division in the church…. I sympathize with what your going through… you are always in my prayers… its nit tgat i have stopped believing in what you are trying to do… but in many ways it seems you have forgotten that it is christs church that is what is important… all the errors… all the bad stuff is done by man… its happened since the start of the church. I really wish if being apriest meant as much to you as you being a priest did to us… then you could back off and follow the obedience you did say you would… you know once st faustina was told to do ine thing by christ and one thing by her bishop… jesus told her to follow the bishop. There are many instances of that… it is something that is upheld over the years….

    I do hope your leg gets better…. no matter what you are always in my prayers

  4. briteyyez – I’m hoping you might have the time to read the following – It is St. Catherine and she was very outspoken. This may give you some insight as to where Father Mark may be coming from. I believe many who have the courage to speak a truth for healing are often considered in a poor light. As the saying goes – Truth Hurts.

    Posted on February 15, 2015 by Msgr. Charles Pope
    Time for Clergy to “Man Up” – How the Exhortation of St. Catherine of Siena is Still Needed Today!
    44

    021515True sanctity does not easily fit into our notions of being merely nice or humble. The lives of the actual saints of the Church exude joy and can bring great encouragement to many around them. But it is also true that the great saints were irksome and unsettling to many. Most of the great saints had encountered the holiness of God and wanted to see that holiness be like a fire cast on the earth. When you really want to please God rather than men, you’re not going to be easily silenced in the face of sin and injustice, nor will you be engaging in pleasantries that merely cover over sin.

    Catharine Benincasa was such a soul. We know her as St. Catherine of Siena. And though renowned for her love, generosity, and humility, as well as her power to heal, console, and cast out demons, she was no shrinking violet. If she saw something in your soul that was unholy, you were going to hear about it. And it didn’t matter who you were.

    St Catherine would meet with anyone from the poorest beggars to kings, governors, bishops, and popes, and none of them were denied her love and encouragement. Neither were they spared the hard truths that God gave her to say. Only God was to be pleased, not man. Spiritual truths were to be extolled over every temporal matter like safety, comfort, and pleasing the powers-that-be.

    She loved the Church but remained gravely concerned with the condition of the beloved Bride of Christ. Particularly egregious to her was the condition of so many clergy, right on up the ranks. Even the popes of her time, whom she acknowledged as the sweet Vicars of Christ, and her beloved father (“Babbo” in her native Tuscan) could not escape her expressions of grave disappointment and her calls to conversion.

    Of special significance for our time is her exchange of letters with Pope Gregory XI. Though he himself led an exemplary life in many respects, he was a weak, shy, even cowardly man. He was deeply compromised by his temporal ties to power, wealth, and protection, without which he feared he and the papacy could not survive. Nepotism was also a terrible problem, as his own family members kept him wound around their fingers.

    Most of the early popes died as martyrs. But by the time of the Avignon Papacy, the popes had become very tied to the world and had “too much to lose.” Instead of facing their opponents boldly, preaching the gospel, and refusing to be afraid, they had fled to Avignon and had been in residence there for decades, living behind fortified walls, protected by armies, and compromised by alliances with secular rulers. It had to stop.

    Gregory XI was the last of the Avignon popes, but he only returned to Rome at the prodding of a young woman, not yet thirty, who told him, in effect, to “man up.” Perhaps most disconcerting to him was the fact that she seemed to know of a secret vow he had made to God that if he were to be elected Pope he would bring the papacy back to Rome. How could she know? But she did. Yet after all, was that not why he sought her advice? She knew God, and fearful though her words were, they were compelling, for he knew that God was speaking to him through her. In 1377, after much delay and fretting, he left for Rome.

    I want to produce here some excerpts from a letter she wrote to Gregory XI just prior to 1377. I think her words speak to the clergy of today. The specific issues that beset clergy today are somewhat different, but not that different. The Church no longer commands extensive temporal power or rule. But too many (though not all) clergy still exhibit a need to “man up” when it comes to teaching with clarity and authority. And too many clergy, pastors in parishes, and bishops in dioceses, are unwilling to maintain holy discipline or enforce canonical penalties, ever.

    St. Catherine confronts this tendency in her letter and does not, to put it mildly, regard this favorably. She sees it as mired in self-love and in the refusal to suffer with the Lord, who died for us at our hands rather than lie to us. She uses the image of a wound that needs to be cauterized with hot irons rather than soothed with oil. But the weak clergy who do not want to hear the cries of protest use only oil to soothe, even though this does not heal and in fact only leads the wound to get worse and in the end cause death. Such malpractice is rooted in self-love, not true zeal to heal and prevent spiritual death.

    Well, I have already said too much; I will let Saint Catherine speak for herself. If you think my blogs are long, try reading St. Catherine’s letters! I present here only excerpts of a much longer letter to Pope Gregory; she wrote several others, too. The translation I am using here is from Letters of Catherine Benincasa

    In the Name of Jesus Christ crucified and of sweet Mary: To you, most reverend and beloved father in Christ Jesus, your unworthy, poor, miserable daughter Catherine, servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, writes in His precious Blood … the soul is constrained to love what God loves and to hate what He hates. Oh, sweet and true knowledge, which dost carry with thee the knife of hate, and dost stretch out the hand of holy desire … [But if a prelate] sees his subjects commit faults and sins, and pretends not to see them and fails to correct them; or if he does correct them, he does it with such coldness and lukewarmness that he does not accomplish anything, but plasters vice over; and he is always afraid of giving displeasure or of getting into a quarrel. All this is because he loves himself. Sometimes men like this want to get along with purely peaceful means.

    I say that this is the very worst cruelty which can be shown. If a wound when necessary is not cauterized or cut out with steel, but simply covered with ointment, not only does it fail to heal, but it infects everything, and many a time death follows from it.

    Oh me, oh me, sweetest “Babbo” [a term of affection in her native Tuscan which translates roughly as “Papa”] mine! This is the reason that all the subjects are corrupted by impurity and iniquity.

    Oh me, weeping I say it! How dangerous is that worm [of self-love] we spoke of! For not only does it give death to the shepherd, but all the rest fall into sickness and death through it.

    Why does that shepherd go on using so much ointment? Because he does not suffer in consequence! For no displeasure visits one and no ill will, from spreading ointment over the sick; since one does nothing contrary to their will; they wanted ointment, and so ointment is given them.

    Oh, human wretchedness! Blind is the sick man who does not know his own need, and blind the shepherd-physician, who has regard to nothing but pleasing, and his own advantage—since, not to forfeit it, he refrains from using the knife of justice or the fire of ardent charity! But such men do as Christ says: for if one blind man guide the other, both fall into the ditch. Sick man and physician fall into hell.

    Such a man is a hireling shepherd, for, far from dragging his sheep from the hands of the wolf, he devours them himself. The cause of all this is, that he loves himself apart from God: so he does not follow sweet Jesus, the true Shepherd, who has given His life for His sheep.

    Truly, then, this perverse love is perilous for one’s self and for others, and truly to be shunned, since it works too much harm to every generation of people.

    I hope by the goodness of God, venerable father mine, that you will quench this in yourself, and will not love yourself for yourself, nor your neighbor for yourself, nor God; but will love Him because He is highest and eternal Goodness, and worthy of being loved …

    O “Babbo” mine, sweet Christ on earth, follow that sweet Gregory (the Great)! For all will be possible to you as to him; for he was not of other flesh than you; and that God is now who was then: we lack nothing save virtue, and hunger for the salvation of souls.

    … Let no more note be given to friends or parents or one’s temporal needs, but only to virtue and the exaltation of things spiritual … have that glorious hunger which these holy and true shepherds of the past … hungered and famished for the savor of souls.

    … Following Christ, whose vicar you are, like a strong man … Fear not; for divine aid is near. Have a care for spiritual things alone, for good shepherds, good rulers, in your cities—since on account of bad shepherds and rulers you have encountered rebellion.

    Give us, then, a remedy … Press on, and fulfill with true zeal and holy what you have begun with a holy resolve, concerning your return, and the holy and sweet crusade. And delay no longer, for many difficulties have occurred through delay, and the devil has risen up to prevent these things being done, because he perceives his own loss.

    Up, then, father, and no more negligence! Raise the gonfalon of the most holy Cross, for with the fragrance of the Cross you shall win peace.

    We await you with eager and loving desire. Pardon me, father, that I have said so many words to you. You know that through the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh … I beg you to do what you have to do manfully and in the fear of God … Remain in the sweet and holy grace of God. I ask you humbly for your blessing. Pardon my presumption, that I presume to write to you. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love [Letter to Gregory XI, quoted in Letters of Catherine Benincasa pp. 49-51].

    Such words still ring true in our day! For too many today in the Church would use the “oil” of accommodation to the culture today, a culture filled with sexual confusion, in which disposable marriages and easy grace without repentance are demanded. To heal such wounds, the cauterizing of the hot iron of truth is needed. Applying the oil of consolation may meet with fewer protests from those who are sick from lies, but in the end this does not help heal the putrefying wounds. Despite the protests, only the hot iron will do.

    It’s time for clergy to man up and apply the more difficult medicines. May the upcoming synod show forth the vigor and courage to which St. Catherine summons us.

    Thank you, Mother Catherine. May you, who converted the heart of Gregory XI and summoned him to courageous manhood, now imbue us, the clergy of today, with that same fortitude and determination to do what really heals, even if the current age protests.

  5. Speaking of St. Catherine of Sienna. An excerpt from “The Dialogue” and the Chapter “Mystical Body of Holy Church,” pages 216-220:

    And if you should ask me why I said that this sin of those who persecute holy Church is grave than any other sin, and why it is my will that the sins of the clergy should not lessen your reverence for them, this is how I would answer you: Because the reverence you pay to them is not actually paid to them, but to me, in virtue of the blood I have entrusted to their ministry.

    So the reverence belongs not to the ministers, but to me … and just as the reverence is done to me, so also is the irreverence, for I have already told you that you must not reverence them for themselves but for the authority I have entrusted to them.

    For this reason, no one has excuse to say, “I am doing no harm, nor am I rebelling against holy Church. I am simply acting against the sins of evil pastors.” Such persons are deluded, blinded as they are by their own selfishness. To me redounds every assault they make on my ministers: derision, slander, disgrace, abuse. Whatever is done to them I count as done to me. For I have said, and I say it again: No one is to touch my christs. It is my right to punish them, and no one else’s.

    Therefore, I will tell you, if all the other sins these people have committed were put on one side and the one sin on the other, this one would weigh more in my sight than all the others. I have shown you this so that you would have more reason to grieve that I am offended and these wretched souls damned, so that the bitter sorrow of you and my other servants, by my kind mercy, might dissolve the great darkness that has come over these rotten members who are cut off from the mystic body of holy Church.

    O dearest daughter, grieve without measure at the sight of such wretched blindness in those who have been washed in the blood, and have been nourished with this blood at the breast of holy Church! Now like rebels they have pulled away from that breast out of fear and under the pretext of correcting the faults of my ministers – something I have forbidden them to do, for I do not want my anointed ones touched by them. What terror should come over you and my other servants when you hear any mention of that wretched chain of theirs! Your tongue could never describe how hateful it is to me!

  6. Dear Fr. Mark, I very much agree with Mary Cull’s comments. As always, the thoughts you share lift me up. As I went about my rather mundane jobs this morning, my mind roamed. I thought about God, you, the bishop, myself, others. I thought about decisions- past and present and what the future may hold. I believe we have to do what God calls us to do. Sometimes what we feel God is calling us to do may take us in a new direction. (You know well all of the changes in my personal journey last year.) At this time in your life, you are doing what you feel called to do. And it is costing you dearly…your pain is surely more than any of the rest of us can truly experience and understand. We know that God’s answer comes when He wills it, even as He gives us the strength to go forward…but the waiting can be very hard to bear….may God’s love comfort and strengthen you: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.” Amen.
    Judy

  7. Even if (the Pope is an incarnate devil), we aught not to raise up our heads against him, but calmly lie down to rest on his bosom… He who rebels against our Father is condemned to death. For that which we do to him we do to Christ: we honor Christ if we honor the Pope; we dishonor Christ if we dishonor the Pope. St Catherine of Sienna.

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