The root of the message offered in today’s Gospel is what is foundational to beginning and continuing as a disciple of Jesus. This is the disposition of our heart. Are we closed to receiving the message of the Gospel, or are we open to embrace the invitation of Jesus to become more active in living our faith in our everyday life?
The exchange of Jesus with his disciples in today’s reading from Matthew comes after his sharing of the Parable of the Sower (Mt 13:1-9). In this parable Jesus offers scenarios regarding the conditions of seeds sown. Some fell on a hardened path, some on rocky ground, some fell among thorns, and some fell on the rich soil. The seeds in the first three settings were not able either to germinate or come to full maturity. The seed that was sown in rich soil was able to germinate, sprout, mature and bear fruit.
As disciples we are meant to bear fruit. That means our beginning step to preparing rich soil is to have an open heart and mind to the message of the Gospel. If we have eyes to see and ears to hear, we can quickly assess when our hearts are hardened and our minds are closed. When someone makes a statement, do we immediately judge it before the sentence is even completed? If we are in touch with our emotions, are we aware of the tenseness of our body and our shortening of breath. Think back to some times when we have reacted in this way, think of some times when we have had similar reactions in prayer, or when we feel God leading us to serve in a particular way, or when a scriptural passage peaks our interest and we ignore it, read on, or close our Bible. How about times when a person interrupts us with an issue, or we see someone in need and keep walking and while we walk away with feel the angst of guilt.
The good news presented in the above examples is that we are alive and our conscience is somewhat intact. Our soil may be on rocky ground, but at least there is some soil. The worst state, and the one Jesus addressed in today’s Gospel is the heart of indifference that is closed, the seed falling on the well trod path, that is hard and packed down so nothing gets through. For these people, “they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand” (Mt 13:13). Yet, even this soil can be broken open and tilled. Even the hardest heart can be softened, if one is willing to turn to Jesus.
Jesus, in his explanation of why he spoke in parables, returned to the inaugural message of his ministry: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15). To be a disciple of Jesus we need to be willing to repent, to acknowledge the hardness of our heart, the closing of our mind, the turning in on our self, and to begin again. We need to turn to Jesus in our brokenness and pain, to seek healing for the wounds that tempt to separate us and keep us isolated.
We need to be willing to risk, to care, to hope, and to love. As we go through the day, as we seek to grow as disciples, we will make mistakes, we will not be perfect, we will be hurt, betrayed, we will fall and sometimes feel we can’t get up. But if we trust in Jesus, are willing to learn from our mistakes, go to him for healing and confession, our hearts will soften, our minds will open, we will have eyes to see and ears to hear. We will come to experience that we are not alone, that we have not been abandoned, that there is hope because there is a way forward, there is a goal we have to attain, which is to be perfected in Christ, to be one with our loving God and Father.
Jesus, soften our hearts and open our minds to you and your Father’s will that we may experience the transforming love of the Holy Spirit.
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Link for the Mass readings for Thursday, July 25, 2018: