Temple and SeedPosted: October 16, 2016
The scriptural readings for the 17th day after Pentecost are 2 Corinthians 6: 16 – 7:1, and the St. Luke 8: 5 -15, or the epistle and gospel respectively. From the epistle we read St. Paul’s words which he, in part, takes from both the Law and Prophets:
For you are the temple of the living God, just as God said, “I shall indwell and walk among them, I shall be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Cor 6: 16).
Thus, the Triune God desires relationship with humanity. The Creator desires communion with his creatures. St. Paul is in agreement with St. John’s recording of Jesus’ words found in his High Priestly Prayer: “in order that all might be one, just as you, Father are in me and I in you, in order that even they might be in us…” (John 17: 21). Our salvation is not simply a juridical reality — a legal absolving of guilt. Christian salvation is a relational union with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then, Jesus speaks of this union with himself by the Eucharist: “The one who is eating my flesh and drinking my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6: 56).
This union, this abiding, however, is not without condition. We read of Jesus’ words: “If you keep my commandments, you abide in my love, just as I have kept the commandments of my Father and abide in his love” (John 15: 10). We must be obedient to Christ’s words and walk in his ways to maintain this relational union which is our salvation. Let’s return to St. Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians’ sixth chapter which quote Isaiah and Ezekiel:
Therefore, come out from their midst and separate from them, says the Lord. Do not touch uncleanness and I shall welcome you and I shall a Father to you, and you shall be for me sons and daughters says the Lord Almighty. These things hold the promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, accomplishing holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor 6: 17 – 18).
This day’s gospel concerns Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. In essence, it is a parable of evangelism. Christ and his gospel are the seeds, and human receptiveness of Christ and his message of salvation. We, however, tend to think of the parable in static terms — those representing the trodden path will always be hard and always unreceptive. We see those who represent the rocky soil always to be shallow and weak in times of testing. Then, we seem to accept that those who represent the good soil to always be receptive and fruitful. I see the parable to be dynamic, or we all represent all three types of soil. We can all be hard, shallow, and also well cultivated.
I have a garden. It is difficult work which requires vigilance. Well, I’m not so vigilant. Weeds take over in an instant, and crops need to be gathered in in their proper time. Soil needs to be tended and prepared each season. So the good soil can change in condition. So can we.
In this parable Christ concludes his parable with these words: “The one who has an ear, let him hear! (Luke 8: 8). The condition of the soil — its receptivity to the word — is dependent upon hearing and consequent obedience.
We come to attentiveness. In various points throughout the Divine Liturgy we have this imperative: “Let us attend!” Our wandering minds need to snap to attention to hear both the words of the Epistle and the Gospel. Focus is demanded for hearing. Hearing is demanded for receptivity.
Then, there is the common malady of “selective hearing.” Every spouse, parent, and child complains of this condition. My wife, Janice, is a RN. She works in a local hospital’s Recovery Room. She related a comical comment made by an anesthesiologist who was experiencing “selective hearing”: “If I want to be ignored, I don’t need to be here, I can just go home!” While dwelling among his people our Lord observed the same symptoms: “He came to his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1: 11).
Wondering minds must focus. Hardened hearts must be broken up and softened. Deaf ears must be opened. If we dismiss the words of the Scriptures we pass on the opportunity to receive Christ once again, to have him again planted and grow in our lives — all that we may bear his fruit before the world. To receive the often challenging, and even confronting, words of the Scriptures in our lives let me put forward the eucharistic perspective of St. Paul: “Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in all things for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes 5: 16 – 18).
“Let him who has an ear, let him hear!”