Behold the Sower Went Forth to Sow

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Friday of the Sixteenth Week of the Year I

Exodus 20:1-17
Psalm 18:8, 9, 10, 11
Matthew 13:18-23

The Law Through Moses

In today’s lesson from the Book of Exodus, God speaks to Moses, giving him The Ten Commandments. Saint John, in his Prologue, says: “The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (Jn 1:17). The Ten Commandments reveal the desire of God that we should be happy and holy. God forbids only the things that will make us unhappy; he commands only the things that make for our happiness and peace.

Holiness and Beatitude

Obedience to the commandments is the path of return to God. Saint Benedict says that, “through the toil of obedience, we return to Him from Whom we have separated by the sloth of disobedience” (RB Pro:1). Returning to God by obedience, we live in communion with Him — in His grace — and that is the beginning of eternal beatitude.

Benefits of the Law

The Responsorial Psalm chants the praises of the Law in a kind of litany. What does the Law do for those who obey it? It refreshes the soul. It gives wisdom to the simple. It rejoices the heart. It enlightens the eye. What does sin do for those who persist in it? It wearies the soul. It makes one foolish. It makes one’s heart heavy with sadness. It dims the eye of the soul. Look at the world dominated by the flesh and the devil. What do you see? People who are weary, bored, burnt out, foolish to the point of being stupid, depressed, angry, and dim.

Christ the Sower

In the parable of the Gospel, Our Lord Himself is the Sower. He scatters abroad the seeds of holiness and of happiness, the seeds of the Kingdom. He gives three examples of how not to receive the Word of the Kingdom.

The Superficial Hearer

Those who are flighty and superficial receive the Word without understanding it. Then comes the Wicked One to steal away the seed lying on the surface of their hearts. And so they remain sterile. How do I know if I fall into this first category of hearers of the Word? Do I balk at silence? Do I neglect lectio divina? Do I close my ears to sound teaching, and give into the itch for novelty? Do I crave variety? If something is hard to understand the first time round, do I give up on it?

The virtue that corrects superficiality is stability in silence. One must resist temptations to shorten the time set aside for prayer, to wander around aimlessly, to speed read, and to “surf the net” in search of vanities. The Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary — prayed regularly and prayed well — is the best remedy for flighty and superficial souls.

The Flighty Hearer

The flighty man, given to passing pious enthusiasms, receives the word in a kind of spiritual giddiness. What happens then? At the first sign of contradiction, he becomes deflated. He has no endurance. Our Lord says, “Yet hath he not root in himself, but is only for a time: and when there ariseth tribulation and persecution because of the word, he is presently scandalized. Giddiness and godliness do not go together.

The virtue that corrects giddiness is sobriety. Sobriety manifests itself in calmness, in prudence, in a steady reliance on grace, and in patience. A good model of spiritual sobriety is Saint Thomas More.

The Anxious Hearer

Our Lord compares anxiety and fretting over worldly things with the thorns that choke the seed’s first tender shoots. “”He that receiveth the seed among thorns is he that heareth the word, and the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choketh up the word, and he becometh fruitless” (Mt 13:22). The last three words are a terrible indictment: “and he becometh fruitless.”

How do I know if I fall into this category of hearers of the Word? Am I forever fretting about this little thing and that? Do I seek to control the present and the future? Do I worry about not having enough, or about lacking something? Do I hoard or accumulate things? Do I feel the need to stash things away and to be secretive about what I have? Am I stingy?

The virtue that corrects all these sinful dispositions is abandonment to Divine Providence, a flowering of the theological virtue of hope. Saint Claude La Colombière, the friend of the Sacred Heart, gives a splendid example of hope, confidence, and abandonment to Divine Providence, but so too do all the saints, each in his or her own way.

The Fruitful Hearer

The last sentence of the Gospel describes the good ground. It is “he that heareth the word, and understandeth, and beareth fruit, and yieldeth” (Mt 13:23) an hundred-fold, or sixty, or thirty. Holiness is incompatible with sterility. Supernatural fruitfulness is the mark of the Word of God heard, repeated, prayed, and held in the heart.

The Precious Blood of Christ

The hearing of the Word alone is not enough. (This is where Protestants are mistaken.) The seed of the Word must be followed by copious irrigation with the Precious Blood of Christ. This is why, in Catholic worship, the hearing of the Word is ordered to the Holy Sacrifice and to Holy Communion. Let the Precious Blood of Christ fall upon the word you have heard today. The Blood of Christ is the secret of all supernatural fecundity.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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