Gospel reading of the day:
When Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side. A scribe approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” He got into a boat and his disciples followed him.
Reflection on the gospel reading: July 31 is the Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. I attended a high school that the Jesuits ran, and when I finished high school, I entered a novitiate of the Society of Jesus, later took vows, and began a course of studies that would have led to the Roman Catholic priesthood. I remained in the Jesuits until I finished philosophy six years later. Even now at 50, a fifth of my life was spent in the Jesuits’ instruction, and I recognize the great influence they had on me and everything I have become.
One keystone of Jesuit spirituality is indifference, and it is a theme in the gospel passage that I selected to celebrate Ignatius’ feast today. “Indifference” in Ignatian spirituality is absolute openness to the will of God without consideration of the price. So when the scribe approaches Jesus and says he will follow the Lord wherever he goes, Jesus makes it clear that the cost of true discipleship is the willingness to let go of everything for the sake of the kingdom. And when the disciple asks Jesus to let him bury his father, Jesus asserts that the service of the kingdom always is now. When we are indifferent in the Ignatian sense, we have no preferences for one course of action over another but always seek God’s will for the moment and empty ourselves to pursue God’s will.
Saint of the day: Ignatius was born in 1491 in Loyola, Cantabria. He spent his early years at court and as a soldier. Later he was converted to God and undertook theological studies in Paris where he attracted his first followers. Afterwards in Rime, he joined them together as the first members of the Society of Jesus. He exercised a devoted apostolate both by his written works and in the training of his disciples for their renewal of the Church. He died in 1556 in Rome.
At the heart of Jesuit spirituality are the Spiritual Exercises. These exercises are crucial to the formation all Jesuits, but they also provide a handbook for retreat masters and spiritual directors to guide anyone who is under their care. The result of Ignatius’ own experience of conversion, the Exercises are particularly suited to help people individuals to reach sufficient detachment and freedom from inordinate passions when they are trying to make a good choice about their state of life or to achieve some serious reform of character.
These spiritual exercises involve a program in several steps. The full-length version of an Ignatian retreat would involve about a month of praying for four or five distinct hour-long periods each day whole otherwise keeping strict silence, but there are also abridged versions for use on three-day and week-long retreats. The first week invites the person making these exercises to confront sinfulness and to accept God’s mercy. The second week puts the focus of one’s prayer on the public life of Christ, while the third week considers Christ’s passion. In the fourth week, one meditates on Christ arisen and in glory. In addition, there are special exercises at crucial junctures during the exercises where one is invited to hear the call of Christ the King and to ponder the various degrees of humility with which one might be willing to serve Christ.
A particular instruction in the Exercises allows people whose lives do not permit them to go off and make the Exercises to make them over a much longer period of time. The Jesuits at Creighton have put the Long Retreat on the web. It requires commitment, but you can find a way to make Ignatius’s famous Exercises in the midst of the helter-skelter of your own life.
Spiritual reading: Principle and Foundation–Human beings are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by means of doing this to save their souls. The other things on the face of the earth are created for the human beings, to help them in the pursuit of the end of which they are created. From this it follows that we ought to use these things to the extent that they help us toward our end, and free ourselves from them to the extent that they hinder us from it. To attain this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, in regard to everything which is left our free will and is not forbidden. Consequently, on our own part we ought not to seek health rather than sickness, wealth rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, a long life rather than short one, and so on in all other matters. Rather, we ought to desire and choose only that which is more conducive to the end for which are created. (Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius of Loyola)
A Prayer of Ignatius of Loyola: Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will. All I have and call my own. Whatever I have or hold, you have given to me. I restore it all to you and surrender it wholly to be governed under your will. Give me only your love and grace and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to the disciples: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
“Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” When Jesus finished these parables, he went away from there.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Today’s gospel brings to an end the collection of parables in Matthew’s 13th chapter. The parable of the net talks about the end times, and it gives us counsel to live lives worthy of Christ and the gospel. The net, Jesus tells us, will gather up both the good and the bad, and like a fisherman does after the catch, the good and the bad will be separated. A life lived inside the reach of net of the gospel is our best impulse.
Saint of the day: Peter Chrysologus was born at Imola in 406 and died there in 450. His biography, first written by Agnellus in the ninth century, gives but scant information about him. He was baptized, educated, and ordained deacon by Cornelius, Bishop of Imola, and was elevated to the Bishopric of Ravenna in 433. There are indications that Ravenna held the rank of metropolitan before this time. His piety and zeal won for him universal admiration, and his oratory merited for him the name Chrysologus. He shared the confidence of Leo the Great and enjoyed the patronage of the Empress Galla Placidia. After his condemnation by the Synod of Constantinople (448), the Monophysite Eutyches endeavoured to win the support of Peter, but without success.
A collection of his homilies, numbering 176, was made by Felix, Bishop of Ravenna (707-17). Some are interpolations, and several other homilies known to be written by the saint are included in other collections under different names. They are in a great measure explanatory of Biblical texts and are brief and concise. He eloquently explained the mystery of the Incarnation, the heresies of Arius and Eutyches, and the Apostles’ Creed. He dedicated a series of homilies to the Blessed Virgin and John the Baptist.
Spiritual reading: My life is big enough not only to hold in some way, in this context of goodness, all the world’s pain and misery, but to be able to do something about it. The quality of my life, its love, making present God’s love, can and does raise it all. In this I rejoice. A holistic view is broad, expansive, deep, rich–very rich and full. It is the only view worthy of a human, of a Christian, a true child of God, an empowered co-redeemer with Christ. (A Place Apart by Fr. M. Basil Pennington, OCSO)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: My grandmother was an extraordinary person who lived her life in service to her family. There was never a person in need who came to her who did not walk away without something to mitigate at least a part of that need. She was quite devout, too. My grandmother confided to me once that she had a real sympathy for Martha in the narrative that Luke tells us today. “Mary has chosen the better part.” My grandmother said, “She sure the heck did.”
Today is Martha’s feast. The lovely Marthas, like my grandmother, who people our lives have made possible a world that would not exist without their efforts. Without the people who step into the breach to prepare our meals, clean our homes and offices, and tend to our many needs, the world of learning and reflection, the place that Mary occupied, could not exist. So when we hear today’s gospel, it is an invitation to be not only thankful but considerate of all those who have borne the heavy lifting of toil that has made possible the flights of speculation that have filled our world with meaning. Today is Martha’s feast, and it is the feast of every Martha in our lives. Do something nice today for the Marthas in your life.
Saint of the day: Martha was the sister of Mary and Lazarus; scripture reports that all three were the friends of Jesus. Only Luke 10:38-42 and John 11, 12 mention Martha. John represents Mary, Martha, and Lazarus as living in Bethany, but Luke seems to imply that they lived, at least at one time, in Galilee. Luke does not mention the name of the town. The words of John (11:1) seem to imply a change of residence for the family. It is possible, too, that Luke has displaced the incident referred to in Chapter 10. The likeness between the pictures of Martha presented by Luke and John is interesting. The familiar interaction between the Lord and the family that Luke depicts, John echoes when he tells us that, “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister Mary, and Lazarus” (11:5). Again the picture of Martha’s anxiety (John 11:20-21, 39) accords with the picture of her who was “busy about much serving” (Luke 10:40); so also in John 12:2: “They made him a supper there: and Martha served.” But John has given us a glimpse of the other and deeper side of her character when he depicts her growing faith in Jesus’s divinity (11:20-27), a faith which prompts the Lord to announce, “I am the resurrection and the life.” The Evangelist suggests the change that came over Martha after that interview, “When she had said these things, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying: ‘The Master has come, and he calls for you.’”
Spiritual reading: The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire. (“The Evolution of Chastity” by Père Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus dismissed the crowds and went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the Kingdom. The weeds are the children of the Evil One, and the enemy who sows them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.
“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Christians always have reflected on the meaning of Jesus’ teaching within the context of their own situations. The Gospel of Matthew was written in the 70s or 80s, and the writer of the gospel probably records a reflection on the parable of the good and bad seed that reflected the situation of the writer’s community. There is good textual reason to believe this. While the original parable seems to suggest that the church is home to both saints and sinners, this explanation of the parable makes the parable into an allegory of the end times. No matter which interpretation we apply, however, there is clearly good and bad seed, and we can pray that when the Lord calls us, he will judge us the good seed.
Saint of the day: Pedro Poveda Castroverde was born December 3, 1874 at Linares, Spain. Raised in a pious family, he felt an early call to the priesthood. He entered the seminary in Jaen in 1889, then the seminary of Guadix, Grenada. He was ordained on April 17, 1897.
He taught at the seminary, continued his studies, and received his licentiate in theology in Seville in 1900. He ministered in Guadix to a group of people so poor they lived in caves. He built a school for the children, and provided vocation training to the adults.
He was transferred to Madrid, and was named a canon of the Basilica of Covadonga, Asturius in 1906. His time in Guadix had impressed Pedro with the need for education for the poor. He prayed on the topic, and wrote on the need for professional training for teachers. In 1911 Pedro founded the Saint Teresa of Avila Academy, the foundation of Institución Teresiana. He joined the Apostolic Union of Secular Priests in 1912, wrote on the need for more teachers, and opened teacher training centers. He returned to teaching at the seminary at Jaen, served as spiritual director of Los Operarios Catechetical Centre, and taught religion at the Teachers Training School. In 1914 he opened Spain’s first university residence for women in Madrid. In 1921 he was transferred to Madrid and was appointed a chaplain of the Royal Palace. In 1922 he was appointed to the Central Board Against Illiteracy, and he continued to work with the Teresian Association; it received papal approval in 1924, and later spread to Chile and Italy. Martyred in the Spanish Revolution, he was shot by firing squad on July 28, 1936 at Madrid, Spain.
Spiritual reading: The soul always remains with its God in the center. Let us say that the union is like the joining of two wax candles to such an extent that the flame coming from them is but one, or that the wick, the flame and the wax are all one. In the spiritual marriage the union is like what we have when rain falls from the sky into a river or fount; all is water, for the rain that fell from heaven cannot be divided or separated from the water of the river. Or, like the bright light entering a room through two different windows; although the streams of light are separate when entering the room, they become one. (The Interior Castle by Saint Teresa of Avila)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds. “The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.”
He spoke to them another parable. “The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.”
All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables, to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:
I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world.
Reflection on the gospel reading: At the center of Jesus’ teaching was the proclamation of the kingdom of God. Jesus used parables to explain the nature of God’s kingdom, and in today’s gospel, Matthew records for us two short parables that explain a couple of the kingdom’s facets. In the first parable, Matthew likens the kingdom to a mustard seed that becomes a great plant: that is, the kingdom starts small and insignificant, but its eventual reach will permit multitudes to dwell in its branches. In the second parable, when Jesus speaks of yeast, he suggests how easy it is to miss the kingdom’s growth. To understand the parable’s meaning, consider that yeast causes dough to rise imperceptibly. Jesus is saying here that people who observe the in-breaking of the kingdom of God at a given moment may fail to understand the impact that the kingdom has over time. Just as yeast will make dough rise, however, we can trust the kingdom will grow given the passage of time.
Saint of the day: Blessed Rudolf Aquaviva and his Companions were Jesuit priests. He was the son of the Duke of Atri, related to the family of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, and nephew of Claudio Aquaviva, the fifth general of the Jesuits. He was admitted at the age of eighteen, in 1568, and after being ordained priest at Lisbon was sent to Goa, in India. Father Aquaviva was one of the two chosen for the mission at Fatehpur Sikri, near Agra, and he worked till 1583 in strenuous efforts to convert Akbar and his subjects but had no success. He was then put in charge of the Salsette mission, north of Bombay. He and four companions, Father Pacheco, Father Berno, Father Francisco, and Brother Aranha, together with other Christians, set out for Cuncolim, the heart of Hindu opposition in that mission, intending to choose there a piece of ground for a church and to plant a cross there. They were met with armed force by the villagers. Blessed Rudolf and Blessed Alfonso were killed praying for their murderers, and the other two priests were likewise slain immediately. Blessed Francis was left for dead, but found living the next day; he was given a chance to venerate an idol, and on refusing was tied to a tree and shot with arrows.
Let nothing disturb thee,
Nothing affright thee;
All things are passing;
God never changeth;
Attaineth to all things;
Who God possesseth
In nothing is wanting;
Alone God sufficeth.
(Lines Written in Her Breviary by Teresa of Avila)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Last Sunday, the Church read and reflected on the passage from the sixth chapter of the gospel of Mark where Jesus invited the apostles to go away with him to rest. The passage concluded with Jesus encountering a crowd. We read that Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. If we continued to read from the sixth chapter of Mark, we would have considered the feeding of the multitudes.
Indeed, this is the narrative that we have today, but rather than read the account that Mark’s gospel gives us, we are reading John’s report of the event. In fact, John’s account begins the Bread of Life Discourse in John’s Gospel, and for each of the next four Sundays, that is, until August 23, we will be reading parts of that discourse in John.
Several things in John’s account of the multiplication of the loaves are distinctive. Though all four evangelists narrate this event, only John tells us that the feast of Passover was near. Given the institution of the Eucharist and the Lord’s own passion and death at Passover, the reference to Passover is pregnant with meaning, especially in light of the nature of the events.
The narrative of the feeding of the multitudes has many elements analogous to the accounts of the institution of the Eucharist in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul. For instance, we read in John that the crowds are reclining, much as Jesus and his followers reclined as they ate the Passover meal before Jesus instituted the Eucharist. John in today’s gospel says that Jesus took the loaves just as we read elsewhere that Jesus took bread at the Last Supper. John tells us that Jesus gave thanks; of course, the word Eucharist comes from the Greek word that means to give thanks. In John’s gospel, Jesus himself distributes the bread: Jesus himself is the source of the meal.
The narrative concludes with the observation that all ate until they were full, and that when they were done, 12 wicker baskets were necessary to collect all the remains of the meal. In this element of the narrative, John alludes to God’s immense bounty. In the very same way, down through the ages and to our own time, the Eucharist has fed and filled countless millions of believers.
Finally, it is in this feeding the multitude that the crowd recognizes who Jesus is: that is, the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world. And so it is for us in the Eucharist that we receive of the gift of recognizing who Jesus is.
Spiritual reading: Why can we not be content with an ordinary, secret, personal happiness that does not need to be explained or justified? We feel guilty if we are not happy in some publicly approved way, if we do not imagine that we are meeting some standard of happiness that is recognized by all. God gives us the gift and the capacity to make our own happiness out of our own situation. And it is not hard to be happy, simply by accepting what is within reach, and making of it what we can. But if we do this, and I find that I do, we still wonder if there is not something wrong. Are we getting something if there is not something wrong. Are we getting something that others cannot have (a private and personal happiness!)? Obviously my happiness is not somebody else’s – until I share it. And in sharing it I am happier than I was before. (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton)
Gospel reading of the day:
The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.” Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Our God is a tricky God. God is quite prepared to use the ways we think about things, fulfill our concepts, but entirely explode them so that in the end, the reality of what we receive from God totally fulfills and defies our expectations.
We have a teaching in this gospel passage that exemplifies this observation about God’s behavior. At the time that Jesus lived, messianic expectations ran very high, and the notion that the messiah would be a worldly though righteous king, a king on the model of David, was common. When the mother of James and John comes to Jesus and asks him that her sons may sit at Jesus’ right and left, her model of Jesus’ kingship is the model of one who makes his authority felt. Jesus, however, uses the moment to teach.
The kingship Jesus shows to us is the kingship of one who comes not to be served but to serve, one who offers a cup we otherwise might wish to avoid, one who offers a cross to carry, one who offers his life as a ransom that others might live. And so it should be with us: that if we should wish to be first, we should make ourselves the last and the servants of everyone else.
Saint of the day: Today is the feast of St. James. James the son of Zebedee and his brother John were among the twelve disciples of Our Lord. They, together with Peter, were privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, and the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and to be called aside to watch and pray with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane on the night before His death.
James and John were apparently from a higher social level than the average fisherman. Their father could afford hired servants, and John (assuming him to be identical with the “beloved disciple”) had connections with the high priest. Jesus nicknamed the two brothers “sons of thunder,” perhaps meaning that they were headstrong, hot-tempered, and impulsive; and so they seem to be in two incidents reported in the Gospels. On one occasion, Jesus and the disciples were refused the hospitality of a Samaritan village, and James and John proposed to call down fire from heaven on the offenders. On another occasion, the one recorded in the gospel we read at the beginning of today’s install of “Carry the Gospel with You,” they asked Jesus for a special place of honor in the Kingdom and were told that the place of honor is the place of suffering.
Finally, about AD 42, shortly before Passover, James was beheaded by order of King Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great (who tried to kill the infant Jesus), nephew of Herod Antipas (who killed John the Baptist and examined Jesus on Good Friday), and father of Herod Agrippa II (who heard the defense of Paul before Festus). James was the first of the Twelve to suffer martyrdom, and the only one of the Twelve whose death is recorded in the New Testament.
James is often called James Major (that is, “the greater” or “the elder”) to distinguish him from other New Testament persons called James. Tradition has it that he made a missionary journey to Spain, and that after his death, his body was taken to Spain and buried there, at Compostela (a town the name of which is commonly thought to be derived from the word “apostle,” although a Spanish-speaking listmember reports having heard it derived from, “field of stars,” which in Latin would be campus stellarum). His supposed burial place there was a major site of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, and the Spaniards fighting to drive their Moorish conquerors out of Spain took “Santiago de Compostela!” as one of their chief war-cries. (The Spanish form of “James” is “Diego” or “Iago”. In most languages, “James” and “Jacob” mean the same thing. Where an English Bible has “James,” a Greek Bible has IAKWBOS.)
Spiritual reading: He is the power of God. He is the reason. He is His wisdom and glory. He enters into a virgin; being the Holy Spirit, He is endued with the flesh. God is mingled with man. This is our God, this is Christ, who, as the mediator of the two, puts on man that He may lead them to the Father. What man is, Christ was willing to be, that man also may be what Christ is. (St. Cyprian)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Hear the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the Kingdom without understanding it, and the Evil One comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus makes clear in his explanation of the parable of the sower of the seed that the fate of the seed lies at the core of the parable’s meaning. As the sower spreads the seed, it falls in four different places. When the seed falls on the path, the birds descend and eat it. Jesus explains to his disciples that this seed comes to naught because Satan, represented by the birds, swiftly destroys it. The passage suggests many of us reject Jesus because the Devil intervenes against the word before we can act upon it. When the seed falls on rocky ground, it fails to lay down deep roots and withers quickly under the sun. Jesus suggests that the fate of this seed points to those of us who at first hear the word with enthusiasm but who, when tried, quickly fall away. This section provides us with a negative model to assess our own faithfulness in the face of trials. When the seed falls among the thorn bushes, it does well until the thorns rise up and choke it. The allegory suggests that many of us receive the word only to succumb to the lure of wealth and other passions. As Jesus instructs his disciples, many hazards can prevent the word’s taking root in our lives.
Just as the parable of the sower relates three failures, it also recounts a tremendous success. The seed that falls on good ground points to those of us who hear the word, welcome it, and bear fruit, “a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” Even by modern agrarian methods, the harvest of this seed is astounding, suggesting the extravagant goodness of God in return for a positive answer to the word. The parable then assures us that despite unavoidable failures by some people, in a secret, mysterious, and paradoxical way, the gospel achieves astonishing and continual success in bringing people to God.
Saint of the day: Born in about 1544 in England, John Boste was educated at Queen’s College, Oxford from 1569 to 1572. He was a Fellow at Queen’s College. He converted to Catholicism in 1576 at Suffolk, England, resigned his position at Oxford, and studied in Reims in 1580. He was ordained on March 4, 1581 and returned to England the following month as a missionary to the northern counties, often disguised as a servant in the livery costume of Lord Montacute. He assisted in his mission by Blessed John Speed and became the object of an intense manhunt.
John Boste was betrayed by Francis Ecclesfield near Durham on July 5, 1593 at the home of one William Claxton, and arrested. He was sent to the Tower of London where he was crippled by being tortured on the rack. Sent to Durham in July 1594, he was tried for the treason of being a priest. One of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, he died by being hanged, drawn, and quartered on July 24, 1594 at Dryburn near Durham, England.
Spiritual reading: Divine action is always new and fresh, it never retraces its steps, but always finds new routes. When we are led by this action, we have no idea where we are going, for the paths we tread cannot be discovered from books or by any of our thoughts. But these paths are always opened in front of us and we are impelled along them. Imagine we are in a strange district at night and are crossing fields unmarked by any path, but we have a guide. He asks no advice nor tells us of his plans. So what can we do except trust him? (Abandonment to Divine Providence by Pére Jean-Pierre de Caussade, S.J.)
Gospel reading of the day:
The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Why do you speak to the crowd in parables?” He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted and I heal them.
“But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: It appears that though Jesus spoke in parables in public, he spoke more plainly to his disciples. When Jesus explains this in this passage, he seems to say that some are more prepared to hear what he has to say, but others, less so. In Matthew’s gospel, the ones less prepared to hear Jesus’ teaching are those who so rigidly adhere to the Mosaic Law that they cannot appreciate Jesus is its fulfillment. The ones who have eyes open to see new things and ears open to hear new things are the ones who are blessed. We too, of course, can become so fixed and rigid in our religious beliefs that we fail to see and hear what new things God is showing to us and saying to us. Jesus ever is seeking to let us see and hear the freshest deep down things if we only will let him.
Saint of the day: Born in 1302 or 1303 in Sweden, Bridget of Sweden was the daughter of Birger Persson, the governor and provincial judge of Uppland, and of Ingeborg Bengtsdotter. Her father was one of the greatest landowners in the country, her mother was known widely for her piety, and the family had descended from the Swedish royal house. Bridget was related to Saint Ingrid.
Bridget began receiving visions, most of the Crucifixion, at age seven. Her mother died around1315 when the girl was about 12-years-old, and she was raised and educated by an equally pious aunt. In 1316, at age 13, she wed prince Ulfo of Nercia in an arranged marriage. She became the mother of eight children including Saint Catherine of Sweden; some of the other children ignored the Church.
A friend and counselor to many priests and theologians of her day, she was the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Blanche of Namur in 1335, from which position she counseled and guided the Queen and King Magnus II. After Ulfo’s death in 1344 following a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, she pursued a religious life, for which she was harassed by others at the court. She eventually renounced her title of princess to become a Franciscan tertiary and later, a Cistercian. A mystic, visionary, and mystical writer, she recorded the revelations given her in her visions, and these became hugely popular in the Middle Ages.
She founded the Order of the Most Holy Savior (Bridgettines) at Vadstena in 1346. It survives today, though few houses remain. She and her daughter Catherine were pilgrims to Rome, Italian holy sites, and the Holy Lands. She chastened and counseled kings and bishops of Rome, urging them to return to Rome from Avignon. Encouraged all who would listen to meditate on the Passion and on Jesus Crucified. She died July 23, 1373 at Rome, Italy and is buried in 1374 at the Vadstena, Sweden convent she founded.
Spiritual reading: Unfortunately, in seeing ourselves as we truly are, not all that we see is beautiful and attractive. This is undoubtedly part of the reason we flee silence. We do not want to be confronted with our hypocrisy, our phoniness. We see how false and fragile is the false self we project. We have to go through this painful experience to come to our true self. It is a harrowing journey, a death to self—the false self—and no one wants to die. But it is the only path to life, to freedom, to peace, to true love. And it begins with silence. We cannot give ourselves in love if we do not know and possess ourselves. This is the great value of silence. It is the pathway to all we truly want. (M. Basil Pennington)
Gospel reading of the day:
John 20:1-2, 11-18
On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”
Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he told her.
Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel of John identifies its origin with the Beloved Disciple, but who among the followers of Jesus loved Jesus more than did Mary Magdalene. Though all of Jesus’ male disciples abandoned the Lord while he suffered on the cross, Mary stood by the side of Jesus’ mother to share the grief and without fear of the authorities. On the first day of the week, when the Sabbath concluded, it was this woman who went first to the tomb at the earliest hour the Law permitted to anoint the Lord’s broken body. She it is who finds the tomb is empty, and she it is. who as an apostle to the apostles, runs to announce the empty tomb to Peter and John. Though Peter and John walk away from the tomb after they see it is empty, she does not. She stays. And it is to her, for her love, single-heartedness, and devotion, that the Lord gives the reward of revealing his resurrection. Her place in the gospel story is unique.
Saint of the day: Today is the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene. Mary was given the name “Magdalene” because, though a Jewish girl, she lived in a Gentile town called Magdale, in northern Galilee, and her culture and manners were those of a Gentile. She was present at Our Lord’s crucifixion, and with Joanna and Mary, the mother of James and Salome, at Jesus’ empty tomb.
After Jesus’ body had been placed in the tomb, Mary went to anoint it with spices early Easter Sunday morning. Not finding the body of the Lord, she began to weep, and seeing someone whom she thought was the gardener, she asked him if he knew where the body of her beloved Master had been taken. But then the person spoke in a voice she knew so well: “Mary!” It was the risen Lord. He had chosen to show himself first to Mary Magdalene, a woman in a time when women’s rights were held in little regard and a Jew from a Gentile community.
There is a tradition about Mary as a repentant sinner that has gotten a lot of mileage over the years. Here is a nice explanation of Mary Magdalene’s “career” as a “soiled” woman:
Spiritual reading: If the only prayer you say in your entire life is, “Thank You,” that would suffice. (Meditations with Meister Eckhart by Matthew Fox)