Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on July 23, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 13:18-23

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 jesus-distressed-wood-iconno 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 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.

StBridgetofSweden7Bridget 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.

silenceSpiritual 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)

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