Tuesday, January 26, 2016

On the Road Again

3rd Wednesday of Ordinary Time
Mk 4:1-20

Commentaries describe verses 10 to 12 of this Gospel as obscure and difficult. “The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.”

If there were ever words that could be used  to justify sectarianism and exclusivism these are prime examples.  However, 'I'm-in-with-the-in-crowd' thinking is not the only way to approach this parable. It is a misnamed parable. It is not about the sower. It is about the seeds and the quality of the soil where they land. 

The seeds are distributed to all people.  In the first example the recipients reject the seeds out of arrogance.  They are then condemned because they first rejected God.  They may be irredeemable.   

The second and third examples are fascinating because they reflect reality for many.  Without roots in prayer and meditation on God’s word, it is easy to reject God with the petulance of a cranky three year-old the moment life gets difficult.  Tribulation and suffering define what it means to be human. They are not an excuse to fall away or reject God.

The lure of riches and material goods, Jesus' third example, may be more subtle.  Gradually one has fallen away from prayer, from meditating on God’s word, from participation in the sacraments. Eventually one live in a world of egocentrism and self-fulfillment.

I suspect we all want to see ourselves as fertile, rich and fragrant soil.  And in fact we are.  Initially.  However, if we do not attend to the soil, if we do not monitor its condition it may become thin, contaminated, and unable to sustain us in times of trial and suffering.  If we don’t remove the thorns and weeds regularly through prayer, sacrifice, and the sacraments we too will be choked and suffocated.  

In the end this parable is not about predestination, fundamentalist exclusivism  or an everyone is equal inclusivism that suggests anything we do is OK because God is with us.  Rather, this parable suggests the importance of personal choice and individual responsibility.

It is approaching 11:30 PM.  Generally I am asleep.  However, am trying to remain awake a bit longer.  At this time tomorrow I should be on the ground in Frankfurt, Germany.  At that point there will be a five plus hour layover before a short hop to Ljubljana, Slovenia.  Will be there for three weeks.  The time will be spent between Ljubljana and Maribor, a town about 60 miles to the northwest.  There may be a side trip to Budapest.  Will be working primarily with Peter Rozic, SJ.  Peter and I lived in community in D.C. for several years.  It is his invitation to come over.  

Candles are a fascinating if a bit cliched photo subject.  I take a lot of candle shots if for no other reason than doing a lot of photography in churches.  

This is a bank of candles on Holy Saturday before Mass.  All candles are extinguished on Holy Thursday.  None of the votive candles are lit until after the vigil Mass.  The candles are being reflected in highly polished granite.

 This was a grab-the-camera-quick moment.  I was in the crypt chapel of Notre Dame de Fourviere.  The woman was lighting a candle.  I only got two shots.  

Two banks of candles in the crypt chapel.  

Candles reacting to the heat.  This was a bit amusing to see the candles bending from the heat rising from lower tiers. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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