A sower sows, and nothing grows… .

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On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path…

Mt 13:1-23

And as he sowed, some fell on a path and some fell on amongst thorns and some fell on fertile ground. A farmer scattered seed. Broadcasting is the oldest of agricultural techniques. This parable of Jesus is about farming. It is about the farmer’s desire for a crop and all that is needed to bring that crop to fruition. It requires that farmer, and viable seeds, and suitable soil, and a suitable climate. The parable is about farming and possibly the best reference on environmental science and ecology. To bring a seed to fruition requires a good farmer, good seed, and a good environment. All are interconnected. Papa Francesco wrote an encyclical on the environment. Papa knows the environment is important. Farmers know the environment is important. World leaders know agriculture is important, without its products people starve. They die. Take a look at the world.

The goal of the parable farmer is to get his seeds to land on fertile soil, there it had the best chance to grow. The agricultural scientist knows that fertile soil is a perishable commodity. Fertile soil becomes barren if not properly tended. In countries where deforestation is rampant, once fertile soil is vulnerable to erosion. If not stabilized by the roots of the plants, it is quickly washed into the sea. Europe’s churches were once fertile fields, today so many are barren. The crop needs fertile soil, and soil often needs a crop to keep it fertile. That is a lesson in ecology. Church Ecology 101. Church needs parishioners, and parishioners need churches. Each keeps the other fruitful. But what happened the agricultural scientist ponders, the ecologist wonders. The pope wrote an encyclical on the environment. He wondered too. What taints fertile soil.

What taints fertile soil? There are many things. One common technique of the ancient warriors was to salt the enemies fields, by deliberately poisoning its fields the warrior could destroy the crop. Fertile soil made barren deliberately. Today often a culprit is pollution, the fields are tainted through neglect. No one kept a watchful eye or inquisitive mind on the quality of water entering the irrigation ditches. Poisoned fields lead to poisoned crops. And how does this relate to the fields that are Christs Church? I ask, but I wonder if I should answer.

Jesus in His parable discusses the relation of seed to field. One topic the Good LORD does not mention is the atmosphere. Two thousand years ago #ClimateChange was not a priority. Today it is a prominent topic among politicians. As the earth’s climate can change, so can a political climate change. As a political climate can change so can a sociological and ethical climate change? As an ethical climate can change, so to can a moral climate. As a moral climate shifts, so does the religious climate. The success of a seeds germination is not only dependent on soil, it is also dependent on atmosphere. A common concern of the environmental scientist is air pollution. The pope wrote an encyclical on the environment, he was concerned too. Today the environmental scientist knows much about air pollution because much data has been collected. I wonder if Francis has the same. Air (waves) can be toxic, clouds can be seeded, and droughts can occur. Clean rainwater can lead to a fruitful harvest, acid rain can destroy the heartiest crop. Jesus spoke in parables so that people might ask questions. Churches depend on air. John Paul the second asked that the Churches windows be opened for a breath of fresh air. He stated that both lungs must fill with that air so that the Body might live to its fullest. Church and atmosphere can be related, what are its pollutants, its acid rain? The pope wrote an encyclical on the environment, he was concerned. Jesus told a parable. (i might add more later)

Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows

Is 55:10-11

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 103

A donkey wanders (on Sunday #14)

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Zechariah Zec 9:9-10 opens the day with the image of Jesus entering the city of Jerusalem;” See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.” Riding on an ass contrasts with riding on a stallion. The stallion is the transportation of the warrior, the ass carries wisdom. Quiet, unassuming wisdom does not rule by force. It becomes apparent when force leads to exhaustion. It is the silence after the last bomb falls, it is the silence after the last scream. It is what is said when not another word can be spoken, it is the Word of the LORD. It is the Word of the LORD silently spoken, the Holy Spirit. It is done, Gods victory in spite of man’s blunders.

It is why Jesus rides into that ancient city, not to fight yet another futile battle but to atone for man’s sins. Jesus rides into the city on an ass to carry us back to God. That is the reason for the journey, the Word becomes flesh to lift our spirit up from the flesh towards the divine. That is what Paul’s letter Rom 8:9, 11-13 go the Roman’s addresses. “Brothers and sisters: You are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.” There comes the silence of contemplation (and of prayer). It is not an argument of Body versus Spirit, it is the reality that the body carries a spirit as a donkey carries the LORD.

The donkey, that beast of burden, carries what it must. It carries what is placed upon it. Entering Jerusalem that donkey carries the Son of God. It could have carried rocks, it could have carried Satin himself. The donkey could have climbed towards heaven, or plunged into the depths of hell. The donkey carries a load. And Jesus exclaimed “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Body or Spirit, which weighs more? Mt 11:25-30 For certain many think body, it is measured in pounds. But the spirit, cant that be heavier than the heaviest load? A spirit of sin and destruction and despair? A spirit of earthly concerns, the spirit of the popular consumer culture? The spirit of popular opinion. A spirit of hatred and injustice? Aren’t they all heavy burdens? They are the burdens of this world, they are its bombs of destruction. They are the earthly battles. They are what hangs on the Cross. They are the sins of humanity. They are why Jesus enters into creation. His mission is to remove that burden of sin, and place upon us the grace of God. The donkey carries a parcel.

Oh, and how does that donkey decide what parcel to carry? The beast pray’s. It prays that it might be given a suitable task, and a burden not to great. It also prays that it might carry that parcel through treacherous land, it knows well its duty. Some look at the animals back and notice the weight it can carry, but one should pay attention what lies between the donkeys eyes and ears. The beast has a brain after all, call it free will if you will. If given a parcel it dislikes it can buck and kick. If told to do something disagreeable it can squeal. If told to journey where it should not, then it becomes stubborn as a mule. Though it is an animal of burden, it is no fool. The donkey has an intellect. A gentile yoke, and easy task, a light burden should bring Joy; especially if it has carried the opposite for so long.

Fractured Wednesday

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All sorts of things cause division. The first reading mentions how the two sons of Abraham are divided. One born of his wife Sarah, and the other of their slave Hagar. Both were sons of Abraham, yet they were divided as sheep are divided from goats. The story often is used as a description of nations formed. The son Isaac , and the on Ishmael : the patriarchs of Israel and Islam. They become great nations, and also rivals. Because they are divided. One free, another from a slave; yet in Christ equal in the eyes of the Father. Jesus does not preach a kingdom of Judea and a  kingdom of Islam, to Jesus it is the kingdom of God.

Sarah noticed the son whom Hagar the Egyptian
had borne to Abraham
playing with her son Isaac;
so she demanded of Abraham:
“Drive out that slave and her son!

Gn 21:5, 8-20a

The odd thing about the division of the earth is that the division multiplies. From two sons, to two nations, to twelve tribes, to an abundance of kingdoms (each with its deity). Earth becomes divided, and so does heaven. Fractured and fragmented, a shredding of the glory of creation.

When Jesus came to the territory of the Gadarenes,
two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him.
They were so savage that no one could travel by that road.
They cried out, “What have you to do with us, Son of God?

The gospel reading Mt 8:28-34 also tells of a fragment of creation. As Jesus crosses the sea He and the disciples enter the land of the Gentiles and for the followers of the covenant it is a fearful place. To their eyes there is uncleanliness, and evil of an epic proportion. It is as if they had entered hell, and that hell was guarded by demons. Surprisingly Jesus conquered those demonic creatures, and that brings its own fear. Once an earthen vessel is shattered, it is difficult to assemble those shards together to make the vessel whole again. Yet that is the mission of Christ, to reunite creation and make it whole. The kingdom of God is at hand. A broken and divided world put back together, creation healed.

(if one travels to a potters studio they will often notice a wall with broken pottery scattered beneath it. That is what the potter does with pieces that do not meet expectations. Of course since they have already been fired, they can not be reassembled. God often scatters or shatters man  when disobedient, but also reassembles him at the proper time. That’s the difference between God and man. Man can neither destroy or recreate Gods creation, though they often disagree. Nothing is impossible for God.)

Wednesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Feast of (doubting) Saint Thomas.

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How many consider that Thomas’s absence was part of a divine plan? Thomas’s absence from originally seeing the risen LORD separates him from the group. His questions are a contrast to the disciple’s testament, Thomas questions both the LORD and His Apostles. Thomas challenges a cult mentality by introducing doubt and reason, and by demanding proof. By way of the doubt and the questions and the demands, Thomas proclaims both the LORD has truly risen, and My LORD and my GOD. With his doubts Thomas declares the presence of the Easter Christ. Thomas proclaims a Christ of the resurrection.

But Thomas said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

An Easter Christ is the Christ that as revealed to Saint Paul, and Paul also was known for his doubting Christ. Paul was the persecutor of Christians who encountered the Easter Christ in the road to Damascus. That encounter was after the Ascension. Peter also had his doubts about the LORD, his were famously acknowledged by the crowing of a rooster at the crucifixion. Interesting how the LORD revealed Himself at the transfiguration with the inner group of disciples. That is Peter’s experience, an experience that is challenged by the crucifixion. Then there is Thomas, also one who walked with Christ. Finally Paul, who persecutes the followers of Christ. All three are challenged, yet all three proclaim Christ as truly risen, and Christ as LORD. With questioning minds they make their declaration.

Thomas’s doubt bridges that Christ of the Transfiguration and the Easter Christ. Thomas did walk with Christ as a disciple, and then proclaim the Christ of Easter. The same with Peter. For Paul a Christ after the resurrection. For us? Ours is a Christ of the resurrection, an Easter Christ. And our doubts, do we have them? Are we any less human than the other three? Thomas’s doubts serve a purpose, as does any inquisitive mind. Ours is a God given ability to question, to ponder the LORD.

When Jesus encounters Thomas’s doubts and questions the Lord does not chastise or condemn him. Jesus asks that Thomas seek the answers to his questions. He says to place his hands into the wounds of Christ. Jesus has Thomas explore the risen LORD. The doubts are a natural part of the human experience. Thomas needed to see and touch Jesus to believe, and he does so. He declares Christ truly risen. Jesus also tells that it is better that those who do not see believe. Not to see, and yet believe is go have faith. Both are important, naturally seeking and being guided simply by faith. For certain I can probe this planet and see the works of Christ. I can also follow Christ in faith when I am blinded by darkness. Perhaps it is the first, the questioning, that feeds and strengthens the second that is faith. (Faith & Reason)