Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

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Vigilance with the Truth

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.” Matthew 13:24–26

This parable would have made much sense to the people of Jesus’ time. It was common practice for an enemy to get revenge upon another by sowing a weed named “cockle” in with the wheat. As the cockle began to grow, it looked much like wheat until the grain was formed. And if it were mixed with the wheat and eaten, it would cause severe nausea. Due to this, it was also common practice for farmers with enemies to have servants stand watch over their fields after they were planted. Therefore, this parable reveals that the servants who were to keep watch failed in their duty.

In explaining this parable, Jesus says, “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” (Matthew 13:37–39). One common tactic of the evil one is to subtly mix his lies with the truth. He knows that if he were to propose some grave and obvious lie that many would reject it outright. Therefore, he attempts to create division and confusion by slowly and slightly suggesting his errors in such a way that they are more easily believed. Therefore, “the children of the evil one” can be understood as those in this world who are under the influence of the devil, as well as the legions of demons who attempt to sow confusion in our lives and within the Church.

One helpful way to prayerfully ponder this parable is to see yourself as one of those servants who is entrusted with the task of guarding the field. Since the field is the world, we all have a duty to keep the lies of the evil one from flourishing. To do that, we certainly must confront the most serious errors we encounter. For example, the dignity of the unborn child must be protected and the diabolical practice of abortion must cease. Additionally, we must work to protect the Church, our communities, friends and families from not only the grave errors of our times but also those most subtle ones. For example, within the Church, conflicts and confusions often arise. These divisions are part of the subtle lies sown by the evil one.

We must also see our own souls as the fertile soil. Certainly God’s Word has been planted, but oftentimes we allow ourselves to believe subtle errors. This leads to internal conflict, sin and confusion. Thus, we must regularly guard our souls from these lies by relying upon the authentic teachings of our Church and the teachings of the saints.

Reflect, today, upon your sacred duty to be vigilant and constantly on the lookout for the seed of error sown within our world, the Church and your own soul. Vigilance is key. The evil one is always on the prowl. If we are to learn one of the central messages of this parable, then we must learn to guard and protect all that God has revealed and hold firmly to the Truth alone.

Glorious Word of God, You have sown Your seed of truth in our world, within Your Church and in my life. May I always listen to Your Word and respond to it wholeheartedly. Please also reveal to me the many lies of the evil one so that I can reject them with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

Zeal and Determination

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. Mark 6:34

Both Jesus and the Twelve Apostles had been working very hard. The Twelve had been out on mission to many of the neighboring towns preaching, healing the sick and casting out demons. Upon the completion of their mission, they returned to Jesus and reported all that they had done. Jesus, in turn, invited them to “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” But the crowds heard about their departure by boat and quickly went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee so that they would arrive before Jesus and the Twelve.

The passage quoted above reveals the internal reaction that Jesus had toward the crowds as He and the Twelve disembarked from the boat. Though they had attempted to go away together to a quiet place for rest, the crowds were intent on being with them. Jesus, of course, was not upset that the crowds had spoiled His attempt to find some quiet time with the Twelve. Instead, His heart was moved with compassion. He could see that the people were hungry for more and were “like sheep without a shepherd.” For that reason, Jesus immediately began to feed them with His teachings.

A helpful point to ponder in this passage is that the people who gathered were described as a “vast crowd.” From the subsequent passage in Mark’s Gospel, we learn that when Jesus finished teaching them many things, He performed the miracle of the multiplication of fish and bread and fed 5,000 men, not counting the women and children. Given the fact that the estimated ratio at that time of adult men to women and children was at least 5:1, the crowd could have been as large as 25,000 people. For a spontaneous gathering of people in a remote area by the Sea of Galilee, that is a huge number. This is especially the case, since it is estimated that there were only about 1,500 people living in Capernaum at that time. People had flocked to our Lord from very far away.

This vast and spontaneous gathering reveals to us the hunger that Jesus instilled in the hearts of very many people. Some of these people had already heard Jesus speak and had witnessed His miracles. Others were those to whom the Twelve had just preached in the surrounding villages. The Twelve had spoken clearly and convincingly by the power of the Holy Spirit about Jesus, and many people responded, wanting to know more about our Lord.

As you ponder the enthusiasm of so many people, try to compare that with your own enthusiasm for Jesus. Are you driven to seek Him out with the same passion and zeal that consumed these first followers? Or do you find that your zeal and enthusiasm are lacking at times? This vast crowd, with their zeal and determination to seek out our Lord, should be a source of inspiration and self-examination for us all.

Reflect, today, upon this vast crowd. Try to see yourself joining them. Ponder yourself being so moved by the preaching of the Apostles that you become single-focused in your determination to be fed by Jesus’ holy teaching. If it is hard to imagine yourself acting this way, then humbly acknowledge that you may need more zeal for Jesus in your life. Pray that these holy desires become stirred up within you, and do all that you can to foster such zeal.

My compassionate Lord, the vast crowds sought You out to listen to You and to be fed by Your holy Word. They burned with a desire to be with You, and You responded to them with great mercy. Please fill my heart with the same zeal and desire for You. Teach me, Lord, feed me and draw me close to You. Jesus, I trust in You.

Serving with Generosity

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

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. Luke 10:38–39

It’s interesting that it was Martha who welcomed Jesus, but it was Mary who sat at His feet listening to Him. As the story goes on, we discover that Martha took her responsibility of hospitality seriously; she was very busy preparing a meal. But it appears that Mary needed a different form of hospitality from our Lord Himself. As Martha prepared to feed Jesus so as to care for His physical hunger, Mary sought to be fed by our Lord so as to feed her spiritual hunger. And interestingly, it was the generosity of Martha who was diligent in preparing the meal that made it possible for her sister to receive the spiritual food she longed for.

When we read this story, we can easily become critical of Martha because she complained to Jesus about her sister. It is easy to see Martha’s frustration in her words, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” And though Martha may have been a little impatient, Jesus’ response to her was gentle and corrective. “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.” What was that “better part?” It was Mary’s prayerful attentiveness to Jesus. She was hungry for His teaching, and Jesus offered it to her in a very personal and loving way. And though this image of Mary before Jesus is a beautiful image to ponder and to use as a model of our own prayer, there is also something important to be said about Martha’s role in making Mary’s prayer possible.

Because Martha was diligent in taking care of the duties of hospitality, Mary felt the freedom to sit at Jesus’ feet. Perhaps the ideal response from Martha would have been to notice that Mary was being spiritually fed by our Lord and to rejoice in that fact, giving her the continued freedom to sit at Jesus’ feet. If Martha would have realized this, then she would have continued working in the background so that her sister could continue listening to Jesus. But even though Martha did interrupt this sacred moment for her sister, the fact remains that her initial diligence in taking care of preparing the meal did give Mary some time alone with Jesus.

In a similar way, we will all be given various opportunities in life to take care of the daily mundane tasks that are needed within a family or community. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that unless everyone does their equal part, then things are not fair. But being “fair” should not be our focus. True charity, especially within the family, means that, first and foremost, we look for opportunities to better the lives of those around us. For example, spending extra time cleaning a home so that others can enjoy it more adds much to family life. Or spending hours preparing a nice meal for family or friends may afford everyone the opportunity of time well spent together. These are only a couple of the countless ways that our diligence and generosity toward others is fruitful, especially within family life.

Reflect, today, upon these two women and the unique calling they each were given at the time of Jesus’ visit to their house. One was called to be fed by our Lord as she sat at His feet. The other was called to work hard so as to make it easier for her sister to receive that spiritual nourishment. Know that both of these callings are important. For that reason, if God calls you to be more like Martha at times, rejoice in that fact and work hard at serving in many ways. If God calls you to be more like Mary at times, then rejoice in those moments and sit prayerfully at the feet of our Lord, being fed by His holy Words.

My gentle Lord, when You came to the home of Martha and Mary, You fed Mary with Your Word and fed Martha by your gentle correction. I thank You for these two women and the roles they both play in teaching me how to love and to serve. May I always be diligent in my service to others, and may I always embrace every moment that You invite me to sit at Your feet in prayer. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Pursuit of God’s Wisdom

Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.” Matthew 12:42

In this passage, Jesus refers to the Queen of Sheba who traveled about 1,400 miles from Southern Arabia, which was most likely located in either modern-day Yemen or Ethiopia, to meet King Solomon. The queen had heard much about Solomon, about his wealth and wisdom, and wanted to find out if all that she heard was true. So she made the long journey and stayed with him for about six months, according to tradition. After spending time with him, she was greatly impressed and bestowed upon him gifts of gold, spices and precious stones. She said to him, “I did not believe the report until I came and saw with my own eyes that not even the half had been told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report I heard” (1Kings 10:7).

This foreign queen was deeply impressed with Solomon. Her journey, gifts and words illustrate her deep respect for him and her admiration. Jesus uses this story to illustrate the simple fact that Jesus Himself is much greater than Solomon and that He should be treated in a way that far surpasses the way the queen treated Solomon. But Jesus also makes it clear that, at the Final Judgment, this queen will rise and condemn the scribes and Pharisees because they failed to see the wisdom and kingship of Jesus. Instead, they came to Jesus, seeking signs and proof of Who He was.

In our own lives, the witness of the Queen of Sheba should be a source of true inspiration. She was someone who was powerful and wealthy herself, and yet she wanted to learn from Solomon and to benefit from his great wisdom which was given him by God. She should inspire us to do all we can to daily turn to our Lord and to seek His wisdom.

Jesus’s wisdom flows to us in many ways. The Gospels are especially important as a source of the most important lessons for life. Personal prayer, reading about the lives of the saints, and study of the teachings of our Church are also essential ways in which we receive the wisdom given to us by God. As you think about the many ways that are available to you to grow in the wisdom of God, try to use the Queen of Sheba as an inspiration. Do you have her same zeal? Are you willing to devote much time and effort to the pursuit of holy learning? Do you desire to journey to Jesus in the way that she desired to journey to Solomon?

One of the greatest hindrances to this pursuit of holy wisdom is sloth, or laziness. It is becoming increasingly easy to engage our minds in mindless pursuits. Many people can easily spend many hours in front of the television, computer or mobile devices and waste precious time and energy. Zeal for God and the pursuit of the many truths of faith must become the cure for sloth in our lives. We must want to know. And we must do all we can to increase that holy desire within us.

Reflect, today, upon the long journey made by this queen in pursuit of the wisdom of Solomon. As you do, examine whether you exhibit the same zeal that she had and how devoted you are to the pursuit of the wisdom of God. Where you are lacking, let her witness inspire you. Jesus is infinitely greater and wiser than Solomon, and we have been given full access to Him through prayer and holy learning. If you will make that holy journey to our Lord, with much determination, then unlike the scribes and Pharisees, your day of judgment will be a glorious one.

My Lord of all Wisdom, You are infinitely greater than the wisest of kings and more glorious than anything I can imagine. Please fill me with zeal, dear Lord, so that I will fervently pursue You and daily journey to You. Please guide my prayer and my study so that Your wisdom and Your very Self will be bestowed upon me. Jesus, I trust in You.

Obedience to the Father

Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”  Matthew 12:48–50

These questions of Jesus were posed by Him to a crowd of people who were inside a house where He was teaching. His mother and brothers arrived outside asking to speak to Him. First of all, it should be noted that the word “brothers” in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic and other languages did not necessarily mean siblings. The same word was used to refer to anyone within the same extended family, such as cousins. Therefore, it is clear that Jesus’ mother and some other male relatives were coming to see Him.

Jesus uses that opportunity to continue teaching the crowd about the family of God. He clearly states that we become a member of His family simply by obeying the will of the Father in Heaven. Thus, Jesus’ definition of family exceeds blood relationships to include everyone who is spiritually united to Him through the unity of their wills with that of the Father.

One reason this is so helpful to understand is because it reveals to us our identity. God wants us to belong. He wants us to understand who we are called to be. We are called to be children of the Father, brothers and sisters of Christ, and even mothers and fathers of our Lord in a spiritual sense. We become His mothers and fathers in the sense that we bring Him into this world through our obedience to the will of the Father.

Children, from the earliest ages, want to belong. They want friends, they want to be included, they want to have relationships with others. This innate desire is placed within us from the moment of our creation and is central to who we are. And that desire can only be completely fulfilled through our spiritual membership within the family of God.

Think, for a moment, about your own desire for friendship. Oftentimes when two people are the closest of friends, they refer to each other as a brother or sister. The bond of friendship is deeply fulfilling because this is what we are made for. But true friendship, true spiritual family bonds, are only fulfilling in the most pure form when they are relationships that result from our unity with the will of the Father. When you are united with the will of the Father and when another is also united to the will of the Father, then this creates a family bond that fulfills on the deepest level. And that bond not only unites us with other Christians, it also deeply unites us with Jesus, as He mentions in this Gospel passage.

Reflect, today, upon these words of Jesus as if they were a form of invitation given to you. He is inviting you into His family. He wants you to belong. He wants you to take your identity in Him. As you seek to enter into full obedience to the will of the Father, consider also the effect that that has on your relationships with others who are also seeking to live the will of the Father. Rejoice in the bond that your mutual obedience to God creates and savor those bonds with much gratitude.

My loving Lord, You have established the human family for unity and love. You invite all people to share in Your family in love. I accept Your holy invitation, dear Lord, and pledge my wholehearted obedience to the will of the Father in Heaven. As I do, I rejoice in the reward of a deepening relationship with You and with all who are united to You. Jesus, I trust in You.

Speaking in Parables

Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

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… Matthew 13:1–3

Why did Jesus speak in parables? In today’s Gospel, Jesus goes on to teach the familiar “Parable of the Sower.” Immediately after that parable in today’s Gospel, the disciples do ask Jesus this question. They ask, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Jesus responds to them, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.” So why is that?

First of all, a story is easy to listen to. It keeps our attention and is easily remembered. In the “Parable of the Sower” that we hear today, Jesus explains that the seed sown by the sower falls either on the path, on rocky ground, among thorns, or on rich soil. This is a very visible description that will lead people to conclusions right away. Everyone knows that the ideal place for seed to be sown is rich soil. And everyone knows that the seed sown on the path, rocky ground and among thorns has little hope of producing fruit. Therefore, this parable easily draws the listener in so as to understand some basic lessons.

With that said, this story will only become a parable if the deeper lesson is learned. Clearly, Jesus wanted the crowd to understand that they will only understand the mysteries He is teaching them if they are like the rich soil. And He also wanted them to understand that much of what He was teaching them was not falling on rich soil in their hearts.

This parable, as well as all of Jesus’ parables, has the effect of causing the listener to think. Thinking leads to what we may term a holy curiosity. And this holy curiosity will begin to produce the rich soil that was needed within them so as to open the door to the deeper mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.

How does Jesus speak to you? Are you able to listen to Jesus speak directly to you, in prayer, so as to reveal to you the deepest mysteries of Heaven? When God speaks to you, in prayer and meditation, does the seed of His Word take root in your very soul? Does His gentle, quiet but transforming Voice communicate to you Who He is and what His will is for your life? If not, then parables are for you. And knowing that is an important discovery.

Reflect, today, upon the desire of God to speak to you. If you do struggle with hearing the clear and profound Voice of God resonate within your soul, then do not be afraid to spend time with the many parables that Jesus told. Try to place yourself within the scene. See yourself as a participant. In today’s parable, see your inner self as the field. Think about those things in your life that keep your soul from being rich soil. Allow this story of Jesus to speak to you. As you do, be attentive to God’s Voice. Listen for Him and listen to Him. And as you do hear Him, know that the seed He has scattered has begun to reach that rich soil of your heart.

My teaching Lord, You desire to speak to me and to reveal to me all that You are. Help me to hear Your Voice so that I will come to know You more. Make my heart truly fertile soil in which the seed of Your Word is sown, so that You can produce within me an abundance of good fruit. Jesus, I trust in You.

Blessed Beyond Measure

Thursday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

“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.” Matthew 13:16–17

Imagine what it would have been like if you were among those who saw Jesus walk the earth and heard Him preach with your own ears. What a gift! Jesus points out to His closest disciples that they were truly blessed, and indeed they were. They spent day after day with Him, listening to His words and witnessing His miracles. They saw lives changed, hearts converted and souls saved from sin. What they were privileged to witness was what so many “righteous people” before them longed to see and hear. Abraham, Moses, all of the prophets and so many others longed for the day of the coming of the Messiah. And these disciples were blessed to share in it.

Though it would have been glorious to be alive as Jesus walked the earth, in so many ways we are far more blessed. Today, we continue to have the divine presence of our Lord alive and present to us. First and foremost, He is present to us through grace. He is present in the Sacraments in a real and amazing way. He is present in His Living Word every time the Scriptures are proclaimed. He is present in the definitive teachings of the Church that have come to us over the centuries. He is alive in the witness of the saints both past and living. And He is present within us by His indwelling in our souls.

At first, some may conclude that the presence of the Messiah in these above-mentioned ways is not nearly as much of a blessing as it would have been to have seen Him walk the earth and have listened to Him preach. But if we were to conclude this, we would be wrong. In truth, God’s presence to us today is so much greater than even when He walked the earth. Recall, for example, that before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He told the disciples that it was good that He go. Why? Because then the Holy Spirit would come upon them. In that encounter, God would dwell not only next to them but within them. Today, we are blessed beyond measure because God is able to live within us, within our very souls.

The Indwelling of the Holy Trinity is a spiritual reality that we must not only understand, live and embrace, it is also a gift for which we must have the utmost gratitude. Certainly in Heaven, we will receive the full revelation of God, enter into perfect union with Him and see Him face-to-face. But while here on earth, there is no time greater than the time we live in, because it is the time of the greatest presence of God in our world.

Reflect, today, upon the incredible blessings bestowed upon you by our Lord. Too often we seek satisfaction in momentary and passing things. But God’s presence in His holy Word, in the Sacraments, through the teachings of the Church, through the witness of the saints and through His indwelling within our souls are blessings that must be seen, understood and embraced with the utmost joy. You are blessed beyond measure! Believe it and grow in gratitude for these blessings.

My blessed Lord, Your divine presence in our world today is beyond imagination. You come to me in countless ways and desire to dwell within me, uniting Yourself to me so as to become one with me. I say “Yes” to this gift of Your grace, and I welcome You more fully into my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

Bearing Good Fruit One Hundredfold

Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

“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.” Matthew 13:22–23

Today, Jesus clarifies for His disciples the meaning of His parable told to the crowds. He explains the meaning of the seed sown on the path, on the rocky ground, among the thorns and on the rich soil. Quoted above are the last two of those explanations. When we look carefully at the meaning of the seed sown into the rich soil, we see that these are those who hear, understand and bear fruit. And the fruit that is born is in varying degrees. One thing that this parable tells us is that hearing and even understanding the Word of God is not enough. There are many temptations we will face that will hinder God’s Word in our lives. Let’s briefly consider each.

First, there are many people who have been blessed to hear the Word of God. There are many who have been to religious education classes, have been taught by parents and others, have attended Church services but have failed to allow what they have heard to penetrate deeply to the point that they understand. To hear the Word of God is very different from understanding the Word of God. One reason for this is that the pure Word of God, when heard and understood, challenges us to the core of our being. If one truly understands God’s Word, then that person cannot remain indifferent. They must change. And they must change in a complete way. Failure to do so means that it is impossible for good fruit to be born in their life to the degree God wants.

But understanding and changing is not even enough. This is because the enemies of our soul, traditionally spoken of as the world, the flesh, and the devil, will powerfully attack any person who receives the Word of God and decides to abide by that Word. For example, if you were to fully accept the teachings of Jesus regarding forgiveness of others, as soon as you make the choice to forgive, there would most likely be numerous temptations to abandon that practice. Pride, anger, hurt, the lies of the evil one and the world will all try to deter you from an act of complete forgiveness of others. Or take, for example, the call to live completely detached from “riches.” Jesus’ teachings on true spiritual poverty versus true spiritual riches require a depth of conversion that is difficult to obtain. Thus, the “lure of riches” is very hard to overcome.

In the end, if your soul is truly fertile ground and if you allow the most pure and complete teaching of the Gospel to penetrate your soul so as to change you in every way God wants to change you, then this means that you have overcome each and every temptation thrown at you. You have rejected the temptations that come from greed, pride, anger and the like. You have embraced humility, rejected worldly esteem, dismissed anxiety and worry and are directed only by the powerful, gentle, holy, and clear Voice of God in your life. This requires much prayer, much interior purification, total dedication and unwavering obedience to the Word of God spoken to you both through the Gospels and in the depths of your conscience. And even among those who achieve this level of holiness, the fruit born in their lives is dependent upon how fully and habitually they live by the guiding Word of God.

Reflect, today, upon this high calling from our Lord. Achieving the goal of having exceptionally rich soil in your heart for the Word of God requires unyielding commitment and determination. There are numerous temptations that will fight against the creation of a fertile heart. Try to look at your own heart today. Be honest. How fertile is it? Does the Word of God grow there? And if so, does it grow to superabundance? Commit yourself to the goal of becoming that rich soil in which the Word of God is sown that not only bears good fruit but bears good fruit that is a hundredfold.

My demanding Lord, You desire that every soul of every person You have created become the most pure and most fertile ground in which the seed of Your Word can grow and produce fruit in superabundance. Please help me to commit myself to this radical depth of holiness, dear Lord. My life is Yours. Please purify me, change me, mold me and produce in me an abundance of good fruit. Jesus, I trust in You.

Vigilance with the Gospel

Saturday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds. “The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.” Matthew 13:24–25

This parable begins in a very good way. It states that good seed was sown. In other words, the pure Gospel was preached into good soil. This should be understood as any situation where the preacher is truly effective and where the Gospel reaches many ears and is planted in many hearts. This is worth rejoicing over. But this parable quickly points out that those responsible for guarding the good soil in which the Word of God was planted, failed in their duty to protect it. As a result, the “enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat.” In other words, the evil one also had sown his lies into the hearts of those who heard the Word of God, and those lies took root and began to grow.

This is a clear description of the world we live in today. First, it’s a description of the hearts of many Christians who have heard the Word of God and have responded, only to also struggle with doubts, confusions and lies sown by the evil one. But it is also a clear description of the world as a whole and even of the Church on earth. There are many divisions within societies and even within the Church. There are many competing voices. And among those whose hearts are good soil, it can be hard to distinguish between that which is from God and that which is a subtle deception from the evil one.

The weed referred to in this parable is called cockle. Cockle was a weed that, as it grew, looked much like wheat. It was very difficult to distinguish from wheat until the grain began to appear. But when the grain did begin to appear, it was clearly distinguishable. And if the cockle were to accidentally be ground in with the wheat, it would cause nausea when eaten.

The parable is quite clear. The lies that the evil one sows in the hearts of the faithful, those with fertile hearts, are very subtle, especially at first. It is easy for those subtle lies to confuse us. The evil one rarely succeeds in misleading the faithful through grave and obvious errors. Therefore, he deceives with small errors. As a result, the error is often not understood until much later as the fruit is born. The result is division, confusion, conflict and the like—conflict within our own souls, within our world and even within our Church.

What is the solution? Vigilance. We, as followers of Christ, must be exceptionally vigilant in regard to that which we allow our hearts to receive. Just because something sounds good at first doesn’t make it good. This is why we have the Scripture, the Magisterium of the Church and the teachings of the saints. We must constantly examine all that we allow into our hearts, our families, our world and our churches in the light of the pure and consistent teachings of our faith. And when we see divisions, this is a clear sign of some subtle error that has crept in. In the end, at the harvest time, when we all face Christ our Lord at our judgments, He will separate the good from the bad. But for our part, vigilance is essential so that only the pure seed of God’s Word is received by us and sown by us.

Reflect, today, on your own soul as fertile ground. What “seed” is sown there? What do you allow to penetrate your heart and take root? Are you vigilant, remaining attentive to the ways that the evil one tries to mislead you through subtle lies and errors? Ponder these questions honestly, and if you find conflict and confusion in your life, look more deeply at the source of these troubles. If there are lies that you have allowed into your own life, then turn them over to our Lord so that He can remove them at the proper time.

Most holy Word of God, You are the living Word who sows seed upon the fertile ground of our Hearts. You plant Yourself in the hearts of those who believe so that Your life can bear good fruit in the faithful. Please sow the seed of Your Word in my own heart, dear Lord, and protect me from the deceptions of the evil one. As You do, I pray that You bring forth an abundance of good fruit through me. Jesus, I trust in You.

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