"As iron is fashioned by fire and on the anvil, so in the fire of suffering and under the weight of trials, our souls receive that form which our Lord desires them to have." - St. Madeline Sophie Barat (1779 – 1865: A French saint and the founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart)
Gospel Text: (MK 4:1-20)
On another occasion, Jesus began to teach by the sea.
A very large crowd gathered around him
so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down.
And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land.
And he taught them at length in parables,
and in the course of his instruction he said to them,
“Hear this! A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and the birds came and ate it up.
Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep.
And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it
and it produced no grain.
And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit.
It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”
He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”
And when he was alone,
those present along with the Twelve
questioned him about the parables.
He answered them,
“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.”
Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable?
Then how will you understand any of the parables?
The sower sows the word.
These are the ones on the path where the word is sown.
As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once
and takes away the word sown in them.
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who,
when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy.
But they have no roots; they last only for a time.
Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
they quickly fall away.
Those sown among thorns are another sort.
They are the people who hear the word,
but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches,
and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word,
and it bears no fruit.
But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it
and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”
Today serves as the memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the church. With this in mind, today’s reflection is on the Gospel reading from Mark in which Jesus provides the parable of a sower sowing seeds onto a path, rocky ground, thorns, and rich soil. As we know, only the seeds that fell on rich soil produced fruit and, interestingly, as much as thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold. As Jesus states, “the sower sows the word,” but Satan, worldly anxiety, and the lure of riches, along with the craving for other things intrude and eventually choke off our ability or, better yet, our willingness to truly hear God’s word and then to act accordingly. We are all at risk for choking out the word of God. Our busy lives and our tendency to seek out the successes and accoutrements that come with them have the potential to cause us to treat the word of God as background noise, which undermines our ability to hear the word of God. Or, we may hear it, but choke it out like the thorns in Jesus’ parable.
So, how do we provide a richer soil for God’s words? I look to St. Thomas Aquinas for some answers. As he was listening to the word of God and choosing to join the Dominican Order he was confronted with thorns and rocky soil by way of a family who tried to use temptations and imprisonment to keep him from acting on God’s word. Despite these efforts, his strong faith and commitment allowed him to pursue his vocation and became a priest. And, not only did God’s word grow, but it did so abundantly as St. Thomas Aquinas became an influential philosopher and theologian, and a model teacher for those studying for the priesthood. As we move forward in our daily lives, today’s reading and the actions of St. Thomas Aquinas remind us of the importance of, at least, occasionally setting aside the many distractions in our lives in order to truly focus on not only hearing the word of God, but reflecting on how best to act on God’s word to the benefit of all.