Friday, July 24, 2020

15th Sunday OT (Cycle A): The Parable of the Hardened Hearts.

    Today’s Gospel is one of Jesus' most beloved parables. For generations preachers have reflected on the deep meanings behind the story of the sower and the seeds that although being all the same, produce different fruits depending on the kind of ground they fall. It is a real shame that in today’s reading, right in the middle of the story we have to listen to Him explaining to the apostles that the reason why he purposely spoke in parables was  so that a specific group of people would not understand what he was saying.
   To our year 2020 sencibilities this comes across as not too politically correct for Jesus. After all, don't we live in an era in which we are supposed to include everyone in every endeavor? Why is the Lord excluding some while revealing deep meanings of the Kingdom to others?
   Even the Church recognizes this whole scene as problematic;  so out of character for the Lord that it gives us, preachers, the option to select between the Gospel I just proclaimed and a shorter, much more “nicer” version, without the embarrassing talk about “taking away from those who have nothing”. Luckily (for you...I guess) I am one who never shies away from controversy, so… here we are.
    Now, the important questions for us today are these: Why is the Lord excluding a certain group of people from his teachings and what does this have to do with us today?  The key to our first question is given right at the beginning of the reading. “On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.”  You see, we need to remember that today’s story happened at one specific moment in Jesus ministry. What else happened “On that day”, that Matthew feels the need to point this out? Well if we look at the passages BEFORE this story we find out that Jesus preached this parable the same day he had been presented with a possessed man. The same day when, after he liberated this poor man from the demonic power, Pharisees  accused him of having power over demons not because he was divine but because He was in league with Satan.
    In fact, if you look at Jesus preaching before that day, He never used parables to teach the crowds. It was after this day that he began speaking in parables to the people. Even the apostles notice this chance when they ask him “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Up to this point Jesus had taught in a very direct way, speaking of the Kingdom of Heaven directly, and what it was needed to be part of this kingdom. From this day on the Lord begins to teach in parables, in words that could be understood by those who were poor and oppressed. In words that those who were in power could not understand, not because they were confusing but because they had already made up their mind about who the Lord Jesus was showing to be: The Son of God. They we're too stubborn to receive his message and preferred to close their eyes to the words of truth and dismiss everything the Lord said as rubbish, not worthy of their time and attention.
     Jesus answered the apostles' question in a very direct way. I speak in parables so that you who have been granted knowledge of the kingdom of heaven could benefit from my teachings, and those who have decided to ignore or twist my words for their own benefit, continue to live in the darkness they have freely chosen, where they feel secure and  comfortable. “they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand”. These are the people whose hearts were like a dry path, where Jesus' words have no chance to take a hold and grow, and he tells us very clearly that these are the people to whom the evil one comes and steals away the seeds the Lord had tried to plant in their hearts.
    If you ask me on the parable of the sower there are two types of seeds: the ones with a chance to grow, but for many reasons only some are able to produce fruit, and seeds that never take hold, not because of they are bad seeds but because the ground in which they fell is to hard to give them any chance to produce fruit.
    Before I said we had two questions in front of us today. I hope I answered the first one to your satisfaction. The second one, what does this have to do with us today… well...I will let you answer this in the secret of your hearts. Is my heart so hardened, am I so comfortable with the way I live my life that the word of the Lord can never find good ground  to grow? That is a question we should always ask ourselves, not just today but everyday of our lives. GBMBS