Saturday in the Twenty-Fourth Week of Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: 1 Cor 15:35-37, 42-49; Lk 8:4-15
We can consider the parable of the Sower as the parable of the Soil. The soil is our sense of importance, of what matters most; thus, it is our hearts, our souls.
We can think of two kinds of importance. One is that of things we find satisfying or agreeable. The pleasure a thing gives (our reaction to it) determines its importance. Nothing inherently wrong with these things, but we don’t want to set our hearts on them; we don’t want them to be what matters most. Then our lives become like a TV series: one episode after another with no common thread or purpose connecting them.
The second kind of importance is value. Values are important-in-themselves. The value determines the happiness we receive. Values don’t need us, our reaction, or our sense of worth to justify them. They are intrinsically important. This is what Jesus is pointing us to. The Father and the deeds of His way of life are important in themselves. This includes such deeds as an act of forgiveness, helpfulness to the needy, and kindness. They make a claim on us for an adequate response to them. That is where the different types of soil come in. They reflect the different capacities for responding to value. Those capacities are affected by our basic moral attitude. That attitude determines our receptivity to the word of God.
First consider the rocky soil. The person has a basically good moral attitude, but it is imperfect, inconsistent. When Jesus says ‘They have no root”, He means the moral values (God’s word) are not anchored in one’s overall character. They are situational in that they are subject to “falling away in time of temptation.” When faced with conflicting choices he may not choose in line with his best self.
Then there is the thorny path. Beset with fear and anxiety, his basic moral stance is that the highest good is freedom from these. Such relief is thought to be in possession of riches & pleasure. Committed to self-seeking, he produces little fruit in usefulness to others. He determines the worth of others by the advantages they can give him. Thus, he does not even seek value, the important-in-itself. He is not opposed to values, but rather is disabled from seeing & feeling them by fixation on pleasure, on self. By setting his heart on satisfaction he is unable to see the value of the word of God.
Then there is the well-worn path of Pride. In Salvation History, the devil himself favors this path. This basic moral attitude is contemptuous of values and those who represent them. This is resentment: one is irritated that positive moral values have a mysterious and admirable power in the lives of those who live by them, whose hearts are “rich soil.” Such people have, for the time of their value response, transcended the limits of self-centeredness. So envy is the active ingredient in the prideful. People on this path of pride feel incapable of such admiration. Admiration is part of the cure and it is the adequate response to value that is needed for the word of God to take lasting effect in one’s life. Jesus describes it as “a generous and good heart” that ‘bears fruit through perseverance.”
Admiration is part of the cure; the other part is resoluteness. As monks we may not have the value blindness mentioned earlier; we may find more easily discernible values like justice, fidelity, and reliability easy to live out. We may struggle with values that are not so easily discernible. These would be such values as humility, purity, & kindness or fraternal charity.
So Benedict highlights them. On the rich soil that we may come here with we will find patches of rocks and thorns. Resoluteness and admiration for seniors who have wrestled with these for decades will be needed. When the demands of adequate value response seem too stiff these will help us answer affirmatively the question: “Is there a reality worth loving with such extravagance?”