Patience is a virtue that’s been vanquished in the digital age. It would be interesting to know if our threshold of annoying things that impede our “getting on with things” has changed over the years. In the 1970s my computer science class developed programs/software on the Dartmouth Time Share system. We carried around boxes of IBM punch cards that took hours to punch. When had to carry them to the data center and submit them…and wait. When the paper punch strip came out that was amazing! This was progress!. Now if my webpage take more than 200 msec. to load, I am annoyed. “Who designed this thing? What’s wrong with our internet connection?” Just some of the inner thoughts that arise when we are impeded.
In the traditional understanding of the parable of “The Sower and Seed,” the focus is often on the soil as a description of our hearts, of our openness to the word of God being sown into our lives. The soil/heart is described as a well-trod path, rocky ground, a bramble of thorns, or rich fertile soil. There is some insight there to be sure, but it does not necessarily give insight into a remedy. Some have described it as “the soil under your feet”. All one must do is to look down, assess the conditions where you stand in life, and move. Move to the rich fertile soil – and yes, along the way you will have to deal with birds, the weeds and the scorching sun.
At least two things stand out for me about the Sower: generosity and persistence.
God is on a mission to remove evil from His good world, along with all of its corrosive effects. However, He wants to do it in a way that does not involve removing humans. In this video on sacrifice and atonement, the good people at the Bible Project trace the theme of God’s atoning or “covering” over human evil through animal sacrifices that ultimately point to Jesus and his death and resurrection. The video shows how the Jewish Temple rituals of sacrifice and atonement have been replaced by the New Testament rituals of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. (Note: the video’s will not present a fully Catholic understanding of Baptism or Eucharist, but the trajectory of their narrative points to our fuller understanding of these sacraments.)
The reading from today’s gospel (with a few extra verses) and St. Francis of Assisi’s answer to the question.
20 Jesus came with his disciples into the house. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. 21 When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” … 31 His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. 32 crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers* [and your sisters] are outside asking for you.” 33 But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and [my] brothers?” 34 And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 35[For] whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3) Continue reading
21 Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. 23 In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; 24 he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” 25 Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” 26 The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. 27 All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” 28 His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee. (Mark 1:21-28)
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. It is an event in history that we note in reference to the place it transpired – the Road to Damascus. It is an event that inspired the great Italian artist, Caravaggio to create his masterpiece, The Conversion on the Way to Damascus. The artwork is located in the Cerasi Chapel of the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, in Rome. Across the chapel is a second Caravaggio depicting the Crucifixion of Saint Peter. On the altar between the two is the Assumption of the Virgin Mary by Annibale Carracci. It is quite the chapel.
Last week in the gospel, John the Baptist pointed out Jesus with the words, “Behold the Lamb of God….” – the same words you will hear today during Mass. In the gospel two people heard those words and were curious, wanted to know more, sensed the call of belonging – and so they followed… loosely at first, perhaps at a bit of a distance, a safe distance. Jesus sees them and speaks to their curiosity: “Come and see.”
Come to Mass and the Eucharist. Come to Bible Study. Come say your prayers, “Come and see.” Life has lots of “come and see” – moments when our curiosity is piqued. When we search and seek.
The first article of the series about St. Francis essentially proposed that what most people think they know about St. Francis of Assisi is a very limited and romanticized version of the “poor man from Assisi.” Such versions often emphasize the Francis who loves animals, who was an ecologist before “ecology” was a word or a concern, and who wrote the “peace prayer.” The first article ended with a challenge: discover the “real” Francis whose story will challenge, inspire, unsettle, amaze, and maybe…. just maybe, change your world.
In the quiet of the morning, I took a moment to ponder the gospel for today. Today is one of those days I wonder why this particular reading – with its start and end – was chosen. No need to link you to today’s readings online, the gospel is only two verses: “Jesus came with his disciples into the house. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’” (Mark 3:20-21) Of course one could simply open the Bible and pick up the flow of the gospel and understand the context, but… As one who appreciates good story telling, to my mind this is a bit brief.
Today I ran across a practical article on The Franciscan Media site: “Easing a Guilty Conscience” by Dr. Colleen Arnold, MD (a physician, wife, mother and writer from Lexington, Virginia, also holds a master’s degree in pastoral ministry!) Take several minutes and read Dr. Arnold’s insightful words. If you need a “reader’s digest” version to motivate you, she offers that when you are feeling guilty about something – ask yourself four questions:
- Is this my problem? “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” (Mt 7:3).
- Did I do my best? “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).
- How can I fix i? “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control” (2 Tm 1:7).
- What can I learn from it? “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer” (Rom 12:12).