Grace to you!
I draw from the Lord’s teachings in Matthew 13, and share how God’s word speaks to all possible human conditions and produces fruit for willing hearts.
As I read the Gospel of Matthew chapter 13, I notice the Lord used many parables (seven parables) to communicate the message of his kingdom. Many scholars suggest that Matthew 13 could be described as a parable chapter, or “the parable (parabolic) discourse” (The Navarre Bible, Saint Matthew’s Gospel, 2005, pp. 101–102). This is because the chapter contains more parables than any other in the Gospels.
I notice how excellent a teacher is the Lord. As a teacher myself, I can’t but be drawn by the Lord’s conversational style and unparalleled use of imageries. The parables and imageries used hit home to his audience. The Lord doesn’t talk over the head of his listeners. He draws them in from simple things into the deeper truths. His words come alive. They make real hidden truths of the Kingdom.
One notices how the Lord describes the function of the grace of God’s word using the parable of the sowing of the seed. This seed sown is himself, as the divine Logos made flesh (cf. Jn 1:1-14).
This word is alive and active (Heb 4:12). It is powerful in itself. It is capable in itself to reveal itself for anyone to see. The Lord reveals to us the richness of life. He provides grace to cooperating hearts.
Walter J. Ong, in hisThe Presence of the Word, wrote about how this word is a seed sown through generations among different peoples. It calls for “preparedness for an encounter” (p. 295). Some grasp this Word. Others rarely do. Yet in discovering it, we reach the finest of human life. This seed is powerful and addresses diverse human conditions. It permeates every facet of life.
The seed is scattered. This speaks to how lavish the Word is to be shared to all. It has to be shared to as many situations as possible. It spreads to different human conditions. Every possible situation of the human mind and condition is met by the seed. From rising to going later to bed, moment by moment, God sows this seed in different manners of actual graces. God uses people to do so. God does so too in ways known to God alone.
The word could be seen as the rich water in which the human soul and spirit swim. In it is fruitfulness and life. Some don’t want to swim or be washed. Some do but can’t relax for a refreshing bath. They simply walk out of the stream. Others swim and relish the refreshing/cleansing power of this heavenly water. They settle in it for a lifelong immersion and delight. This is the best place to be.
See the sowing of the seed as a continuum in every human situation. Those who realize that God goes on working, goes on revealing Godself, and goes on speaking the Word, tap into that overflowing grace.
They immerse in it. Their heart so open and willing to cooperate with God, produces the incredible harvest depending on their individual dispositions. The most important is for the seed to be rooted and to grow. Your enduring yes is all that is needed. Leave the rest to God.
I pray that God will give us the grace of a listening ear, to hear the word as it ministers to every second of our life and situation. May we cooperate with God and bear much fruit. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Wednesday Week 16 Ordinary Time: Ex 16:1-5, 9-15; Mt 13:1-9]
Grace to you!
One of the wisest sayings of Saint Thomas Aquinas with regard to virtue is: “Virtue stands in the mean of two extremes.”
We say in our common language that too much of anything is bad. Sleep is good. Too much sleep is terribly bad. It’s laziness. Another example: Generosity is a wonderful virtue. However, when generosity to the poor means enabling the poor not to do for themselves what they should, then that generosity isn’t good either. It makes the poor not own their unique identity and self-image as people capable of working and earning their living.
In Saint Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, we see this measured language of the balance between extremes. He writes: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13).
We are who we are in Christ by the grace of God. This grace, God’s life in us, which enables us “to will and to work for his good pleasure” is not our making or merit. Yet, we are not to presume this grace, never to take it for granted. Saint Paul uses a strong language to remind us of the need to do our bit in the grace work “obey” and “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12).
This is similar to what Saint Augustine tells us that the “God who created you without you cannot save you without you.”
Nothing in life comes easy. Nothing we ever get comes to us on a platter of gold. God gives grace, but we have to accept the grace and work with the grace for it to bring about salvation and fulfilment in our lives of God’s plan.
Some will say, but the Psalmist tells us that the Lord promised, God gives blessings to people while they sleep (Ps 127:2). But that Psalm was to remind us of the need to cooperate with God and not to go it alone. In that Psalm, we see the same balance between grace and work, inspiration and perspiration.
God isn’t going to do for you what you must do for yourself. God isn’t going to make your bed or tie your shoes. God isn’t going to research the information for you to have a better future. He gives you the inner strength and grace and directs you with intuitions and answers. Did you listen when God spoke? Did you obey when God inspired?
Blessings flow to those who know that in life and in the spiritual life, when we cooperate with God and do our bit, we become the best we have been called to be. It is in doing so, we become great.
As the old saying attributed to St. Ignatius (though it is contested if he indeed said it) advises us to keep working as if everything depended on you and praying as if everything depended on God. Such a balance is key to faithfulness and success.
God love you. God bless you.,
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Wednesday Week 31 Ordinary Time B: Phil 2:12-18; Lk 14:25-33]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.