15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sometimes it is important to read a little bit further than the section chosen for our Sunday portion of scriptures. I often do this because it is important to set the context of what we hear in the wider story of salvation, for instance in the reading from Romans 8, we stop at the wonderful image of ourselves as part of the birthing of a new creation, not the end of everything, we are waiting, writes the author of Romans, for adoption by God and for the first fruits of the Spirit already in us. But if we carry on into the next few verses things shape up nicely, we wait in hope, one of the three, abiding, lasting gifts, and this hope is not a passive act but hard, endurance is required as well as trust in the Christ who we cannot see yet love. Then in verse 26 a wonderful vision opens up, it's a real game changer because it hammers home something we know, probably half understand but utterly forget a lot of the time. Here it is: 'In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.' (Rm 8:26)
Maybe you don't find that as exciting as I do, but try to catch a little of the excitement! We start with that image of creation waiting for the revelation of glory, when everything will be set free in Christ our true God, when the groaning of pain, sin, mortality is transformed into life unending! But to get there requires the enduring gift of being able to walk alongside others on Christ's Gospel way, to share the burden of care and support for our sisters and brothers and to intercede in prayer for all.
This is where the gift of the Spirit given us at Initiation suddenly comes to our help. Yes, we acknowledge our weakness only to find that this is the key to the Kingdom, the route of weakness, of the little ones, neglected by those obsessed with power, or greedy for riches, because they are spiritually blinded, but those who have hope and trust find we are led straight to God, and in that wonderful image of the Trinity holding together in the mutual dance of love with each other as one, we get a glimpse of our relationship and place with God. It is through the Spirit, always the Spirit, that we know Jesus, and through them both finally glimpse the Creator calling us into the Oneness of life forever!
In the Our Father we pray for the coming of the Kingdom and the will of God to be done, but we can be forgiven for thinking that this sometimes seems hollow. But this Sunday take heart from Romans, look at it through the parable of the Sower where Jesus shows us how the Spirit deep in our hearts, can open our eyes to the Word alive and active, growing within us. We are the rich soil, like it or not, because the Spirit is with us, if we find things tough take that image of birth, like the seed in the dark earth slowly pushing upwards into light. The Spirit gives us the prayer we need to utter, maybe this day we use the words of the psalm and apply it to ourselves:
"You have crowned the year with your bounty,
and your paths overflow with a rich harvest;
The untilled meadows overflow with it,
and rejoicing clothes the hills."
(Ps 65:12,13) Wherever we may be at this time, no matter how we might be feeling, there is always room to let the Spirit help us find that deep joy beyond words. Let us pause and rejoice a little, just a little!
Extract from John Chrysostom's Homily on the Parable of the Sower. Homily 44.
Having spoken, then, about the ways of perdition, he next sets before them the good soil, not allowing them to despair but giving them hope of repentance, and showing that in the light of what has been said it is possible for them to effect a change and repent.
Furthermore, if the soil is good, and there is a single sower, and the seed is the same, why did one yield a hundredfold, another sixty and another thirty? Here again the difference depends on the nature of the soil. For even in the case of good soil there is great variation. Do you see that it is not the farmer who is responsible, nor the seed, but the soil that receives it? Not with regard to nature but with regard to will. And here much love is shown toward humanity, in that he does not demand the same standard of virtue from all, but accepts those in the first rank, does not reject those in the second and even finds room for those in the third. He puts it this way so that his followers should not think that merely hearing him is sufficient for salvation.
Extract from a sermon by Abbot Isaac of Stella
This is indeed the law of Christ, who truly bore our weaknesses in his passion and carried our sorrows out of pity, loving those he carried and carrying those he loved. Whoever attacks a brother in need, or plots against him in his weakness of whatever sort, surely fulfils the devil's law and subjects himself to it. Let us then be compassionate toward one another, loving all our brothers, bearing one another's weaknesses, yet ridding ourselves of our sins.
The more any way of life sincerely strives for the love of God and the love of our neighbour for God's sake, the more acceptable it is to God, no matter what be its observances or external form. For charity is the reason why anything should be done or left undone, changed or left unchanged; it is the initial principle and the end to which all things should be directed. Whatever is honestly done out of love and in accordance with love can never be blameworthy. May he then deign to grant us this love, for without it we cannot please him, and without him we can do absolutely nothing, God, who lives and reigns forever. Amen.
Fr Robin is an Eastern Rite Catholic Chaplain for Melkites in the UK. He is also an Ecumenical Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. You can follow him on Twitter: @RobinGibbons2
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