Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas and author of the book, What Pope Francis Really Said. He recently penned an article about today’s Gospel reading as seen in a more modern context.
“As he sowed, some seeds – the important words that God or our friends and family say – fell on the path, but our phones, iPods and tablets swooped down like birds and stole our attention.
Some seed fell on rocky soil. It “sprang up at once,” but “withered for lack of roots” because we only surf headlines and, rather than pray or ponder while waiting in lines, we only chatter with others, watch online videos, read notifications or text messages to fill the silence – a silence that is needed to develop spiritual roots.
Lastly, Jesus said: “Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it” – thorns of obsession, anxiety and even anger about the latest sports news, the latest atrocities, the craziest celebrity gossip, Trump, the next item to buy, the next gadget to try and the next app to download.
Jesus could easily be talking to many of us with earbuds and smartphones, Netflix and satellite car radios when he said: “Gross is the heart of this people. They will hardly hear with their ears. They have closed their eyes.”
The technique of tilling the soil in Palestine is much different than here in the United States. We are blessed to be able to start with rich soil in huge parts of the US. In Palestine that is not necessarily the case. There, some sowing actually precedes plowing because the ground is so unsuitable and needs to be broken up with the seeds already in place to ensure that the seed is planted and buried deep in the tilled soil.
What can block ears that hear? Noise. Technology. TV, radio, social media, iPhones. Internal noise, worry, anxiety. Busy work out of fear of quiet. 24 hour News
What can open the auditory canals? When speaking to a person’s heart, how does one “water the earth, making it fertile and fruitful?”
We can use:
- An intentional search for truth
- Someone willing to “pick up their chainsaw and follow Christ.”
- “Pick up your prayer card, order the pancakes and follow Christ.”
Chainsaws? Prayer Cards? A parishioners told me recently that he loves working in wood and “playing with” his chainsaw to cut wood and trim the trees of neighbors. Whenever he does this, God seems to bring someone where the conversation just naturally opens up about the topic of faith, religion or the church. It’s uncanny. That’s what “evangelization” looks and feels like. Another man carries around a prayer card with a picture of his daughter (who has cancer) and a prayer to Mother Teresa. He constantly finds that opportunities present themselves to hand someone the card. Again – an unobtrusive, humble and seamless way to “evangelize.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. How about, “Blessed are those eyes, when they see, and those ears, when they hear.” The seed that the farmer sows is The Word (Mark 4:14). So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.
Ok, here’s your homework this week:
- Prayer – one day – 15 minutes (If you’re more advanced in your spiritual journey, add 15 minutes)
- Silence – one day – 15 minutes (If you’re more advanced in your spiritual journey, add 15 minutes)
- Intentional search for truth. Read something about your faith or read the Bible 15 minutes.
- “Pick up your chainsaw or pick up your prayer card and follow Christ.” Look at someone in the midst of one of your activities and just pray for that person. You don’t even have to talk to them. (If you’re more advanced in your spiritual journey, ask the Lord to “set up the next meeting.”
Audio version of the homily is here: