Welcome to Green Reflections, the blog dedicated to reflections on the readings from the Roman Catholic Sunday Lectionary, with particular sensitivity to the needs of the earth. Use this blog to deepen your own awareness of our Creator's desires for the planet and ways that we can appreciate God's goals for the earth,giving it the loving care that it deserves.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

July 17, 2011 – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wis 12:13, 16-19 Rom 8:26-27 Mt 13:24-43

The following is an excerpt from a dialog between 2nd century catechumen, Respecta, and her teacher, Petras.

As Respecta slowly made her way from the Christian assembly, she was more pensive than usual. Her teacher, Petras, commented to her, “A denarii for your thoughts.”

“Oh, I was just thinking about some of the trials that our brothers and sisters are suffering these days. You know what I mean. Christians cannot hold public office or pursue well-paying occupations because of the Roman oath. We must stay away from certain professions that are immoral, like acting and military service because they are so contrary to the gospel. In Roman society we live as day laborers and small business owners so that our livelihoods are always precarious. I wonder if it might be better if we formed our own towns so that we could do better. That way, at least some of us could be doctors, lawyers and mayors and provide for the needs of our own people through better incomes.”

“Ah, Respecta! I can sympathize with your idea to live separately from the evils of society. It is hard, especially for those of us who are raising children, to teach and to protect them from adopting the bad attitudes that surround us. But I think that Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds is very much to the point for us today. When Jesus spoke about the wheat growing alongside the weeds until harvest, I think he was speaking about the Christian vocation. We are to live in the world but not be ‘of the world.’ Matthew’s gospel links up three parables for us today to drive home the point.”

“I see, Petras. But why should we live in the world when evil desires and behaviors surround us and can infect us? Wouldn’t it be better to live separately where we can be spared such temptation?”

“There are two things that I think we need to talk about, Respecta. When Jesus told the parables of the weeds and the wheat, the mustard seed and the yeast, He was talking about the Kingdom of God or Reign of God. One mistake some people make is to identify the reign of God or His kingdom with the Church. Jesus never made such a connection. The reign or kingdom of God is wherever people seek to make God’s desires and plans their own. Even without knowing Jesus, there are people everywhere who seek God this way. God is able to work through people of every nation and religion. Those who are earnest in seeking what is good and truly loving toward others have already begun to seek God’s reign even when they are not Christians.”

“Oh, I never thought about it like that, but it makes sense to me.”

“Yes. And for Christians there is more to recognize in these parables. Both the parable of the weeds and the wheat and the parable of the yeast kneaded into bread reveal how God’s reign works mysteriously and unseen in society. The wheat grows alongside weeds, not separately, so that God’s reign can be experienced and affect all people. The yeast makes the message even more clear by reminding us that yeast is unseen and yet is able to raise the entire batch of dough. So, those who seek God’s desires and act according to the Divine plan influence their society to seek what is holy and good for all. Immersed in God’s desires, those who are living in the reign of God can raise up the values of the gospel and the desires of God’s heart in ways that inspire society to safeguard the rights of all.”

“Wow! That’s quite an honor and responsibility, Petras.”

“Yes, God relies on us to be a leaven in the world. Meantime, God is working, too. When Jesus spoke about the mustard seed, He pointed to the reality that some things are impossible for us to attain by ourselves. Even if we all agreed on the rights of people and creatures, not everyone would want to sacrifice and work for the common good. Such unanimity of purpose seems to be beyond our power. That’s where grace and the work of the Spirit is essential if God’s reign is to fully be realized on Earth. So, Jesus spoke about the mustard seed. A tiny thing like that grows into huge bushes and shrubs. But, in Jesus’ parable, he talks about the mustard seed becoming a tree where birds build their nests. Of course, mustard seed can’t grow into a tree, but with God’s assistance, the Kingdom or reign of God can house our loftiest ideals and ambitions.”

“Then it must be very important for Christians to participate in society in such a way that full equality and the common good are promoted for all, Petras. We cannot excuse ourselves from participation in building up God’s reign right in the middle of the evils and corruption that mark our government and civilization. We need to hold a bright light up to the highest ideals that we believe come from God.”

“Right you are, Respecta. God will work through us and among us as Christians. At the same time, all people of good will can join in building the reign of God among us. It might not be fully realized in our lifetime, but we have an important role to play in society.”

“Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me, Petras. I was really off the mark when I wished to separate Christians from society. Jesus is counting on us to be His light in the world. We can’t do that if we go away from civilization. We must carefully listen to God through the sacred scriptures so that our own minds and hearts are formed by God’s word and that the Spirit may inspire us to know God’s plan for our lives. Then we can share our light with the world.”

“Perhaps, this week, we might say ‘that we may be wheat for the world or leaven in the world,’ instead of light. That way, we can live in and among others, so that the whole society may rise up to live out God’s desires for us.”

“Okay, okay. Let’s be wheat and leaven!”

Sunday, July 10, 2011

July 10, 2011 – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 55:10-11 Rom 8:18-23 Mt 13: 1-23

The following is an excerpt from a dialog between second century catechumen, Respecta, and her teacher, Petras.

Respecta stood looking over the apricots deciding which ones to pick for dinner. As she completed her purchase, she spied Petras in the marketplace. “Yoo hoo! Petras. How are you?”

“Just fine, Respecta. How about you?”

“All’s well with me and mine. What brings you to the market today?”

“Oh, it’s my daughter’s birthday, and I want to find something special for her. Would you mind giving me some advice?”

“Sure. Young women love pretty things. Why don’t we look at the cloth merchant’s goods?”

“Okay. Let’s go. In the meantime, I have a story to tell you. It’s one that Jesus taught the crowds in Capernaum. He said, ‘Listen. A sower went out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell on the path and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground where they didn’t have much soil, and they sprang up quickly since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.’”

“For heaven’s sake, Petras! This has to be fiction. No sower would sow seed on paths, rocky ground or among thorns. The sower would be fired for such waste if he were a peasant. After all, the grain only yields four- or fivefold. You know, if the sower were a slave, he would be sold along with his family for such waste. And worse, if the sower were the land owner, no one would respect him or want to work for him. The very idea of wasting seed while his neighbors can barely eke out a subsistent living would bring shame on the land owner. Why would Jesus tell such a fable?”

“You’re on the right track, Respecta. Listen to the rest of the parable. I think you’ll know why He used such an impossible situation. Jesus said, ‘Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone who has ears listen!’”

“Oooh! Of course. Jesus wasn’t really talking about a farmer, He must have been talking about God’s lavish efforts to get such a harvest. But, Petras, what is God sowing? Do you suppose Jesus meant the word that He was preaching?”

“You got it! When Jesus went inside, his disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was telling them, so He explained that He was sent to bring the good news to the world. He was preaching to everyone, regardless of how well they understood or accepted the word. Some would never understand the gospel, so the word couldn’t grow in them. Others welcomed Jesus’ preaching, but when they saw the persecution they would suffer if it became known they were disciples, they dropped away from Christianity. Some of those early disciples welcomed the word, but the daily grind of work, deaths in the family, worries about taxes and all took over their lives so that their faith withered and they fell away from the Faith. But, for some, the word of Jesus was the word of life. Everything else was secondary. They welcomed the gospel and let it take root in their lives so that they brought forth an abundant harvest of good works and joyful faith.”

“Hmmm. I wonder, Petras. Could there be another meaning? I wonder if the hard ground, the rocky ground and the thorny places are in everyone’s souls? Really, sometimes I carry around grudges from wrongs that friends or neighbors committed against me and my heart can be very hard. Sometimes, I’m working on forgiveness of an injury and past injuries spring up like rocks to stop me from being fully reconciled with a friend. So, I feel like the rocky ground. I dig out one rock only to find older ones right beneath it. Living our Christian faith is wonderful—even joyful for me—but it always challenges me to be more loving, more ready to extend my acceptance of others as they are. I’d like to yield a hundredfold life, but I have such a long ways to go.”

“You know, Respecta, you are right in imagining that the parables have many layers of meanings. There are jewels for the most mature Christians to find if they only ponder the gospels more deeply. Can you imagine what the Church would look like if we looked at all of our relationships as opportunities for love? I mean, what if God wanted us to see our relationship with the Roman Empire as an opportunity to love? What would that look like in practice? Or what if we looked at our relationship to creation as an opportunity to love? I believe that Christian love, forgiveness and reconciliation could be applied to every relationship we have. Perhaps that is why St. Paul tells us in the letter to the Romans that ‘all creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only creation, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.’”

“Oh, yes, Petras! I can imagine that Jesus would envision an entire world where we see ourselves and other creatures as sons and daughters of one God. Then there would be no war, no destruction of the land. Then we all would respect for the rights of others. I suspect that God is sowing the seed even today through us. This parable has really caught my imagination. I’ll have to pray on it some more and ask the Lord how I can better yield a harvest for Him…..Look! There’s something that your daughter would love. Let’s take a look at it.”

And Petras and Respecta turned their attention to a lovely piece of brown yardage that had blue flowers woven into it.

How might you yield a harvest for God this week as you deepen your understanding of this parable?

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About Me

The Green Nun earned an MA in theology from the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley and is currently completing a Masters degree in Earth Literacy from St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in Indiana. This blog spot is being done as an integration project for the MA.

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