Father Mikael Schink S.J.
15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
July 16th 2023, St. Eugenia Catholic Church, Stockholm
+ Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
1. How many are there not, who hear the Word of God without understanding? As the Lord says, they are like ‘the man who received the seed on the edge of the path’ (Math. 13:19). We all know them: They have heard a little bit about Jesus Christ, they have perhaps read parts of the Bible, perhaps they are even Christian or Catholic, but they do not understand what they have heard, and so, as the Lord says, ‘the evil one comes and carries off what was sown’.
This reminds us of the importance of a true understanding of the faith. Not everyone needs to be a professional theologian, but all Christians need to understand the basics of the faith so that they thereby can come to know God. For example, some believe that Jesus Christ is not really God but that he is merely divine, i.e. he is a mere man who somehow participates in divinity. But this is a false doctrine, for we profess in the Nicaean Creed that he was ‘begotten not made’, i.e. that he is uncreated, ‘before all ages’, i.e. that he is eternal, ‘true God from true God’, i.e. that he is God himself, ‘consubstantial with the Father’, i.e. that he is the substance as the Father. We must firmly believe this to be saved. We must believe in Jesus Christ, because he is ‘the Way’ and ‘the Gate’ (John 10:7–9) to the Kingdom of God, and ‘no one can come to the Father except through’ him (John 14:6), as saint John says in his Gospel.
2. But there are also those who hear the word and welcome it at once with joy, but it has no root in them. As soon as some trial comes, or some persecution on account of the Word, they fall away at once. How many have not fallen away? How many souls have not been lost, and how many are still not lost? Only a small fraction, probably no more than 5 percent, of those confirmed each year continue to practice their faith, and some one percent of all Catholics in Sweden leave the Church each year. The situation of the Church in the Western world is catastrophic. And we cannot blame it only on a process of secularization which is completely isolated from the Church and with which the Church has nothing to do. No, the parable of the Lord applies to us. The greatest reason that so many people are falling away from the faith is because the Word of God has not taken root in us. Because we have not welcomed Jesus Christ into our lives and understood him.
We must ask ourselves: what can I do in order to encourage others around me? What can I do to encourage my children, my siblings, my wife or husband, my friends in the Church, to take the faith more seriously? What can I do to be a better example for others? Or am I perhaps being a stumbling block for the faith of those around me? Am I discouraging prayer, spiritual conversations and so fotth? Am I secretely or perhaps even openly thinking: you shouldn’t take Church so seriously. Am I being negligent by not correcting those around me, by not being a good example, by not doing my best to be a good Christian?
Jesus is speaking to us: He is asking us a question: Has his Word taken root in us? Have we received it with joy, and do we try to understand it? And not merely to understand it, but to meditate on it and really get to know Jesus Christ? There are many who come to mass, receive communion, perhaps they even say morning and evening prayer a couple of times per week, but who do not have any personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Perhaps they have lost it, perhaps they have never had it. In any case, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the time to start anew or to deepen our relationship with the Lord. What will we say to him when we die? He will be our judge, the judge of living and the dead. We have every opportunity now, to engage in a personal relationship with our Lord, so that we will know him when we meet him face to face, at the hour of our death.
3. Then there are those who receive the seed in thorns. These are the men who hear the Word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word and so they produce nothing. Like any endevour, the Christian life requires sacrifice. But how many are there not who have received a good Christian education, or who perhaps have converted and after their conversion spent a good deal of time in study and prayer, but who after some time become lukewarm in the faith. They are lured away from the faith by the temptations of the world, by various responsibilities, by possessions, money, friends, hobbies or other interests. Also many priests, religious brother and sisters fall into this category. There are so many things to do with one’s time besides spending it on God. Thomas Merton writes in one of his early journals that ‘if a person prays an hour a day, it seems tremendous: he begins to think himself a monster of asceticism’ (June 25, 1940). Let our mediation on the Words of Jesus Christ therefore strengthen our resolution to know him personally, to be a personal friend of our Lord, to be a friend of God, not merely an acquaintance who comes by the Church and says “hi” to God from time to time, but somebody who actually knows Jesus Christ from personal experience.
4. Finally, there are those who hear the Word and receive it in rich soil. These are the men who understand it and take it to heart. The rich soil is an image of generosity. God, ‘This Tremendous Lover’, as the Trappist monk Eugene Boylan calls him in his spiritual classic with the same name; this God, ‘This Tremendous Lover’, has given us so much: not only the gift of creation but above all the gift of grace, i.e. in the Word of Jesus Christ, he has revealed himself personally to each one of us, and he is waiting for our response. May it be a generous response. May we try to mirror some of that generosity and love characteristic of God himself. May we not hold ourselves back by thinking that God comes at an inconvenient time, that we have so much else to do, that we are so taken up by our resonsibilities, careers and leisure activities. No, let us be generous to God and give him at least a little of our time each day, and he will reward us: We will produce now a hundredfold.
Let us therefore turn to the Lord and ask him for the grace not only to receive him, but to receive him well, with generosity and magnanimity. Let us ask for the grace of an intimate knowledge and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And let us ask for perseverence, so that we can go victorious out of the struggles of this life, where we will surely experience many trials and persecutions on account of the Lord, but for those who persist until the end, he has promised the crown of righteousness. + Amen