Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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‘Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.  But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

OPENING PRAYER

When you begin to read or listen to the Holy Scriptures, pray to God thus:

Lord Jesus Christ, open the ears and eyes of my heart so that I may hear Thy words and understand them, and may fulfill Thy will.”

Always pray to God like this, that He might illumine your mind and open to you the power of His words. Many, having trusted in their own reason, have turned away into deception.”

  • St. Ephraim the Syrian

COLLECT

O God, who show the light of truth

to those who go astray,

so that they may return to the right path,

give all who for the faith they profess

are accounted Christians

to grace to reject whatever is contrary to the name

of Christ

and to strive after all that does it honor.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who live and reign with You in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Is 55:10-11

Thus says the LORD:

Just as from the heavens

the rain and snow come down

and do not return there

till they have watered the earth,

making it fertile and fruitful,

giving seed to the one who sows

and bread to the one who eats,

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.

APPLICATION

The word of God which came to the chosen people through the prophets, and the divinely inspired writers, came out of God’s loving interest in his people. He wanted to prepare them for the inheritance, the real “promised land,” that, when the messianic age (the “fullness of time”) came, would be theirs, provided their lives on earth were lived as they should be.

This word of God, this advice and admonition sent through his prophets, though valuable and Godlike, was but a type or shadow of the real Word of God, his divine Son, who came on earth to bring all men to heaven. He carried out the allotted task. He fulfilled his Father’s will to the letter, even when this meant a life of suffering and death on a cross on Calvary. He was, in fact, raised from the dead, and returned to heaven victorious, the leader of an innumerable host which will follow him until this earth ceases to be.

As Christians, we are united to the Word of God who became flesh. We are members of his body, the Church. We are his brothers, and with him co-heirs of heaven. God the Father intended all these privileges for us, and Christ, God the Son, earned them for us. The least we can do in return for such favors is to try to be worthy of them, by being loyal to our Christian vocation, and by ever remaining close in love to our Father and to his Son, our brother. To help us live the true Christian life, we still have also the word of God, spoken through the prophets and the inspired writers of the Old and New Testaments. We have in other words, the Holy Bible, the book of books, which, if read with attention and devotion, will not fail to inspire and move us to be grateful and loyal to our divine benefactors, the three Persons of the blessed Trinity.

Every Christian home should have the Holy Bible as one of its most useful and treasured possessions. It should not be an ornament on a book-shelf. It should be read, a page or two daily, by every member of the family. The new rite of Mass gives us three readings from the Bible each Sunday and feast day. These readings have been selected with great care, and each reading has a message, or lesson, for each one of us, to inspire us to greater love of God and of our Christian vocation. We should listen attentively to this “word of God.” He is speaking to us through these means. These sacred writings have been preserved down through the centuries for our benefit.

Let us thank out Father in heaven, who deigns to speak to us through the sacred writings, his “inspired word.” Let us respect these writings and use them for edification and eventual sanctification but greater ground still for our gratitude is the living Word of God who raised us up from being mere mortals to the status of adopted son-ship, by means of his Word, his Son, who became flesh and dwelt among us for a time, in order to bring us in to heaven for all eternity.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14

The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.

You have visited the land and watered it;

greatly have you enriched it.

God’s watercourses are filled;

you have prepared the grain.

The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.

Thus have you prepared the land: drenching its furrows,

breaking up its clods,

Softening it with showers,

blessing its yield.

The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.

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.

The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.

The fields are garmented with flocks

and the valleys blanketed with grain.

They shout and sing for joy.

The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.

READING II

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Rom 8:18-23

Brothers and sisters:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing

compared with the glory to be revealed for us.

For creation awaits with eager expectation

the revelation of the children of God;

for creation was made subject to futility,

not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it,

in hope that creation itself

would be set free from slavery to corruption

and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.

We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now;

and not only that, but we ourselves,

who have the first-fruits of the Spirit,

we also groan within ourselves

as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 280 Creation is the foundation of “all God’s saving plans,” the “beginning of the history of salvation”1 that culminates in Christ. Conversely, the mystery of Christ casts conclusive light on the mystery of creation and reveals the end for which “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”: from the beginning, God envisaged the glory of the new creation in Christ.2

CCC 400 The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination.3 Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man.4 Because of man, creation is now subject “to its bondage to decay”.5 Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will “return to the ground”,6 for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.7

CCC 671 Though already present in his Church, Christ’s reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled “with power and great glory” by the King’s return to earth.8 This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ’s Passover.9 Until everything is subject to him, “until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in her sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yet and await the revelation of the sons of God.”10 That is why Christians pray, above all in the Eucharist, to hasten Christ’s return by saying to him:11 Marana tha! “Our Lord, come!”12

CCC 735 He, then, gives us the “pledge” or “first fruits” of our inheritance: the very life of the Holy Trinity, which is to love as “God [has] loved us.”13 This love (the “charity” of 1 Cor 13) is the source of the new life in Christ, made possible because we have received “power” from the Holy Spirit.14

CCC 1046 For the cosmos, Revelation affirms the profound common destiny of the material world and man:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. .. in hope because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay. .. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.15

CCC 1721 God put us in the world to know, to love, and to serve him, and so to come to paradise. Beatitude makes us “partakers of the divine nature” and of eternal life.16 With beatitude, man enters into the glory of Christ17 and into the joy of the Trinitarian life.

CCC 1741 Liberation and salvation. By his glorious Cross Christ has won salvation for all men. He redeemed them from the sin that held them in bondage. “For freedom Christ has set us free.”18 In him we have communion with the “truth that makes us free.”19 The Holy Spirit has been given to us and, as the Apostle teaches, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”20 Already we glory in the “liberty of the children of God.”21

CCC 2572 As a final stage in the purification of his faith, Abraham, “who had received the promises,”22 is asked to sacrifice the son God had given him. Abraham’s faith does not weaken (“God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering.”), for he “considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead.”23 And so the father of believers is conformed to the likeness of the Father who will not spare his own Son but will deliver him up for us all.24 Prayer restores man to God’s likeness and enables him to share in the power of God’s love that saves the multitude.25

CCC 2630 The New Testament contains scarcely any prayers of lamentation, so frequent in the Old Testament. In the risen Christ the Church’s petition is buoyed by hope, even if we still wait in a state of expectation and must be converted anew every day. Christian petition, what St. Paul calls {“groaning,” arises from another depth, that of creation “in labor pains” and that of ourselves “as we wait for the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.”26 In the end, however, “with sighs too deep for words” the Holy Spirit “helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”27

1 GCD 51.

2 Gen 1:1; cf. Rom 8:18-23.

3 Cf. Gen 3:7-16.

4 Cf. Gen 3:17,19.

5 Rom 8:21.

6 Gen 3:19; cf. 2:17.

7 Cf. Rom 5:12.

8 Lk 21:27; cf. Mt 25:31.

9 Cf. 2 Th 2:7.

10 LG 48 # 3; cf. 2 Pt 3:13; Rom 8:19-22; I Cor 15:28.

11 Cf. I Cor 11:26; 2 Pt 3:11-12.

12 1 Cor 16:22; Rev 22:17,20.

13 1 Jn 4: 12; cf. Rom 8:23; 2 Cor 1:21.

14 Acts 1:8; cf. 1 Cor 13.

15 Rom 8:19-23.

16 2 Pet 1:4; cf. Jn 17:3.

17 Cf. Rom 8:18.

18 Gal 5:1.

19 Cf. In 8:32.

20 2 Cor 17.

21 Rom 8:21.

22 Heb 11:17.

23 Gen 22:8; Heb 11:19

24 Rom 8:32.

25 Cf. Rom 8:16-21.

26 Rom 8:22-24.

27 Rom 8:26.

APPLICATION

God’s creation of the world was an act of sheer benevolence. He wished to share his own infinite perfection and happiness with creatures, who could enjoy that perfection and happiness because of the superior gifts with which he endowed them. These creatures were men–the human race. All the other creatures, the inanimate kingdom, plant kingdom, and animal kingdom were intended for man’s service while he was on this earth. Man was the masterpiece of God’s creative action, and was to be the master of all the lesser creatures.

God’s eternal plan for making man a sharer in his own eternal happiness was to be brought about by the extraordinary act of divine love and condescension which we call the Incarnation. God the Son was to become man, unite our human created nature with his divinity, in the historical Jesus Christ, and thus raise man to brotherhood with Christ and sonship of God the Father.

This act of divine love was for all mankind, for the millions who lived and died before Christ came on earth, as well as for the billions who have lived and will live on earth after his coming. Men sinned before he came, men sinned and will sin after his coming, but Christ’s death on the cross made infinite atonement to his Father, the good God whom men had offended, so that, if only the sinner repents, all sins are wiped out by God.

Heaven is thus open to all men of good-will. God, who is Love, has infinite ways of reaching the hearts of sinners and bringing them to repentance. But we Christians, who are fully acquainted with all that God has done for us, are obliged to do all in our power to make this loving God, and his plans for their eternal happiness, known to those who are still ignorant of him. Any Christian, who really appreciates what God has done for him, will feel compelled, out of gratitude, to help to bring this knowledge to God’s other sons who are still in the darkness of paganism, old or new, but who are God’s adopted children even though they are not aware of the fact.

Fidelity and true loyalty to the Christian life and teaching, which it is our privilege to have, are prime factors in helping to spread among those who do not yet possess it, the knowledge of God and his plans for all men. Fervent prayer for the conversion of sinners is another means within the reach of all of us, and a very effective means. Instead of that novena for the health of some relative or for some temporal need which seems so important, let us offer it for the conversion of some unbelievers or sinners that we know, and God will prove himself big enough and generous enough to grant us both requests. When we find life difficult, and cross laid upon cross, let us not forget what St. Paul tells us today: “the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” What are a few years of pain of body or mental unhappiness, when compared with an eternity of peace and happiness in the world to come? We are exiles returning home, and we have to work our passage or earn our way. But we are certain of reaching our happy home, if we work that passage diligently and patiently and cheerfully.

GOSPEL

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Mt 13:1-9

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.

Such large crowds gathered around him

that he got into a boat and sat down,

and the whole crowd stood along the shore.

And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:

A sower went out to sow.

And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,

and birds came and ate it up.

Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.

It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,

and when the sun rose it was scorched,

and it withered for lack of roots.

Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.

But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit,

a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.

Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/071617.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 29 But this “intimate and vital bond of man to God” (GS 19 § 1) can be forgotten, overlooked, or even explicitly rejected by man.1 Such attitudes can have different causes: revolt against evil in the world; religious ignorance or indifference; the cares and riches of this world; the scandal of bad example on the part of believers; currents of thought hostile to religion; finally, that attitude of sinful man which makes him hide from God out of fear and flee his call.2

CCC 546 Jesus’ invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching.3 Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything.4 Words are not enough, deeds are required.5 The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word?6 What use has he made of the talents he has received?7 Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to “know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven”.8 For those who stay “outside”, everything remains enigmatic.9

CCC 787 From the beginning, Jesus associated his disciples with his own life, revealed the mystery of the Kingdom to them, and gave them a share in his mission, joy, and sufferings.10 Jesus spoke of a still more intimate communion between him and those who would follow him: “Abide in me, and I in you. .. I am the vine, you are the branches.”11 And he proclaimed a mysterious and real communion between his own body and ours: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”12

1 GS 19 § 1.

2 Cf. GS 19-21; Mt 13:22; Gen 3:8-10; Jon 1:3.

3 Cf. Mk 4:33-34.

4 Cf. Mt 13:44-45; 22:1-14.

5 Cf. Mt 21:28-32.

6 Cf. Mt 13:3-9.

7 Cf. Mt 25:14-30.

8 Mt 13:11.

9 Mk 4:11; cf. Mt 13:10-15.

10 Cf. Mk 1:16-20; 3:13-19; Mt 13:10-17; Lk 10:17-20; 22:28-30.

11 Jn 15:4-5.

12 Jn 6:56.

APPLICATION

Christ’s description of his audience, that day in Galilee, is unfortunately as true today as it was then. His message of salvation has been preached to a great part of the world’s population, but the proportion of those who accept it and live up to it, is about the same today as it was then.

There are millions of men and women today, in what was once Christian Europe, who are like the seed sown on the unplowed path. They refuse to accept the message, they have no thought for their future, they are content to end in the grave after their few years of misery and hardship on this planet.

There are others who see the truth and the consolation of the Christian gospel, but when it comes to making sacrifices for it, they give up. The message did not sink into their hearts and minds. They are like the seed which fell on rocky ground because the faith had no deep roots in their lives. Others again, and they are legion, are like the seed that fell among the briars and thorns. They accepted the faith and it took root in them but later on, “the cares of the world and the delight in riches chokes the word and it proves unfruitful,”–these are our Lord’s own words.

The last class of Christians, are like the seed sown on good soil. They not only accept Christ and his teaching, but they live up to it, and, come what may, they are faithful to it. These will produce fruit and will earn for themselves eternal happiness.

Each one of us can look into his own conscience today and discover to which class he or she belongs. The fact that we are here, shows that at least we are still Christians; so we do not belong to the first class–the gospel seed did not fall on the hardened path. But what of the other classes? Are some of us perhaps, like the seed that fell on the rocky ground? While Christianity makes no very difficult demand we are all for it, but when it demands mortification, the curbing of passion, real sacrifices for our neighbor, do we forget our Christian calling then and ignore its precepts? And how does our type of Christianity stand up to the temptations of the world–the desire to get all the enjoyment we can out of this life, licit or illicit, breaking God’s commandments weekly or maybe daily? Are we chasing after wealth and power, using all our energies to rise in the world to be above our neighbor by fair or foul means? If the above are our aims in life, our Christianity has been or is being choked out of us.

Let us hope that we all can number ourselves among those Christians who have sown their Christian faith in good soil and who will produce the fruit of eternal life. If we are truly honest with ourselves, the vast majority of us can say that there is a little streak of the stony and thorny ground in our hearts. Our courage must come from the fact that we have a merciful Father, who understands us and who is ever ready to pardon all past faults, if we humbly repent of them.

There are millions of saints in heaven today, enjoying eternal happiness, who had some, if not all, of our present failings. We, too, can be with them one day, provided we do what they did. They repented sincerely and remained God’s close friends, until he called them to himself. May the merciful God give us the grace to imitate them while we yet have time.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Why Listening is a Part of Life

Man ought not to try to be self-sufficient, and he must have the humility to learn, to accept something – “incline they head.” He must find the way to follow the call into listening. And listening means not just giving ear to whatever is going the rounds, but also listening to the depths, or to the heights, since what the Master says is basically the application of Holy Scripture, the application of this fundamental rule of human existence… We can see in the Rule of Saint Benedict how nothing that is truly human ever becomes old-fashioned. Anything that really comes from the depths of our being remains a counsel of life that is always relevant… Perhaps we are beginning to see again that freedom from work, that freedom which is a gift of God’s service, stepping outside the mentality of mere achievement, is what we need. That listening – for the service of God is to a great extent a matter of letting God in and of listening – must be a part of life. Just as discipline and right measure and order belong together, just like obedience and freedom, so, equally, tolerating each other in the spirit of faith is not merely a basic rule for any monastic community, but all these things are, when you come down to it, essential elements for building any and every society. This is a rule that springs from what is truly human, and it was able to formulate what was truly human because it looked out and listened beyond what is human and perceived the divine. Man becomes really human when he is touched by God.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and our strength,

an ever-present help in distress.

Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken

and mountains quake to the depths of the sea,

Though its waters rage and foam

and mountains totter at its surging.

Streams of the river gladden the city of God,

the holy dwelling of the Most High.

God is in its midst; it shall not be shaken;

God will help it at break of day.

Though nations rage and kingdoms totter,

he utters his voice and the earth melts.

*The LORD of hosts is with us;

our stronghold is the God of Jacob.

Come and see the works of the LORD,

who has done fearsome deeds on earth;

Who stops wars to the ends of the earth,

breaks the bow, splinters the spear,

and burns the shields with fire;

Be still and know that I am God!

I am exalted among the nations,

exalted on the earth.”

The LORD of hosts is with us;

our stronghold is the God of Jacob.

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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