Jul 15, 2014

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Year A

One of my favorite images from the Gospels is when Jesus teaches the people from the sea shore. In the Gospels, Jesus is constantly getting into a boat and going back and forth across the Sea of Galilee.  This time, the crowds were so large, he gets into a boat and preaches to them from the boat.  Teaching this way allows the crowd to see him as well as allowing his voice to carry across the waters, something like a natural microphone. But there is also scriptural imagery at work here if we know our scriptures. Principally, I'm thinking about the imagery of water. The particular reference I have in mind here is Psalm 29:3, 10: "3 The voice of The Lord is upon the waters, the God of Majesty has thundered, The Lord is upon many waters...10 The Lord makes the flood to dwell, and The Lord shall sit [there] as King forever." And here in the Gospel is The Lord, the King, sitting upon the waters of Galilee and teaching his people. His voice carrries across the waters and plants the word of truth into the hearts of those who will listen. He is in some sense recreating them from within.

The imagery of water is often connected to the creative activity of God. It appears in the very first two verses: Genesis 1:1-2. "1 In the beginning God created heaven and earth. 2 And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved over the waters." In the days of Noah, God caused a great flood. It was a re-creating of sorts, a renewing and purificiation of the world by water. And in the Gospel, God is speaking again across the waters and re-creating hearts anew.

What is it that makes the spritual life possible? Foremost, it is the Sower of the seed - Jesus. He plants the word of life in our hearts. But it is also necessary that we be disposed to receive his word. If our spiritual life has become hardened by sin, his word will not take root in our souls and will be snatched away by the evil one. If we do not allow the word to be nurtured by prayer, meditation, assisting at Holy Mass, the full practice of our Catholic faith, its growth will be superficial. It may look to the whole world like a healthy plant but it is already doomed. But what if the seed is truly planted in good soil? It still needs attention and care. If a garden is left untended, the precious plants die and only weeds will remain. A garden is generally tended in much the same way that the soil was prepared. Prayer, study of scripture, the full practice of the faith, the Holy Mass, Sacramental Confession, etc. 

God is like a Cosmological Gardener. The very first garden was the Garden of Eden. Human beings were created to tend the garden including one another. That is one way to understand being made in the image and likeness of God. If he is The Gardener, we are also meant to be gardeners. This likeness to him is obscured by the sin of Adam and Eve, which cause them to be expelled from the garden. And it has effects not just on the would-be gardeners but also on all of creation which human beings were meant to tend. So St. Paul says that "creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God ... in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God." All of creation, St. Paul says, is groaning as if in labor pains until the day of our glorification. And we, too, groan as we wait for adoption. God does not will merely to restore humanity to a former state but even to lift us up to something far greater: participation in the sonship of his Only Son by adoption. This adoption is not a legal fiction. It is not merely like something only declared on paper, but it is in fact and reality. It reaches down into the very core of what it means to be human. It takes root in our souls and grows and blossoms and bears eternal fruit.

"The seed is the word of God, but the sower is Christ; everyone who finds him, will remain forever (Semen est verbum Dei, sator autem Christus; omnis qui invenit eum, manebit in aeternum)." The fruit is to become a son in the Only Son of God. God, if we let him, will actually put us in the place of his Son, to reign in his kingdom forever. Just as he put his Son in our place upon the Cross. And even there, there was water - flowing from his pierced side: cleansing, purifying, and re-creating the world anew.

Water from the side of Christ, wash us!

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