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Gabriel Stamp

Gabriel Stamp

One day God was looking down on Earth and saw of the despicable behavior that was going on. So he called Gabriel, the head of communication for heaven, and sent him to earth to observe the situation. When he returned, he told God, “Yes, it is bad on Earth; 95% are misbehaving and only 5% are not.”

Michael Stamp

Michael Stamp

God though for a moment and said, “Maybe I had better get a second opinion.” So God called Michael, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff of heaven, and sent him to survey the situation. Michael reported, “Yes, it’s true. The Earth is in decline; 95% are misbehaving, but 5% are faithful.”

God was displeased. So He decided to e-mail the 5% who were being good, because he wanted encourage them…give them a little something to help them keep going. Do you know what the e-mail said — Okay, just wondering; — I didn’t get one either…

Actually all of humanity got the E-Mail in the person of Jesus, the Christ, which leads me to the Gospel reading for today. Jesus tells us that the seed is the word.

Parable-of-the-SowerAllow me an aside about, “word.” St. John the patron of this parish begins his Gospel with “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” Word: could be very legitimately translated “creative energy.” It is more a verb than a noun. So we could say, “in the beginning was the creative energy and the creative energy was with God and the creative energy was God.”

The late Robert Capon educated me more about the parables than anyone. He also taught me more about the radical nature of GRACE than anyone. I miss him. In the The Parables of the Kingdom, [page 73] he engages the theme of the Word of God in terms of: CATHOLICITY, MYSTERY, HOSTILITY AND RESPONSE.

THE WORD OF GOD IS CATHOLIC — UNIVERSAL.
The word is working everywhere at all times whether we know it or not. Even when we think it is not present at all the word is working. Jesus taught this from beginning to end. The kinds of soil described cover all the conditions and circumstances of humanity. The word of God is true then and now, in and out, up and down. No one is beyond the scope of its power and life giving grace. The seed is universal in its potential.

THE WORD OF GOD, THE SEED OF THE KINGDOM, IS MYSTERIOUS.

Christ the seed

Christ the Seed

Why choose seed as an image? Seed are tiny in comparison to what they produce. The seed falls into the earth and in the process of producing a new plant disappears or dies. Notice how this describes the life and ministry of Jesus.

In fact in John’s Gospel he uses this very imagery when he says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” The life, ministry, death and resurrection of our Lord is mysterious. He dies, rises, and ascends. As God’s ways are not our ways, we have faith that the mysterious word is working even when we can’t see its action.

THERE IS HOSTILITY TO THE GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM

leafing corssOn nearly every page of the New Testament there is hostility.

  • The devil tempts Jesus.
  • The religious establishment plots against him.
  • The Pharisees dispute with him.
  • The Romans execute him.

He appears to lose by dying on the cross. But that is not the end of the story. We can get so focused on the hostility to the word that we are almost convinced that the seed is without power. But the seed is still the word of God regardless of the hostility to it. Let us never forget that. It is the Word alone, and not the interference with it, that finally counts.

As Capon puts it, “the fullest enjoyment of the fruitfulness of the Word is available only to those who interfere with it least.”

THE RESPONSE TO THE SOWING OF THE WORD IS MADE IN THE FINAL THRUST OF THE PARABLE.

How we respond to the word makes a difference not in the power of the word but in how that power affects us. Jesus, the Word, came into the world to become the first of many brothers and sisters, the first fruits of them that sleep..

Our choice is not whether the Word will achieve his purposes. BUT whether we will enjoy his achievement OR find ourselves in opposition to it.

This is the parable of the Sower! Where I came from, the focus was on the soils and which one we were . See how the focus shifts from what the Sower is doing to what we think about it.

But look at the good news! Granted it is only good news in the Kingdom, but that is the only place that matters. This is the sort of Sower that no prudent farmer would tolerate. The only folk that would approve would be the seed companies for obvious reasons.

What a wastrel is the Sower! In full-swing he flings and slings the precious seed everywhere without regard. Avant-garde, comes the Kingdom. Like nard poured by Mary,  no actuary could calculate such waste; but beloved it is WASTE based on GRACE.

The Empty Tomb

The Empty Tomb

 

 

Aside

Image We hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all.* For that is truly and in the strictest sense “Catholic,” which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.

*This is the way forward for Christians beset with controversy and rancor on every side. We return to the ancient faith as we have received it from the Apostles.  We look back in order to move forward! JWS

 The Commonitory of St. Vincent of Lerins . Veritatis Splendor Publications. Kindle Edition.

God Isn’t Big Enough for Some People

 We are now approaching the critical time of the year for shops and supermarkets: the month before Christmas is the four weeks when stores of all kinds sell their products fastest. Father Christmas means one thing to children: presents. He has no connection with the original St Nicholas, who performed a miracle in providing dowries for three poor sisters, thereby enabling them to marry and escape a life of prostitution.

immanuel-god-with-us

Human beings are religious animals. It is psychologically very hard to go through life without the justification, and the hope, provided by religion. You can see this in the positivist scientists of the 19th century.

They insisted that they were describing the universe in rigorously materialistic terms – yet at night they attended seances and tried to summon up the spirits of the dead. Even today, I frequently meet scientists who, outside their own narrow discipline, are superstitious – to such an extent that it sometimes seems to me that to be a rigorous unbeliever today, you have to be a philosopher. Or perhaps a priest.

And we need to justify our lives to ourselves and to other people. Money is an instrument. It is not a value – but we need values as well as instruments, ends as well as means. The great problem faced by human beings is finding a way to accept the fact that each of us will die.

Money can do a lot of things – but it cannot help reconcile you to your own death. It can sometimes help you postpone your own death: a man who can spend a million pounds on personal physicians will usually live longer than someone who cannot. But he can’t make himself live much longer than the average life-span of affluent people in the developed world.

Rich Young Ruler – James C. Christensen

And if you believe in money alone, then sooner or later, you discover money’s great limitation: it is unable to justify the fact that you are a mortal animal. Indeed, the more you try escape that fact, the more you are forced to realize that your possessions can’t make sense of your death.

It is the role of religion to provide that justification. Religions are systems of belief that enable human beings to justify their existence and

which reconcile us to death. We in Europe have faced a fading of organized religion in recent years. Faith in the Christian churches has been declining.

The ideologies such as communism that promised to supplant religion have failed in spectacular and very public fashion. So we’re all still looking for something that will reconcile each of us to the inevitability of our own death.

G K Chesterton is often credited with observing: “When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn’t believe in nothing. He believes in anything.” Whoever said it – he was right. We are supposed to live in a skeptical age. In fact, we live in an age of outrageous credulity.

The “death of God”, or at least the dying of the Christian God, has been accompanied by the birth of a plethora of new idols. They have multiplied like bacteria on the corpse of the Christian Church — from strange pagan cults and sects to the silly, sub-Christian superstitions of The Da Vinci Code.

davinci_codeIt is amazing how many people take that book literally, and think it is true. Admittedly, Dan Brown, its author, has created a legion of zealous followers who believe that Jesus wasn’t crucified: he married Mary Magdalene, became the King of France, and started his own version of the order of Freemasons. Many of the people who now go to the Louvre are there only to look at the Mona Lisa, solely and simply because it is at the centre of Dan Brown’s book.

The pianist Arthur Rubinstein was once asked if he believed in God. He said: “No. I don’t believe in God. I believe in something greater.” Our culture suffers from the same inflationary tendency. The existing religions just aren’t big enough: we demand something more from God than the existing depictions in the Christian faith can provide. So we revert to the occult. The so-called occult sciences do not ever reveal any genuine secret: they only promise that there is something secret that explains and justifies everything. The great advantage of this is that it allows each person to fill up the empty secret “container” with his or her own fears and hopes.

As a child of the Enlightenment, and a believer in the Enlightenment values of truth, open inquiry, and freedom, I am depressed by that tendency. This is not just because of the association between the occult and fascism and Nazism – although that association was very strong. Himmler and many of Hitler’s henchmen were devotees of the most infantile occult fantasies.

The same was true of some of the fascist gurus in Italy – Julius Evola is one example – who continue to fascinate the neo-fascists in my country. And today, if you browse the shelves of any bookshop specialising in the occult, you will find not only the usual tomes on the Templars, Rosicrucians, pseudo-Kabbalists, and of course The Da Vinci Code, but also anti-semitic tracts such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

John De Rosen

John De Rosen

 I was raised as a Catholic, and although I have abandoned the Church, this December, as usual, I will be putting together a Christmas crib for my grandson. We’ll construct it together – as my father did with me when I was a boy. I have profound respect for the Christian traditions – which, as rituals for coping with death, still make more sense than their purely commercial alternatives.

I think I agree with Joyce’s lapsed Catholic hero in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: “What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?” The religious celebration of Christmas is at least a clear and coherent absurdity. The commercial celebration is not even that.

Umberto Eco

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Umberto Eco