Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Trouble With Weeds - Part Two

I began the reflection on the parable of the Sower with the title, "The Trouble With Weeds" which is another way of saying, "The Problem of Evil" the great stumbling stone to belief in the goodness of God. The bible begins with the account of creation. In the beginning there is nothing, only God, then God begins to create. After each stage of creation it concludes with, “And God saw that it was good”. The last to be created is mankind, created in the image and likeness of God; they are given the unique vocation, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it”. Then the story concludes, “God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good.” Then God rests on the seventh day.
In the parable of the Sower, Jesus characterizes the creation story with, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field". The sower is God, the field is God's good creation, but more specifically the mind and heart of man, and the good seed sown is mankind's true purpose, his vocation to become what God intends for him, his truth - all of which is VERY GOOD. The sower having completed sowing his field with what is good, only what belongs in it, rests. Then comes the problem of the weeds?

Wheat alone belongs in the field. Only true wheat can produced the grain that when milled into flower can nourish and sustain life. The seed of the tares, the weed, is toxic. If consumed it harms life and can kill, it does not belong in the field of wheat. It finds its way into the field not by God's (the sower) design but by another's choice. What this tells us is that the true purpose of the sower can be accepted or interfered with, can be rejected. There is a freedom to choose.

Everything in creation conforms to the purpose for which it was made. But mankind and the heavenly beings (the angels) have been given intelligence with which to know and understand this and a free will to collaborate in this design by choice. However, no other plan will work, it will be fruitless and fail, ending in self destruction. Revelation tells us that some of the heavenly beings were the first to reject God's purpose for themselves in creation, causing them to become a failed, toxic, and corrupting presence in creation. These in turn, set about to corrupt mankind, influencing man to reject God's design, and to use his freedom to introduce his own design and purpose. ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this. -’
To have an active spiritual life is to recognize the true nature of creation and our unique place within it. Our life is not some willy-nilly invention of our own to pass the time, it is a real, thoughtful collaboration with God to bring us to our ultimate purpose, union with God, in a loving relationship, for all eternity. Each day sees us asking, "What is your will for me this day, how shall I serve you - what 'good seed' will I sow in my heart?" In essence, this is the practice of discernment.

Ignatian Spirituality - Daily Examine - LINK

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Trouble With Weeds

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” Mtt. 13:24..

. . . . . .

Most likely, the “tares” of the Middle East, is the weed that Jesus is referring to in the parable. It is a weed called “lolium temulentum” today known as Darnell.

It is a species of Rye Grass that, while it grows, looks exactly like wheat and is difficult to distinguish from the real wheat and so they must both be left to grow together until the ears of wheat open and show forth their grain, only then can the reaper distinguish the wheat from the tares. The seeds of the Darnell are both black and toxic, and if they become mixed with wheat gains and are milled into flower, bread baked with this flower will have a bitter taste. 

Both wheat and darnell plants must be left to grow in the same field together until harvest since attempts to uproot darnell will risk uprooting the wheat as well. Roman law even forbid sowing tares in an enemy’s field.

Jesus then explains the elements of the parable. He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age...

A spiritual application of this image of the enemy sowing "weeds" can be found in St. Ignatius'  Rules for discernment, for the second week, in the Spiritual Exercise. He explains when a soul has experienced the grace of conversion and healing during the first week, graces the Evil One has been unable to prevent, he changes tactics.

 I.(329) It is characteristic of God and His Angels, when they act upon the soul, to give true happiness and spiritual joy, and to banish all the sadness and disturbances which are caused by the enemy. It is characteristic of the evil one to fight against such happiness and consolation by proposing fallacious reasonings, subtilties, and continual deceptions. 
God alone can give consolation to the soul without any previous cause. It belongs solely to the Creator to come into a soul, to leave it, to act upon it, to draw it wholly to the love of His Divine Majesty. I said without previous cause, that is, without any preceding perception or knowledge of any subject by which a soul might be led to such a consolation through its own acts of intellect and will.
If a cause precedes, both the good angel and the evil spirit can give consolation to a soul, but for a quite different purpose. The good angel consoles for the progress of the soul, that it may advance and rise to what is more perfect. The evil spirit consoles for purposes that are the contrary, and that afterwards he might draw the soul to his own perverse intentions and wickedness.
It is a mark of the evil spirit to assume the appearance of an angel of light. He begins by suggesting thoughts that are suited to a devout soul, and ends by suggesting his own. For example, he will suggest holy and pious thoughts that are wholly in conformity with the sanctity of the soul. Afterwards, he will endeavor little by little to end by drawing the soul into his hidden snares and evil designs. (LINK)

When the enemy of our human nature has been detected and recognized by the trail of evil marking his course and by the wicked end to which he leads us, it will be profitable for one who has been
tempted to review immediately the whole course of the temptation. Let him consider the series of good thoughts, how they arose, how the evil one gradually attempted to make him step down from the state of spiritual delight and joy in which he was, till finally he drew him to his wicked designs. The purpose of this review is that once such an experience has been understood and carefully observed, we may guard ourselves for the future against the customary deceits of the enemy.
The spiritual life is a dynamic life, either prospering and expanding, or stagnate and in decline. It is the desire of the Lord that we continue to grow in the works of holiness but we have an enemy at work trying to prevent this from happening. Only God is holy. "The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works. Ps. 145:17" We do not design holiness, we imitate it. Therefore, the Christian life is a learning process, we learn from the Lord what is holy and we conduct our lives accordingly. Our job is to learn how to listen, how to recognize the Lords voice, how to distinguish the Lord's truth from the evil one's deceits. "I can do nothing on my own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of Him who sent me. Jo. 5:30

This is why the practice of the prayer of discernment or the prayer of examine is so important to the spiritual life. This prayer may take different forms. An excellent resource for this prayer can be found on Ignatian Spirituality web site.
Here is the LINK.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

A Sower Went Out ...

What kind of soil 
are you?

“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.”

Jesus describes four conditions of heart and how they effect one's respond to the gospel. Elements of  all four might be found in our own hearts at various times in our faith journey. The following identifies a few of these and serves as starters for our prayer of examine.


CLOSED ... (without understanding)

  • One who is in denial - there is no God - no proof - no need
  • Religion the root of all evil
  • The exactness of science & technology better serves judgement
  • The claims of religion lack proof

WEAK ... (has no root - only for a time - tribulation -  falls away)

  • I used to believe - where was God when needed
  • Faith serves only emotional needs
  • If God loves, why all the suffering in the world
  • Believers are viewed as simple minded

SELF ABSORBED ... (worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke)

  • No time for religion - first things first
  • Success frees one from the need for religion
  • Myths of the past no longer credible
  • Too much suffering for there to be hope

OPENED ... (hears - understands - perseveres - treasures)

  • Inner peace, 
  • Fidelity to devotion
  • Experience of divine love
  • Grace of understanding

Saturday, 5 July 2014

My Burden Is Light

At that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Mtt 11:25-30

When we think of someone under the burden of a yoke, this is the image that most likely comes to mind. But in this text, Jesus uses the image of a yoke with its heavy burden as a metaphor for something else. The burden Jesus is talking about is the burden of the Jewish law as interpreted by the Scribes and Pharisees. "They tie up heavy burdens [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them". Mtt 23:4 The problem Jesus has with the Scribes and Pharisees is clearly layed out in chapter 7 of Mark's gospel.
Now when the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles [and beds].) 
To their attacks Jesus responds;
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.’ You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition, ... You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.”
As the new communities of faith begin to take shape as the Christian era begins, the question of the practice of Jewish laws and traditions became an issue, especially when non-Jewish people embraced the Faith. The question becomes a problem as we read in Acts 15:1, Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.” In what is called the Council of Jerusalem, the first council of the Church, the issue is addressed. 

... Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.”

...  Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and presbyters about this question.

... But some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.”

... Peter got up and said to them, Why, then, are you now putting God to the test by placing on the shoulders of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?

... Then the apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole church, decided to choose representatives and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. The ones chosen were Judas, who was called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers.

This is the letter delivered by them: “The apostles and the presbyters, your brothers, to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin: greetings.
Since we have heard that some of our number [who went out] without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind, … ‘It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.’”

People need order to live constructively and in peace with one another, so laws are fashioned as a means to this end; and so it is among communities of believers. But it is God who gives our lives their ultimate meaning and purpose. We must understand that God’s commandment is given out of love, out of God’s desire that we come to understand our true purpose and finally embrace it. The best response to love is to love in return. This removes all sense of burden to anything love asks of us.

When Jesus was asked about the commandments and which of them was of highest importance he replied; 

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mk 12:28-31

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