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An orchard

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The Lord Jesus himself gives us the explanation of the parable of the sower in the Gospel passage proclaimed this Sunday. He also explains to us the reason why He speaks in parables.

He takes care to explain to the disciples the meaning of the images he uses. The seed is the Word, which he sows generously. There are seeds that are taken away by the evil one, others fall on the ground, but their roots are not deep, others are affected by weeds and finally others fall on good soil, fertile ground and bear much fruit. The land is of course the heart. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago when we celebrated the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we are not talking about the organ in the circulatory system. In Biblical language, it is a metaphor to denote the very core of a human person.

The parable of the Lord is in itself very clear, very graphic. His own explanation leaves no room for doubts. However, I think that we can go one step further without doing violence to the text and assert that the different plots described by the Lord are found in every heart, in each one of us. Indeed, as St. John Paul II said, the line dividing good and evil does not separate across persons. It divides the heart of every person. We all experience an inner division. We long to do good but are unable to fully realize it. Thus, we can even say that in our own heart we find some areas that are refractory to the Word of God, that demand of us greater effort.  It is also true that we sometimes emphasize in our lives and in the teachings of Christ those aspects that seem easier to us and end up ideologizing our faith. This pitfall is often pointed out by Pope Francis. We denounce real sins present in society and in others, yet we minimize other actions that are just as sinful, condemned by the Lord, that we sometimes even engage in.

None of us is beyond good and evil, rather we are in a struggle, a combat that is held in our own self, in the core of our beings, in our hearts. We experience an inner division that, as St. Paul says, leads us to do what we ought not and not to do what we want. We are sinners longing for redemption. We are sometimes victorious and sometimes endure defeat, yet we continue to fight with the help of grace and always seeking an increase of grace. In some dimensions of our lives the fight is heavier. We find it more difficult to lead a virtuous life. Original sin has left its imprint in our entire being and our actions, the actions of others and the cultural environment makes it more difficult to overcome some of our disordered appetites. That is the story of our lives. We are work in progress that the Lord desires to bring to the fullness of life in communion with Him. That is possible through grace but requires our cooperation. It necessitates effort. It requires human virtues. To continue with the Lord’s images, we must till the land and use a ploughshare to prepare the entire heart and make it docile to the Word of God. We ought to cultivate human virtues. Each and every one of us is in need of conversion. Some may struggle with avarice and detachment of temporal goods, others humility, others chastity, others vanity, others may be affected by different kinds of addictions. The most important thing is to be open to grace and allow the Lord to transform our lives, to prepare the land for the seed. To get in motion, on the way even as we experience setbacks, slips or fall. We are all in need of grace. The seed is sown in our hearts. It is our task to work so that it may bear much fruits of holiness for our own sake, that of our sisters and brothers and for the glory of God.

On more than one occasion Pope Francis has pointed out that we are sinners, we acknowledge that we are, yet we are not corrupt. According to him, the difference lies in the fact that the sinner is aware of his or her sin and the need for grace and forgiveness. A corrupt person, on the other hand, has lost any notion of good and evil and goes to the extreme of boasting about his or her sin. The struggle to be free from the power of sin, to push that dividing line in our hearts is a constant daily effort. Our fight lasts a lifetime. The day we stop fighting is the day when we have slipped into corruption.

As St. Paul states in the second reading, we are crying with birth pangs. We know what we want to be, we aspire to holiness, but it is not fully realized yet. The Resurrection of Christ has already obtained for us the redemption we long for but will become fully manifest when he appears in glory and majesty. In the meantime, we must till the land in our heart so that it is not a wasteland but an orchard.

Fr. Roberto M. Cid