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FIRST READING            Isaiah 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.

SECOND READING                  Romans 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.

GOSPEL                Matthew 13:1-23

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.”  The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.  To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.  Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:  You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see.  Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears,   they have closed their eyes,   lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them.  “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.  Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.  “Hear then the parable of the sower.  The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.  The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.  But he has no root and lasts only for a time.  When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.  The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.  But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Today we can ask ourselves:  how do I receive the Word of God?  Jesus gives us a parable and an explanation in today’s Gospel, which comes from Saint Matthew.  There are people who don’t understand the word of the kingdom and the evil comes and steals away what was sown in the heart.  We can hope we are not in that group, but we might be.  The second group are those who hear the word and receive it immediately with joy but when difficulties come, these people immediately fall away.  Hopefully we are not like that either.  There are people who hear the word but then anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.  We might be like that but we can hope not.  We want to be like the last person mentioned:  a person who hears the word and understands it and who bears fruit!

The reality is that probably we belong to each of those various groups at various times.  Jesus is not telling us a parable to condemn us but to invite us to change our ways of living so that we can be more consistently in that last group:  hearing and responding to the word and bearing fruit in our lives.

We heard in the first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, that God’s word will accomplish the end for which it was sent.  This sounds as if it is automatic.  Rather than automatic, this word of God will continue to work on us for our whole life, seeking to draw us to the Lord.  What lacks is our cooperation.  We should not be surprised by that.  Instead, we must do our part to cooperate with the word:  begin the spiritual combat which means to fight all within us that is against the word.  Our Christian life is a life of combat against ourselves and against all the cultural values which are not in accord with the word of God.

The second reading today is from the Letter to the Romans and tells us that actually all of creation is groaning with the desire to be transformed into the new creation.  We ourselves have the first fruits of the Spirit within us, yet often we do not respond.  So we also groan with all creation, hoping and praying for the complete adoption as children God and the redemption of our bodies.

This second reading is clear:  we are redeemed body and soul.  So often today we find those who think that only our soul might be saved.  No!  Our Creed and our longstanding believe is that we are saved body and soul.  Again we have the challenge of spiritual combat both with our “soul” as well as with our “body.”  Not all that we want or desire is in accord with the will of the Lord.  We have to struggle, as does all creation, in order to let God conform us to His will.

Let us give thanks to the Lord for His teachings to us this day.  Let us continue to prepare our lives so that we may receive God’s word and respond to it.  Amen.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip