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Gospel Lectio Divina for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 16, 2023

Gospel Lectio Divina for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 16, 2023

By David Kilby

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

READ

Mt 13:1-9

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."

MEDITATE

Some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up

To those who travel on the path of the world, that wide and busy highway, the gospel sounds like foolishness. The other voices of their society—the news, social media, celebrities, politicians, and professors—often point out how ridiculous the gospel sounds. Do I have the strength to ignore their criticisms? Indeed, we do believe some crazy stuff, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t all true. The whole reason we base a religion around the events described in the Creed is because nothing like these events ever happened before. God never came down from heaven before. A virgin never gave birth before, and man never rose from the dead under his own power before. When we say the Creed on Sunday, we stand against the critics who say it isn’t true and double down on our beliefs. 

Jesus said in Luke 8, when explaining this parable, that the devil snatches away the seeds that fall on the path. I am not saying the influencers of this world are the devil, but that the devil manipulates them to deter us from following the gospel. If we are on the path to destruction, critics will devour the gospel we are given like it’s just another ancient myth, and we will continue on that path like nothing precious was ever given to us. Don’t be discouraged by people who criticize the gospel, no matter who they are. We have the truth, and the more we live it the more people will see that it is the truth

Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.

Those who have rocky soil are those who have a shallow prayer life. At least that’s how I see it. In Luke 8, Jesus says the seeds that fell on rocky soil receive the gospel with joy, but quickly wither for lack of roots. This superficial mindset that experiences only fleeting joy is a result of a shallow prayer life. I see a shallow prayer life as rocky soil because I know that soil—that mindset—so well. When I don’t pray enough, it’s usually because I want something more solid from God. I want a more rock-hard and tangible experience of him. Prayer, often—I confess—is too subjective and soft to me. I am saying this now because I see the truth thanks to reading the gospel and thanks to Jesus softly showing it to me. Yes, a good prayer life is like rich, soft soil that God can plant seeds into deeply, much more deeply than in rocky soil.

Prayer is not a magic trick. We can’t get God to do whatever we want by praying harder. Prayer is about developing a deeper relationship with the Lord. The deeper our relationship, the more clearly we see his plan and the wisdom in it. Then our desires become his desires just as the soil becomes the plant after the seed dies in it and then lives through it. Prayer gives us the deep roots we need to live an abundant life.

Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.

Jesus tells the disciples that the thorns are the cares, riches, and pleasures of life, but I think the thorns could also be the difficulties in life: the tragedies, the struggles, the everyday grind. Perhaps these hardships can be categorized under “cares” of this life. One can easily get distracted by these hardships and forget about God entirely, due to the worry that the hardships cause. Or, one can just as easily say, ‘If God is so great, why does he make me struggle so much?’ We strangle the Kingdom of God within us when we think this way. The struggles in life we are given—whether it’s a tragedy, an injury, a sickness, or a tough job—they are all designed to strengthen our resolve. God gave us these obstacles to help us disregard this world and look to him for sustenance. He wants us to look beyond the struggles in our lives so we could see how we were made for so much more. We can overcome the thorns that threaten our faith if we have a rich prayer life. This whole parable is pointing to the importance of a deeply-rooted relationship with God, which is built up through prayer. 

But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.

We were made to love, but in order to flourish we need to be connected with the source of love. Just as a fertile valley receives its nourishment from the rain, mountain streams, and snow above, we receive our nourishment from God above. We must, therefore, be humble. It is such a simple requirement. We are contingent beings. We are nothing without our creator. We have no sustenance without him. When we bow before him, it is simply an outward expression of the way things inevitably are. We are below him, and all the graces that sustain our existence flow from him. He is the vine, we are the branches. We cannot survive on our own. We cannot survive individually without God, and we cannot survive as a human race without him either.

PRAY

Dear heavenly Father,

Thank you for nourishing me whenever I am in need. I am sorry for the times I refused your spiritual food, such as the sacraments, your holy Word, and prayer. I am praying to you now, I am open to you and hoping my soil is rich enough for the seed of the gospel to take root in me. If it is not, please make it so. I am seeing now that it is up to me. I have a choice every moment. At this moment, I choose to let the gospel flourish in me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen

LISTEN

“Whoever has ears ought to hear”

If we have been blessed with the gift of hearing, we ought to listen to his preaching and spread that gospel. We ought to spread that gospel to those who can’t hear, by living it out with our actions and writing about it. We ought to spread it to the blind by preaching the gospel with our voice. There is always some way to spread the gospel to someone, no matter what thorns they have are experiencing in life. But first, we have to receive the gospel properly. The first step in spreading the gospel is listening to it in whatever way we can. One of the best ways to listen is to be quiet and still after reading Scripture, and contemplating on the mysteries we just read. 

Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.  He received his undergrad degree in humanities and Catholic culture from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. In addition to working with the Knights of the Holy Eucharist (knights.org), he has served as a journalist for Princeton Packet Publications, and the Trenton Monitor, the magazine for the Diocese of Trenton. Some of his published work can also be found in St. Anthony Messenger, Catholic Herald (UK), and Catholic World Report. For the latter he is managing editor. Find more of his writing at ramblingspirit.com.

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