Reflection for Sexagesima Sunday
Luke 8;4-15 and Matthew 6;25-34
The pre-Lent season is a conditioning time for Christians. It is preparing hearts and understanding as Thomas Aquinas said: to receive the unique mind of Christ. This is exactly the purpose of the parable of the Sower given to the disciples by Christ, teaching that he is the one who sows, and they who receive the Word are the soil. We may call this the parable of the soil, in which the receivers respond to the word in many different ways.
Some are deaf and cannot discern the wisdom of God; others are blind and cannot see the illumination that Christ brings to souls and some overwhelmed. The Lord said; “Only some know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that seeing they may not see”. [Luke 8;10] This teaching especially today, takes aim at the condition that preoccupies us all who become “choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, bringing no fruit to maturity” [verse 14]. There are many good and honest hearts and minds that are already prepared to become the good ground for the sower to cast his seed and we hope to participate in this discipline. But how can men and women get so choked up with the needs of their own welfare and rights and with such a preoccupation with personal health to just fall away?
Hardly a day passes without a news bulletin in which obsession with healthcare is not mentioned. Yet in the other gospel reading from Matthew [6;25] Jesus tells his disciples “do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” There can be few sayings that are more difficult to receive, in these times of hardship. Financial and social concerns for the poor, military threats and political incompetence surround us all and the ordinary person feels anxious and unable to know what to do. We Christians remember that the Lord did not minimize the suffering of ordinary people, and gave this teaching to his small band of disciples because he knew they were living among many enemies and to survive they needed to have trust in the face of anxiety.
This is why he said “blessed are the pure in heart” for these would, by trust in God, be uncontaminated by the world. “The pure in heart” cannot be simultaneously attached to two masters, the earthly and the heavenly for that is the root of severe anxiety and will cause them to fall away. Whatever the people of faith have to deal with, they must not try to survive alone. It is increasingly important not to live in isolation, but to seek each other out and to build the unique fellowship of Christ, sharing individual gifts. Today we have the tools to keep together no matter how far we are away from each other; we must keep the mind of Christ and his teaching clearly formed within us if we are to be disciples.
The key to these dilemmas was seen by a second century unknown writer in a beautiful letter to Diognetus, well worth reading in full. He describes how Christians are called to a unique communion, living pure and ethical lives, in the world but not of the world. Being Christians in the world is like the soul is to the body. “They are not distinguished from the rest of mankind. Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland is foreign. They love all men, and they are persecuted by all. They are ignored, yet are condemned. Put to death, and yet they are endued with life….”. So Christians have their abode in the world, and yet they are not of the world. The invisible soul is guarded in the body which is visible: so Christians are recognised as being in the world, and yet their religion remains invisible. These are quotations from chapters 5 and 6 but the rest can be found at: Diognetus.
Fr. Geoffrey Neal