21 July. Thursday, Week 16
Saint Lawrence of Brindisi, optional memorial
1st Reading: Jeremiah 2:1-2; 7-8; 12-13.
They dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water
The word of the Lord came to me, saying: Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem,
Thus says the Lord: I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.
I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things.
But when you entered you defiled my land, and made my heritage a abomination.
The priests did not say, “Where is the Lord?”
Those who handle the law did not know me;
the rulers transgressed against me;
the prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after things that do not profit.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water,
and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.
Gospel: Matthew 13:10-17.
The mysterious power of the Lord’s parables
The disciples came to Jesus and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell 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.”
Spiritual vision and spiritual blindness
We all have our moments of spiritual insight but also perhaps we can lose the plot and drift off into spiritual apathy and blindness. Like our biblical forebears we need to consciously return to those priveleged moments of grace and significance. Jeremiah urges us to keep alive our initial ideal, when speaking in God’s name he says: “I remember the devotion of your youth, how you loved me as a bride, Following me in the desert, in a land not sown. Sacred to the Lord was Israel, the first fruits of his harvest.” The message is not unlike that of St Paul, when he urged Timothy to fan into flames the spiritual give he has received from God (2 Timothy 1:6).
Each of us probably treasures some memories of inspiring moments in our lives but through the passage of time, we tend to lose sight of these moments, our personal “highs” of encounter with God. Perhaps we feel in ourselvesan echo of Jeremiah’s words : “Two evils have my people done: they have forsaken me, the source of living waters; They have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water.” During economic growth and prosperity there always was a heightened danger of abandoning God in favour of material greed and a glitzy social life, which the prophet graphically describes as “broken cisterns, that hold no water.”
We turn to Jesus to revive our finest ideals from the days of our fervour. If we remember our original call, its inspiration and our first enthusiasm for life, God’s grace can develop within us. In such a context we might gain newunderstanding of those puzzling words of Jesus: “To the one who has, more will be given until that one grows rich; the one who has not, will lose what little he or she has.”
Seeing but not recognising him
Jesus speaks of looking without seeing and of listening without hearing. We know from our own experience that we often listen without hearing and look without seeing. Sometimes what is being said is not worth hearing and so we listen without paying attention and what is visible is not really worth looking at with any attention. However, Jesus was speaking about those who looking at himself without seeing him and who listen to what he says without hearing him. When it comes to Jesus there is a lot to be seen and a lot to be heard.
To understand Jesus, we need more than a cursory look or half-engaged listening. The more carefully we look at Jesus the more we will see, and the more attentively we listen to him, the more we will hear. That is what he means when he says, ‘Anyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough.’ The more we attend to the Lord, the more we will receive and the more blessed we will be, as he declares at the end of the reading, ‘Happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear.’ Jesus is alive among us as risen Lord; he is there to be seen and to be heard by us all. We hear and see him in a special sense whenever we gather to celebrate the Eucharist. Yet, the Lord is to be seen and heard in many other ways as well. He is visible and audible to us in and through each other, especially in and through those who are most vulnerable. We pray this evening for eyes to see and ears to hear his presence among us. [MH]
St Lawrence of Brindisi, priest and doctor of the church
Lawrence (1559-1619), was born in Brindisi, Italy. After joining the Capuchin Order, he studied in the University of Padua and became a noted preacher, fluent in several languages, including Greek. He preached in many parts Italy and also in Germany and Austria, to offset the spread of Lutheranism. Finally, while on a peacemaking mission in Iberia, he died in Lisbon, Portugal, on July 22, 1619. He was declared a doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959.