Christ Respects Our Freedom
Dear brothers and sisters,
In today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 13:1-23), we hear the familiar words of the Parable of the Sower. Christ’s words have power. Immense crowds are pressing on upon him as he teaches. The crowd was so big, that Jesus actually got into a fishing boat, and he used the lake as his speaking platform, so that he could address everyone gathered on the shore. Crowds like this hung on his every word wherever he went. He could easily have turned them into a revolutionary army and manipulated them for any number of purposes. Instead, he simply invites them to change their hearts. Jesus truly is the Lord, but he refuses to bully us into following him. He is the “sower” of the parable, spreading God’s Word and announcing God’s invitation, but never forcing hearts to welcome it. This combination of eagerness to win over disciples, but respect for his listeners’ freedom, is especially evident in Jesus’ use of parables. A parable is a simple comparison between a hard-to-understand divine truth, a truth about God and his plan of salvation, and a well-known earthly reality. Some interpreters say that Jesus used these stories and comparisons to conceal his meaning from his opponents. Yet there is also another way to look at it: sometimes people do not want to accept the plain truth, because it means they have to change. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 to 7) Jesus taught the plain truth, but many did not accept it; so now he takes a more roundabout way to convince them. The parables offer his listeners a chance to accept certain truths in the abstract, before seeing how they apply to them personally. It is a way of sneaking uncomfortable truths through his listener’s mental defense mechanisms, penetrating indirectly the minds that have closed themselves to his direct proclamations. Jesus always respects our freedom, but he never gives up on convincing us to use that freedom well (adapted from www.epriest.com).
This Sunday July 12 at a special 3 pm liturgy, we are celebrating the Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion of 8 adults who have been preparing this past year through our Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). They were prepared to receive the Sacraments this past Easter, but the celebration had been delayed due to COVID-19. Congratulations to these fully initiated new Catholics! We celebrate with you and we pray for you on this day, and welcome as full members of St. John’s Parish Family! I offer a special thanks to Deacon Max Francois and to Ed Gabel, the RCIA teachers, for guiding and accompanying this year’s RCIA class to this point. They have been holding virtual meetings through Zoom since March. If you know anyone who is interested in the Catholic faith or is seeking to become Catholic and receive the Sacraments, please call the parish office at 570-223-9144.