Jakarta, 14 September 2017
A Christian Pilgrim
A BEAUTIFUL PARABLE OF JESUS IN THE FIELD OF FARMING
(A biblical reflection on the 15th Ordinary Sunday [Year A] – 16 July 2017)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:1-9 (longer version: Matthew 13:1-23)
First Reading: Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalms: Psalm 65:10-14, Second Reading: Romans 8:18-23
The Scripture Text
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about Him, so that He got into a boat and sat there; and the whole crowd stood on the beach. And He told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched; and since they had no root they withered away. Other seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:1-9 RSV)
Methods of farming in Jesus’ day were very different from the methods modern farmers use. Today’s farmer plows the field before scattering the seed, but in biblical times farmers reversed the process. The first-century farmer scattered the seed on the ground first and then turned over the soil. We must keep this in mind when reading today’s Gospel.
Because the seed rested on top of the ground for a while before the farmer plowed the soil, the wind sometimes blew it to an area the farmer did not intend it to be. This explains how some of the seed landed on the foot path and how some of it ended up on the rocky ground or among the thorns.
In the analogy in today’s Gospel, the seed represents the word of God and the different places where the seed landed represent different kinds of people and their response to the Gospel message. The rocky soil stands for the person who hears God’s word but does not allow it to take root. Letting the seed take root means letting the Gospel message make a difference in a person’s life. It means living out one’s commitment to Jesus by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick or lonely.
Some of the seed landed among thorns which represent worldly cares like fame, power, and money. When these become the center of a person’s life, there isn’t much time or energy left for prayer and spiritual matters.
Some seed landed on the footpath. This symbolizes the person who hears God’s word but doesn’t take time to study Scripture and, therefore, doesn’t understand it. As a result, the Gospel message cannot make much of a difference in this person’s life.
Finally some of the seed fell on good soil where it produced a yield of thirty, sixty, or a hundred-fold. The good soil represents people who are spiritually fruitful because they not only hear God’s word but also understand it and live it. Since a farmer in Jesus’ day would have been extremely proud of such a large harvest, we can assume Jesus is proud of us when His word takes root and grows in our lives.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, God, open my heart to the power of God’s word in the Scripture. Help me to learn God’s ways. Make me into good soil that receives the seed of Your precious word and bears in me the fruit of your love.
Jakarta, 13 July 2017
A Christian Pilgrim
EQUIPPED TO CATCH SOULS FOR HIS KINGDOM
(A biblical reflection on the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time [Year C], 7 February 2016)
Gospel Reading: Luke 5:1-11
First Reading: Isaiah 6:1-2a,3-8; Psalms: Psalm 138:1-5,7-8; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (or 1 Corinthians 15:3-8,11)
While the people pressed upon Him to hear the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret. And He saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, He asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when He had ceased speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at Your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him. (Luke 5:1-11 RSV)
Upon Jesus’ command, Simon dropped his nets into the sea and hauled out a colossal shoal of fish. The enormous catch stunned Simon, who had caught nothing the previous night. In the face of such a miracle, Simon realized he was in the presence of the Lord, and he knew the Lord could see his sin. Humbled and frightened by this realization, Simon fell to his knees in repentance. But Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10).
Like Simon Peter, the prophet Isaiah also had a revelation of the Lord that humbled and terrified him: “Woe is me! For I am lost … for my eyes have seen … the LORD” (Isaiah 6:5). However, the touch of a burning coal from the altar cleansed him of his sins and freed him from all guilt. Once purified, Isaiah was able to hear the cry of the Lord’s heart: “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Without hesitation, Isaiah called out, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).
God longs to commission each of us, just as He commissioned Peter and Isaiah. As we allow God to overwhelm us with His love, we too will hear the call to discipleship. We will know that we are unworthy of such an honor, but we will also know that, through repentance, we can be empowered by the Holy Spirit to intercede, to forgive, and to proclaim the Gospel.
As our relationship with Jesus deepens, so too will our love for Him and, like Peter and Isaiah, we will want to forsake everything for God. Let us not be afraid to humble ourselves before the Lord and receive the commission He has for us. There is no greater honor than to be a servant of the Lord, equipped to “catch” souls for His Kingdom.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, cleanse our sin and empower us with Your presence. Here we are, Lord! Send us! Empower us to participate in advancing Your Kingdom! Teach us to speak Your words and minister Your love to everyone we meet. Amen.
Jakarta, 5 February 2016
A Christian Pilgrim
LET HIS SPIRIT GUIDE US [JOHN 14:21-26]
IF we are to be “at home” with the Lord, we also have to follow His rules. To be in an intimate relationship with Him is to become one with Him, and that means being like Him. “Be holy for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45). In this life, we may never reach the point of complete surrender, but that is what we are called to strive for every day.
We should not fool ourselves into thinking that it is always easy to obey the Lord, but we should also remember His promise to those who do. The entire Gospel of John hinges on the promise: that by coming among us and dying for us, Jesus freely gives us the right to become children of God (John 1:12). He and the Father want to make their dwelling with us, to live with us now and for all eternity! It is because of this staggering love that we should want to please Him in every way possible.
Dear Sisters and Brothers, have you looked in your “room” lately? Try to find a quiet moment when you can be alone with the Lord. Allow Him to take an inventory of your life. Read His word and let it transform you. If necessary, go to confession and receive His mercy and grace. Then, take the next step. If there is something He is asking you to do, just do it! Or if there is something that does not belong in your life, say good-bye to it.
We (you and I) must always remember that the more we know Jesus and the more time we spend with Him, the more we will desire to follow wherever He leads us. Therefore, we must be so thankful that He wants to be with each and every one of us. Let His Spirit guide us in everything we do, say and think.
Jakarta, 19 May 2014
A Christian Pilgrim