Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Jesus' parable in today's gospel reading (Matthew 13:18-23) really strikes me this week. All the ways he describes seeds and soil make me wonder - what kind of soil am I planted in? In particular, his admonition to seeds sown among thorns, which are distracted by worldly ambitions and the lure of riches, makes me think about the soil of me and my community here in the middle-class US. As a person with a good job, and a job that encourages me to be very ambitious, I find it helpful to use these verses to reflect on my situation today.
We're well-off compared to the vast, vast majority of people around the world, and also many people in our own midst who do not have access to health care and jobs and wholesome, affordable food. Especially as the disparity widens between haves and have nots, and as more and more studies elucidate the connection between poverty and violence, lower graduation rates, lower access to health care and so on, I find myself wondering how to be a seed that is fruitful rather than one that succumbs to all these thorns.
Today's first reading (Exodus 20:1-17) provides one of our tradition's long-standing templates for thinking about how to cultivate rich soil. In the Catholic Catechism, the commandment "Do not steal" leads to pages and pages of discussion about what it means to follow that commandment, and much of it has to do with how we treat people in poverty. That is, poor treatment of the poor is a way in which we break that commandment. Paragraph 2405, for example, says: "Goods of production - material or immaterial - such as land, factories, practical or artistic skills, oblige their possessors to employ them in ways that will benefit the greatest number. Those who hold goods for use and consumption should use them with moderation, reserving the better part for guests, for the sick and the poor."
The Catechism - as well as many church documents and the witness of many saints - give much more witness to what it means to live a life of hospitality and generosity that gives us the rich soil needed to grow well.
What I am struck by in the first reading, too, is the amount of space the author gives to discussing idolatry and keeping the sabbath day holy. In terms of amount of space dedicated to those two commandments, we might think that those are the most important commandments. For indeed, what is keeping money for our own use beyond what we need, but a form of idolatry? And what is being worried about worldly ambition but a form of not practicing the sabbath?
Today, let us reflect on how God calls us to live in rich soil.
- Jana M. Bennett