READINGS: 1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-49; Psalms 56:10-14; Luke 8:4-15Tomorrow is the feast day of St Padre Pio. Since we cannot celebrate the feast tomorrow, it being a Sunday, Fr John has decided that we celebrate it today instead. In the missalette, there is a quote from Pope Paul VI about Padre Pio, “Look what fame he had, what a worldwide following gathered around him! But why? Perhaps because he was a philosopher? Because he was wise? Because he had resources at his disposal? Because he said Mass humbly, heard confessions from dawn to dusk and was – it is not easy to say it – one who bore the wound of our Lord. He was a man of prayer and suffering.” The Pope reminds us that Padre Pio’s honor did not come from any human endeavor. It comes from being a faithful priest who lived his vocation heroically. And while Padre Pio bore the wounds of Christ, this stigmata was not what made him holy. Instead, the stigmata is a sign from God that marks the life of generosity to the Lord and his people, of prayer and sacrifice. While not everyone of us can have the marks of Christ, everyone is called to live in holiness in the way God calls us.
When Padre Pio became a spiritual director later in his life, he had five rules for spiritual growth: Weekly confession, daily communion, spiritual reading, meditation, and examination of conscience. From this, we see the importance of being generous to the Lord. We see how it is to live in the presence of God every day from which we get the theme from today’s readings. I think it is providential that we celebrate Padre Pio today because his body is incorrupt and the first reading speaks of God transforming our natural bodies which is corruptible, dishonourable and weak into bodies that are incorruptible, glorious and powerful. This glorified body is the same as the body Christ has now in his glorious state.
Paul compares our natural body to a seed that is sown. The natural body must die first so we can receive the glorified body God has planned for us. This is possible if we desire what the Responsorial Psalm says I will walk in the presence of God, in the light of the living. This walking in God’s presence is described in detail in the Responsorial Psalm. We live confidently in the presence of God which results in courage that God is with us and he rescues us from death.
The Gospel today shows how to live in the presence of God. The parable is about the Word of God, which is crucial if we want to live in the presence of God. Matthew 22:29 shows Jesus arguing with the Sadducees and telling them, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” The errors we have of our understanding of God comes from our ignorance of Scripture and the power of God. The parable today shows how we can know Scripture and the power of God.
Notice that all the seeds fell on the ground. Everyone heard the word. The difference is how the Word is received. Jesus gives three conditions on how to experience Scripture and the power of God:
- Hear the Word and guard it so the Devil will not come and take it away. We cannot just hear it and walk away without the Word of God transforming us. We need to act our part by listening attentively to the Word of God, reflecting on it. In short, we need to spend time with the Word of God.
- Embrace it with a generous and good heart. The key word here is “embrace”, meaning to accept the Word as it is. We can only do this with a generous and good heart. Many today think the Word of God should conform to their ideas. When they do not agree with what the Word teaches, they walk away. This attitude is selfish and is hardhearted. It is like the seed that fall among thorns and are choked. The plant grows with an abundance of leaves. It provides shade, it shows signs of growth but it does not bear fruit. This is the saddest thing in a person’s life. I may know a lot about the faith, I may articulate what I believe, I may have a lot of ministries, I can say a lot of nice things but in the end, say nothing because I speak in human wisdom. I am useless because I bear no fruit. I have my own ideas of how God works, how the Word should conform to my ideas and life. Because of this attitude, I limit God’s power and end up bearing no fruit. When I do not agree with the Word of God, there is something wrong with me and my ideas. I cannot put God and his Word in a box and say this is how God should work and nothing more. When I do this, I twist the word of God and transform it into my image, instead of the Word transforming me into the image of God. This is how the Word is choked by thorns which prevents me from bearing fruit. I need to be generous and spend time to meet the Lord and open my heart to him. We bear fruit when we open our hearts generously to the Lord and let the God of surprises work in our lives.
- Persevere to bear fruit. Those seed that fell on rocky ground did not have roots because their faith is based on emotions, on how they feel or on the signs they see. These could not persevere because when sufferings or troubles come or when God seems to be silent, they fall away. They get discouraged because of the problems they have. There is no trust in the Lord. Faith is an act of our will. While feelings help our faith, it is not the basis of faith. We may sometimes need to go beyond our feelings and force ourselves to believe and trust God.
Padre Pio probably sums up living in God’s presence when he said: True and substantial devotion consists in serving God without experiencing any sensible consolation. This means serving and loving God for His own sake.
As we enter the Liturgy of the Word, we come before the Lord and offer our hearts. We ask the Lord to guard our hearts so the Word of God can dwell in us. We ask God to give us a good and generous heart like Padre Pio, so we can embrace God’s Word and accept it as it is. If there are areas in faith where we have doubts, we ask the Lord to come and give us wisdom to understand his word and the courage to persevere in the midst of our doubts. We ask the Lord to take us as we are and to change our hearts, so our natural heart of stone can be transformed into a spiritual heart of flesh, a heart that listens to him, a heart that learns from him and a heart that trusts him. This is the only way to bear fruit in abundance. This is the only way to bear fruit that will last for the glory of God in Christ Jesus. This is the only way to live in the presence of God.