We are in a time of darkness and uncertainty. It feels like darkness is covering the whole earth. From bitter partisan politics to worldwide lockdowns, from troubling messages from Church leaders and inaction from others, things seem dark. There are troubling things going on in the world and the Church is not exempt from this darkness.
I’m in the process of finishing up The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien and I must say that story seems to be resonating right now more than ever with me. A creeping darkness pervades and an evil malice is taking over the whole realm of Middle Earth. What can good men do against such reckless hate is the question asked. I feel like Tolkien could have written this book yesterday.
It seems that there is a pervasive darkness and confusion seeping over everything these days, an evil malice that threatens to drown the whole earth in slavery to some nebulous new society that will not lead us to freedom but rather to slavery to the new world order.
It seems to me that the prophet Isaiah speaks to us and our world today in our Old Testament text, Isaiah 60:1-6. “Darkness shall cover the earth and thick darkness the peoples…” Seems appropriate for our world today. This is a spiritual darkness and we see it today not only in the world but, if we’re honest, in the Church.
But even in this darkness, the prophet brings us hope,
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.”
He tells us that the glory of the LORD will be seen, that nations and kings will walk in the brightness of the rising of the light. He tells us that, if we will only lift up our eyes, we will see and be radiant, that our hearts will thrill and rejoice and that the wealth of the nations shall come.
Gotta be honest, I’m not feeling it these days. What exactly is he talking about? How are we to know what he means?
Our Psalm (Psalm 72) tells us what life will be like under the rule of the “royal son.” The Psalmist tells us that the people will be judged with righteousness and that justice will reign. He tells us that the cause of the poor will be defended, deliverance will be given to the needy and the oppressor will be crushed. He tells us that the presence of the royal son will bring refreshment, righteousness, peace and prosperity.
I don’t know about you but I’m not seeing that too much these days. We seem to be a little short of righteousness, peace, justice, freedom from oppression, refreshment, peace and prosperity. This is not just true of the world today either. This is true of the Church these days. There are some really confusing and even dark things coming from our so-called leaders these days and, even in the visible Church, there seems to be dearth of these qualities. Who, then, shall bring about righteousness, peace, justice, refreshment, peace and prosperity?
We begin to get a feel for some of the answer in our Epistle reading (Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6). We see that this righteousness, peace, justice, refreshment, peace and prosperity is for all peoples, not just the Jews of the Old Covenant. This “mystery” that St. Paul refers to is that the “Gentiles” are fellow heirs. In other words, the promises of Isaiah 60 and Psalm 72 and indeed all of Holy Scripture are for all people. And what is that promise?
A holy and righteous King who will bring peace, justice for the oppressed, refreshment, peace and prosperity. Where shall we find such a King?
Our gospel text fills in the gaps (Matthew 2:1-12). The King has been born in Bethlehem of Judea around 2000 years ago. You would think that the birth of such a King would be heralded and celebrated by the world. Peace at last! Prosperity at last!
Not so with this King. This King’s birth begins a revolution. This King’s birth means that the Light of Life has invaded the darkness of the world. This King’s birth is the answer to all our real problems. When we hear words like peace, justice and prosperity, we think money and freedom from conflict. And so it shall be under the rule of this royal Son.
But His peace is peace between God and man and it lasts eternally.
His justice is the justice of a holy God who cannot abide the oppression of sin and death.
His refreshment is His shed blood and broken body.
His prosperity doesn’t involve nice houses and cars, but rather the prosperity of a world that is free from the corruption of our sinful humanity.
This King has come to set us free; free from the pervasive and spiritual darkness of our own sin. This King is kind and has paid the price on our behalf, for nothing comes without a cost. This King comes as a Son, born of a Virgin, running for His life from a murderous and craven worldly king who will have power at all costs. This King gives up worldly power as He lays down His life so that all peoples may be reconciled to the Creator and to each other.
See your King who has come, Jesus the Christ!
My family and I live close to St. Meinrad Archabbey and, this morning, we attended Mass at the Archabbey church. Albeit virtually (which is a whole ‘nother subject but don’t get me started) but we were there.
The thick and weighty silence that punctuates the parts of the Mass at the Archabbey, the chanting of the Psalter, the quiet shuffling of the monk’s feet, the architecture, the solemn joy with which the monks sing…so beautiful; it feeds my soul and brings tears to my eyes each and every time.
I don’t know the monk who preached the homily but it was outstanding and I wanted to talk about it for a bit. The gospel reading for today is Matthew 13:1-23. Go and read that before you proceed.
This is the parable of the seed and the sower. I want to tell you right out of the gate that my thoughts on this are not entirely my own. The monk who preached the homily did the exegetical work (and it was outstanding) and his words I will basically echo here, with a few of my own additions.
If you’re like me you’ve probably heard this text preached a few times. Every time I’ve heard it preached, the focus was always on the soil. Usually, the preacher would draw some application about being the right kind of soil. But the brother that preached this morning did something brilliant with this parable and it needs to be heard.
His focus in the parable was not on the soil. Rather, it was on the opposition to the seed. Look at the text and you’ll see it. See it in your mind and heart.
Hungry, squawking birds (I always picture crows) gobbling up the seed.
Rocky, flinty soil that seems to almost be “bullet proof” as the seed literally bounces off the hard, cracked surface.
Scorching sun that blasts things to powder under its relentless gaze.
Spiny thorns literally choking the life out of the tender shoots that bloom.
Do you see it?
The sower and the seed are opposed. It’s a powerful image, isn’t it?
Kinda reminds me of the world we live in today. Make no mistake, friends, the Sower and His seed are under assault and open opposition. The gospel of Jesus Christ and His person are openly opposed by the current culture in which we find ourselves. The Church is under open and naked attack by our great enemy and those who are under his control.
The Sower and His seed are opposed.
In the face of the world and the darkness that seems to grow on a moment by moment basis, what are we to do? We who are the Church, we the seed sown by the master Sower. What are we to do? Do we take up arms? Do we retreat from the squawking and ravenous enemies of the Light? Do we beg for rain that this dry and hot sun of opposition would be banished from the Earth? How can we fight against the thorns that seem to choke the life out of us?
I submit to you for this answer our Old Testament reading for today. Our master Sower speaks in Isaiah 55:10-11,
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I intend, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ!
We who are the seed of the Sower of the Word, look and listen and take heart! Look at the promise of God! He has promised. The Sower has spoken. His seed will bring forth sprouts and bread to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness! His Word will not return to Him empty. His Word shall accomplish all that He intends! His Word shall prosper in the thing for which He sent it!
In the face of a decaying society and blazing heat of the opposition of the enemy, do not despair beloved!
Hope in Christ!
His Word shall not fail!
His Word shall not fail!
His Word shall not fail!