A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
As we have said, the three ‘-gesima’ Sundays consider our preparations for the pilgrimage of Lent, and by way of furthering that preparation, today’s Gospel wants us to reflect more deeply on just what the Lenten journey means. ‘A sower went out to sow his seed:’ the seed, Jesus explains, is the word of God, and He Himself is the sower. In other words, it is Christ Whom we shall find when we enter the Lenten wilderness, when we depart from the rush and noise of the fallen city, to ‘come apart to a desert place, and find our refreshment there awhile,’ (Mark 6:31). The Way of Lent is the way of sharing our story with Jesus, of occupying a single place with Him, where our devotion and commitment to Christ becomes clear: it is the humble landscape of prayer and fasting in which we come together with our Lord. So in one sense Lent is the spiritual location of His love, working out its goodness for us—or to put it another way, it is the landscape of our souls, where Christ comes and ministers to us.
So in today’s Gospel, we are encouraged to think and pray more deeply on the meaning of that place, the wilderness of refreshment where our souls converge with the good-will of God. “Some seed fell by the wayside,” Jesus tells us, and was trampled or consumed, some grew without root and withered, some was overcome by competing growth, and some grew to bear fruit. The ground, He explains, is the soul’s response to the Gospel; but we should be clear: our faith and baptism is not a guarantee that we are simply the good ground. Each of us, day by day, stands as the seed bed for Christ’s word, to receive and to follow Him, and each of us finds ourselves daily confronted by parts of our souls that are willing, and parts that are unwilling, to answer His call; we are partly hard-hearted, partly vain and shallow, partly choked with worldly cares, and partly prepared to bear the fruit of our redemption. The season of Lent is a time set apart when we focus particularly on self-examination and repentance, which means, looking honestly at the condition of our spiritual ground, so that we may open the way to meet Christ, that He may enter there, and till the soil of our hearts with His mercy. But only as we are willing can He accomplish that work. Only as we are open to Him can he dwell within us. That is the sense of this week called Sexagesima: the encouragement to begin to look within ourselves, discerning where and how we most need the Lord’s ministry, so that as we enter Lent, it may become a fruitful season for us.
Therefore, St. Paul tells us in our epistle, “If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.” Paul, like all of us, is perfectly aware of his triumphs, and his sacrifices for the cause of truth; these do not need encouragement, and it is by way of a foolish kind of hyperbole that he recounts them, precisely in order to make the comparison that diminishes them: his weakness is his glory, because it is in his weakness, the places of his need, and even failure, that the grace of God, the redeeming work of Jesus, is known and received. To be strong is a great blessing; to be ministered to by Christ in our frailty is even greater. May His word bear fruit as we learn this.