Amadeus was a famous guitar teacher. He had the knack of bringing out the best in pupils. Once four pupils were sent to him. He saw that each of them had talent and this excited him. It was a great opportunity for them.
The first was Edith. She had only started her music lessons when her friends began to pester her as she was very popular. They would come knocking at her door, begging her to come out and play. After a while, she gave in, and that was the end of her music lessons. Amadeus was very sorry to see her go.
The second was John. The idea to take music lessons hadn’t come from him but from his parents. His heart wasn’t in it. Still, for a while, it was exciting to hear the sound of the guitar. But soon the novelty wore off. It was just too much hard work. He gave it up. And Amadeus was sorry to see him go.
The third pupil was James. He was multi-talented and could turn his hand to anything. He particularly liked athletics and football but was anxious to cultivate all his other interests as well. For a while, he succeeded. But eventually, something had to give. It was the music lessons. First, he began to fall behind, then to neglect them, and finally, he dropped them altogether. Amadeus was sad to see another of his pupils drop out.
The fourth was Anne. She was by no means the best of the four, but she really wanted to succeed. Right from the start, she put her heart and soul into it. Even so, there were times when practising got boring, and she would have preferred to be out playing with her friends. But she stuck to her lessons, and in the end graduated with first class honours. Amadeus was delighted with her.
This little story may help shed some light on the parable of the Sower. Let us first notice, however, how the sower sows abundantly and with great confidence. The seed falls all over the place, including where it seems impossible for it to germinate. That’s how the farmers of Galilee did it: they sowed even on the sides of the paths and in rocky places. It’s not hard to identify who the sower is. That’s how Jesus sowed his message. They saw him go out every morning to announce the Good News of God. He sowed his Word among the simple people who welcomed it, and also among the Scribes and Pharisees who rejected it. He never got tired. His sowing won’t be fruitless.
Back to the guitar story. Even though Amadeus was a great teacher, he only succeeded with the last pupil. In other words, the teacher can only do so much and then it is over to the pupil. Likewise, with Jesus. He can give us God’s word and give us every encouragement and support, but little happens if we don’t cooperate. It is necessary, therefore, to receive the word of God into our hearts with all the desire we can muster and then nourish it. Total dedication and commitment are called for. Like those budding guitarists, it’s only those who are willing to give their all will gain fruit. The word of God needs the rich soil of a dedicated and generous heart for it to grow. And growth is the focus: an on-going growth in faith is the challenge for Christians of all ages. Just as plants do not remain stagnant but continue to grow so too with our faith. Each person needs to continue to grow in his or her knowledge of God and Christ and so advance in the Christian way of life.
I was at a conference of religious and bishops last week. There was a huge awareness there of how critical the world situation has become and how much suffering there is because of human-trafficking, racism, corruption, and violence etc. Hearing so many sad stories was depressing, to say the least. One could be forgiven for thinking that Jesus’ Gospel has lost its original force and that his message no longer has the power to attract the attention of men and women today. Yet one speaker spoke of Pope Francis and his great confidence in the Joy of the Gospel. It’s not the Gospel that has lost its humanizing power, but ourselves who are announcing it with a weak and wavering faith. It’s not Jesus that has lost his power to attract. We are the ones who are prone to distort and water down his message.
Pope Francis has said that when a Christian doesn’t live close to Jesus, ‘he quickly loses enthusiasm and stops being sure of what he is transmitting, he lacks power and passion. And a person who isn’t convinced, enthusiastic, sure, in love, doesn’t convince anyone.’
Today we are called to both receive and spread the word of God. The gospel invites us to receive the Good News with the rich soil of a generous heart. Let us rely on God’s word to make us grow in faith, just as we rely on the rain and the snow to bring forth fruits from the earth. Having received God’s word and being transformed by it, we are then called to proclaim it, knowing that it is only the humanizing and saving power of Jesus that can right the many wrongs in today’s world. And pray God that we do it with a certain passion!
Sunday, 16th July 2017