In the Seminary at St Paul’s Monastery in Glen Osmond, we had a wonderful Philosophy teacher, Father Marcellus Claeys. He was a Belgian Passionist, with a chubby florid face, fair hair, sparkling eyes and the most gorgeous expressions. He would speak English very well but occasionally he would get his words mixed up, like the morning he said, “Suddenly, like a blue from the bolt, so and so happened …” We all collapsed with laughter.
One of his favourite expressions was: “Man is the only animal that can have a completely self-reflective knowledge. ‘I know that I know.’” He used this as an instance of the spiritual nature of man or woman, that I can be aware of myself in an experience.
In a way, this is illustrated in the Gospel passage from Matthew.
“Jesus left the house and sat by the lakeside, but such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat there. The people all stood on the beach, and he told them many things in parables.”
Note that Jesus sits in the boat. This is the normal teaching position of a Jewish rabbi. The rabbi in the time of Jesus sits … as it were in the chair of Moses . . . to teach, while his disciples and listeners would stand (as a mark of respect).
Jesus sits in the boat while his listeners listen intently from the beach. Jesus tells the parable of the sower. “Imagine a sower going out to sow.”
Jesus reflects on his own ministry of preaching the Word of God ….the Good News. He likens himself to the farmer walking across the field casting the seed with his hand to right and to left of him in a broadcasting motion. As he goes the seed falls in different places – near the path, or rocky ground, among thorns, and then on the good soil. So, there are many differing responses from. people as Jesus teaches and spreads the Word of God. The punch-line to the parable is, in my opinion, the last line – “Listen, anyone who has ears!”
He is saying: “What kind of soil are you? Are you good soil that welcomes the Word and nurtures it and lives by it, or are you like rocky soil that doesn’t welcome my word, but casts it aside as unimportant ?”
Do I sit with the Word of Jesus and pray for deeper understanding and water the word with my prayer and heart-felt desires, or do I say, “Heard that! Boring old stuff! Give me something real, man!” And then get lost in my own material interests?
Jesus spreads out the Word even today as I hear it. But do I give it my real attention and let it sow a rich harvest in my mind and heart? Do I believe it and welcome it and act on it?.
Pat McIndoe CP, a Passionist at St. Gabriel’s Retreat, Boroko, Port Moresby