JUNE 16, 2024 GOSPEL REFLECTION

Today’s Gospel is a favorite reading for many Catholics. The image of scattering seeds attracts our attention and inspires our imagination. Often, we imagine ourselves in this context.

Many of us make it our spiritual life’s work to become more efficient at scattering the gospel seed to become—ourselves—smaller and smaller. We imagine ourselves becoming so small and then so great and so effective in the work of God. Our prayer often becomes: Lord, make me small so that I can become great for your glory…

Although this way of thinking is understandable, it carries a danger. Why? This way of thinking focuses our attention on ourselves. We are small. We are the ones who sow seeds. We “put forth long branches.” In other words, we become the focus of our prayer and contemplation. And then, understandably, we long for the attention and the affirmation of others. We want others to recognize our smallness. We desire approval for all of our seed scattering. And if we don’t receive such approval, then we conclude that we have prayed wrong. Or, worse, we stop praying and try to gain approval and success in other ways. These difficulties are very common in the spiritual life. 

Thankfully, in the first reading, God shows us a better way of living, of praying, of contemplating, and of finding happiness: “I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar, from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot, and plant it on a high and lofty mountain; on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it… And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the LORD, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom. As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do” (Ez 17:22–24).

Five times in today’s first reading, God says: “I.” The “Divine I.”  It is God himself who is the source, the principle, the cause, the beginning, the end, the center of the Christian life. God is our everything. He gives us all of himself. He invites us to forget ourselves—to forget our insecurities, our weaknesses, our loneliness, our struggles, our sins—to lose ourselves in him. Indeed, he invites us to find our identity in him—in his divine identity.

To be clear, the Gospel message is not a dour attack on our human identity. Quite the contrary. Although the Christian “forgets” himself in God (because he or she is so “distracted” by the goodness of God), God never forgets the Christian. The Christian loses the preoccupation of self so that God can find the Christian—and give to the Christian all of his love. As our dear Lord told us: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it” (Mk 8:35).

All authentic Christian prayer and contemplation is focused on Our Lord. The mature believer does not search for God in the self. Rather, the Christian finds himself or herself in Jesus. He is the center of Christian contemplation.

Once we find our identity in Jesus, he explains everything to us—“without parables”… Clearly. Directly. Intimately. When we forget ourselves, we truly find ourselves—in his sacred and saving “I.”

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CATECHESIS

At the National Eucharistic Congress, Decided Excellence Catholic Media - with the help of Bishop William Waltersheid - will be presenting "Beautiful Revelation: The Eucharistic Timeline". Throughout human history, God has left repeated proof of His presence in the Eucharist and that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Salvation. God has given us the wisdom. Have you taken the time to understand? Read this spiritual journey through time to examine critical moments that God uses to reveal the truth of the Body of Christ.

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