Reflections on the Readings
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 10, 2011 - Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins
The Garden of the Heart
For this people's heart has grown dull... but blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Matthew 13:15 - 16
Gardening is a work of patience. It requires vigilance and TLC too. The fruits and vegetables and crops just don't happen to pop up out of the ground. There's a lot of preparation and planning and praying and patience. That's right. Every good farmer and gardener prays for rain to make the stuff grow. And then they pray again for the rains to stop so they can harvest the stuff. And patience, well, that comes with the territory and grows over time: ...Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain. (James 5:7)
A garden requires attention. There's soil preparation and seeds and plants to buy and weeds, yes, weeds to hoe. Well, the heart of the Christian is like a garden. It is that place in you and me where the 'mysteries of the kingdom of heaven' are sown. It is the inner place of contemplation and decision; a place where we 'think' about the ways of God. And it is in that place we decide if we will be docile to the Holy Spirit. For it is the Spirit of truth who brings to us the words of Christ; he reminds us what Jesus taught us about the Father. The heart is the garden of the Lord, the inner most of our being where in the hallowed moments God invitingly calls out, "Where are you?"
Jesus spoke in parables to help the rulers of Israel to understand his teaching: "This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand." (Matthew 13:13) The fulness of the teaching of Jesus was couched in ordinary ways to convey the extraordinary depth of its truth. The issue Jesus explains is the receptivity of those things he taught. Deep in the heart there is a war against the truth. The evil one, tribulation and persecution, the cares of the world and the seduction of riches 'choke the word.' Jesus is making us aware of the dangers that keep us from the truth.
We must be on guard for anything that distorts the teachings of the Church. From her treasury of kingdom knowledge we learn the faith and cease being like children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men along with their craftiness in deceitful wiles. (Ephesians 4:14) There is clever talk today that calls sin by other names seeking to make it palatable. Ours is a time when with patience we must teach the faith that was first given to the Church - contending for it even though ungodly persons pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 4) It is a time of 'itching ears.' These are folks whose hearts are not the garden they are meant to be. They seek approval from teachers who help them to turn even further from the truth. They cannot endure sound doctrine - the depth of the mysteries of the kingdom.
Jesus said, "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." Jesus said that out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, and slander. This is not the good fruit of a well kept garden. This is the heart in disarray - the heart that needs some serious change if it is to be the place the thrice Holy God is strolling through.
God made us in the beginning and placed us in a Garden. There our Lord communed with us as a very dear and faithful friend. Upon Adam and Eve God had placed crowns and gave them the Garden to keep and care for. In their hearts was the law of God and on it they meditated day and night. What they saw with their eyes was reflected in their hearts. Within and without was the Garden of the Lord. Then something dreadful happened. An intruder came into the Garden - that deceitful and conniving snake - in snake language he distorted the truth that keeps the children of God free.
That foreign tongue of the snake mocked the God of the Garden and on that nameless afternoon, the light in the heart went out. But a word went out of the mouth of the Lord - God said to the serpent: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." That word did not return to God unfulfilled. In Mary the Word became flesh. God in Christ destroyed the works of the devil and healed all of us oppressed by Satan. The renovation of our heart begins at Calvary. Therein is the power to forgive sins and to restore the heart to be a Garden of Delight.
So lift up your hearts. Lift them up to the Lord. Come to this Table and let us give thanks to the Lord our God. Amen.