Learn to listen

Occasion: Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

You can find the full readings here. This Lectio is based on the Gospel, Matthew 13:1-23.


On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

The disciples approached him and said,
“Why do you speak to them in parables?”
He said to them in reply,
“Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven
has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.
To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich;
from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because
they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.
Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You shall indeed hear but not understand,
you shall indeed look but never see.
Gross is the heart of this people,
they will hardly hear with their ears,
they have closed their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their hearts and be converted,
and I heal them.

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see,
and your ears, because they hear.
Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

“Hear then the parable of the sower.
The seed sown on the path is the one
who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it,
and the evil one comes and steals away
what was sown in his heart.
The seed sown on rocky ground
is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.
But he has no root and lasts only for a time.
When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
he immediately falls away.
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word
and it bears no fruit.
But the seed sown on rich soil
is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

Stand-Out Words

ate it up, lack of roots, choked it, produced fruit, not understand, hear the word


Many things have been written, many homilies delivered about these particular scripture passages. That can make it difficult to write about this, but I am going to try.

What struck me the most is Christ speaks of hearing the word, not reading the Word. Don’t get me wrong, reading is important and we must read God’s word. But Christ emphasizes that we must “hear” his word, in order to bear fruit. It is a great blessing in the Catholic Church that so much is read aloud to us, somewhere around 20% to 25% of the mass is scripture. The Church has a beautiful 3 year cycle of scripture for us to be able to hear. To hear God’s word and to let it take root in our hearts, isn’t always easy. The person reading the scripture passages may be difficult to understand, or soft spoken, or boring but that does not matter. What matters is that we listen, that I listen to the word of God.

God is always trying to teach me to listen. I love to talk and so often, I’m certain, I’ve missed the opportunity to learn, to bear fruit, simply because I was talking, instead of listening. So often in this world we are in love with the sound of our own voice, that what we have to say is so much more valuable and better that what others have to say, that our education is more or we’ve read more than the person next to us, what could they possibly have to teach me. We have forgotten how to stop and “listen” to God. God always speaks from scripture, but sometimes He speaks to us from our “enemy/co-worker” in the cubicle next to us, sometimes He speaks to us in the “angel/old man” on the subway ride home, and sometimes he speaks to us from our “brother/sister” we don’t understand.

Let us learn to listen, so that one day we will bear fruit for God, whether it be a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.

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