In our weekday readings for Mass, we see a progression through certain books of the Bible for our first reading, and then a progression through much of the Gospels for the Gospel reading. Very often they are not related to each other. But I believe there is some connection between our two readings for today.
In our first reading from Exodus, God delivers the Ten Commandments to the people. I like St. Paul’s summary of the Ten Commandments in his letter to the Romans (13:8-10): “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,’ and whatever other commandments there may be, are summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.”
In our Gospel reading, Jesus explains to His disciples the meaning of the Parable of the Sower and the Seed. As He explains the images of the types of soil on which the seed does not grow, I see those explanations as illustrations of what gets in the way of us following the commandment to love, especially the images of the seed sown on rocky ground and the seed sown among thorns.
When it comes to the seed sown on rocky ground, in countries like the U.S., there may not be outright persecution of Christians, but there is sometimes pressure to go along with the crowd, or even get into a mob mentality and demonize those who are considered “other.” When it comes to seed sown among thorns, worldly anxiety and the lure of riches can lead to stealing and lying and coveting, and even killing.
But when we follow the commandment to love, we grow in our understanding of God’s word, and when we share that love, the word “bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” May the seed of God’s love in Jesus Christ bear fruit in us.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior of the Passionist Community in Birmingham, Alabama.