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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Angelus reflections about the sower and the seeds

At noon today (Rome time), the Holy Father, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to recite the Angelus with the faithful and with pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter's Square.

Greetings of His Holiness, Pope Francis
prior to the recitation of the Angelus

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

When Jesus spoke, he used simple language and used images, examples drawn from everyday life, so that everyone could easily understand what he was saying.  For this reason, they willingly listened to him and appreciated the messages he shared: they seemed to speak directly to their hearts.  His words were not too complicated and difficult to understand, like the language used by the doctors of the Law at the time.  They were not easily understood but they were rigid and distant from the people.  With simple language, Jesus explained the mystery of the Kingdom of God; he did not use complicated theology.  One example of this teaching is seen in today's gospel passage: the parable of the sower.

The sower is Jesus.  We note that, with this image, He presents himself as one who does not impose, but rather as one who proposes; he does not attract us to himself through conquering but rather by giving of himself: he throws out seeds.  He shares his Word with patience and generosity and this Word is not a cage or a trap, but rather a seed that can bear fruit.  How can it bear fruit?  If we welcome it.

This is the reason why this parable is first and foremost about us: in fact, it speaks about the terrain more than about the sower.  Jesus performs - so to speak - a spiritual x-ray of our hearts, the terrain where the seed of his Word falls.  Our hearts, like land, can be good and the Word can bear fruit - much fruit - but they can also be hard, impermeable.  If this is the case, we hear the Word, but it bounces off us, just like seeds falling on a roadway, it does not enter our hearts.

Between the good earth and the roadway (the asphalt) - if we throw seeds on the sanctimonious, nothing will grow - there are two other intermediary terrains which can also exist within us in different measure.  The first, Jesus says, stings.  Let us imagine a place that stings, a terrain where there is not much earth (Mt 13:5), where the seed sprouts but cannot put down deep roots.  These are like superficial hearts that welcome the Lord, that want to pray, to love and to bear witness to him, but who do not persevere, they grow tired and never get going.  There are also tired hearts where the rocks of laziness prevail over the good earth, where love is present but unsteady.  But those who only receive the Lord when he goes out to them do not bear fruit.

Then there is the final terrain, the thorny patch, filled with weeds that suffocate the good plants.  What do these weeds represent?  The preoccupations of the world and the seductions of riches (Mt 13:22), as Jesus says explicitly.  The temptations that are always fighting with God, the ones that attempt to stifle his presence: first there are idols of worldly wealth, fast living focused on ourselves, focused on possessions and power.  If we cultivate these weeds, they will stunt the possibility of God growing within us.  Each one of us can recognize within our own hearts the small and larger weeds, the vices that take root in our hearts, the shrubs that more or less manage to take root there - behaviours that are not pleasing to God, but which rather impede us from having clean hearts.  We need to tear them out, otherwise the Word will never bear fruit, the seed will not be able to grow.

Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus invites us today to look within ourselves: to thank him for our good earth and for the ability to work in his fields that are still not totally prepared.  Let us ask him to help us open our hearts so that we can welcome the seeds of God's word.  If the stones of laziness are still numerous within us, let us ask him to help us identify these vices and call them by name.  May we find the courage to make something wonderful out of the earth, something wonderful in our hearts, presenting our stones and weeds to the Lord both in Confession and in prayer.  If we do, Jesus, who is a good gardener, will be happy to do something more for us: to purify our hearts, to pull out the stones and the thorns that choke the Word within us.

The Mother of God, who today we remember with the title of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel, is unsurpassed in welcoming the Word of God and in putting it into practice (cf Lk 8:21).  May she help us to purify our hearts and to preserve the presence of the Lord there.

Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father continued:

Dear brothers and sisters,

I willingly greet all of you, faithful from Rome and pilgrims from various parts of the world: families, parish groups and associations.

In particular, I greet the Sisters Daughters of the Suffering Virgin who, fifty years ago received pontifical approval for their Institute; as well as the Franciscan Sisters of Saint Joseph who are celebrating the 150th anniversary of their foundation; and the leaders and guests from the Domus Croata here in Rome who are celebrating their 30th anniversary.

I want to especially greet the Carmelite sisters and brothers on this, their feast day.  I hope that they may decisively continue on the path of contemplation.

I offer a special greeting to the Venezuelan Catholic community, renewing my prayer for your beloved country.

And to all of you, I wish a good Sunday.  Please, don't forget to pray for me.  Enjoy your lunch and good bye!
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