Bishop Baron had a slant on Wednesday’s Gospel reading from Mark 4:1-20, the Parable of the Sower, that I had never though of as being the point of the story. He suggests that the listeners were rolling their eyes at the foolishness of a farmer who would so carelessly scatter and waste precious seed and then suggests that the point Jesus was making was that God is like the farmer, scattering his seed, the Gospel, everywhere, even on those least likely to respond. In other words, the story, he suggests, is not about us, but about the Grace of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
That made me think of the focus of a homiletics class at the Lutheran seminary fifteen or so years ago. The professor often made the point that the themes of our sermons should never be “if, then” but always “because, therefore.”
If…, then… is an Old Testament theme, and Because…therefore… is a New Testament theme. Here are two covenant statements given to the people, the first through Moses, describing the OT, if…then covenant, and the second several hundred years later through the prophet Jeremiah, promising the NT, because…therefore covenant:
Exodus 19:3-6 Moses went up the mountain to God. Then the LORD called to him and said, “Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob; tell the Israelites: You have seen for yourselves how I treated the Egyptians and how I bore you up on eagle wings and brought you here to myself. Therefore, if you hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people, though all the earth is mine. You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. That is what you must tell the Israelites.”
Jeremiah 31:31-34 The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for they broke my covenant and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and kinsmen how to know the LORD. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Jeremiah 31:31-34 is referenced four times (Paragraphs 64, 715, 762, and 1965). These are worth reading!
64 – Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all, to be written on their hearts. The prophets proclaim a radical redemption of the People of God, purification from all their infidelities, a salvation which will include all the nations. Above all, the poor and humble of the Lord will bear this hope. Such holy women as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Judith and Esther kept alive the hope of Israel’s salvation. the purest figure among them is Mary.
715 – The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of “love and fidelity.” St. Peter will proclaim their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost. According to these promises, at the “end time” the Lord’s Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace.
762 – The remote preparation for this gathering together of the People of God begins when he calls Abraham and promises that he will become the father of a great people. Its immediate preparation begins with Israel’s election as the People of God. By this election, Israel is to be the sign of the future gathering of All nations. But the prophets accuse Israel of breaking the covenant and behaving like a prostitute. They announce a new and eternal covenant. “Christ instituted this New Covenant.”
1965 – The New Law or the Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is the work of Christ and is expressed particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. It is also the work of the Holy Spirit and through him it becomes the interior law of charity: “I will establish a New Covenant with the house of Israel. . . . I will put my laws into their hands, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
St. Marks Parable of the Sower gets no references in the Catechism, but the Matthew 13:3-23 version of the same parable is referenced in Paragraph 1724 about Life in Christ. The footnote for Paragraph 1724 is on the phrase about slowly bearing fruit in the Church to the glory of God.
1724 – The Decalogue, the Sermon on the Mount, and the apostolic catechesis describe for us the paths that lead to the Kingdom of heaven. Sustained by the grace of the Holy Spirit, we tread them, step by step, by everyday acts. By the working of the Word of Christ, we slowly bear fruit in the Church to the glory of God.
Thanks be to God for that gift of Grace which gives us the desire and enables us to continually grow in our faithfulness to Christ and his commandments, “slowly bearing fruit in the Church to the glory of God.” God has prepared the soil and sown the seed. We are called and enabled to cooperate. Even that shows up in The Catechism.
323 – Divine providence works also through the actions of creatures. To human beings God grants the ability to co-operate freely with his plans.