Sunday thoughts: July

By Monsignor John Devine

There is nothing worse than trying to explain a joke. If they don't get it first time, chances are that the penny won't drop even when you try to explain it.

In Matthew's Gospel for Sunday 9 July, Jesus gives vent to his own frustration when the religious leaders don't 'get' what he is talking about. Ever positive, he does his best to make a prayer of it: "I bless you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes Father, for that is what it pleased you to do."

Which is why the Gospel for the following Sunday, 16 July, is so reassuring: "Imagine a sower going out to sow ..." Jesus goes on to describe how most of the seed is wasted; only a small percentage produces a crop; yet when it does, it does so many times over.

People flocked to Jesus. But who were they? The excluded, the sinners, the sick, the hungry, the lepers, the powerless, the failures – even the Roman soldiers. They connected with his parables. They saw their own reflection in his stories. The religious leaders were rarely in the crowd, though.

If jokes don't really benefit from analysis, then neither do parables. "My yoke is easy and my burden light" – if you have to work at it, you are missing the point. "You will listen and listen again but not understand, see and see again but not perceive." We only connect with the Word of God when we are ready, and for that to happen we have some unlearning to do. The poor have a head start. The hard shell of our spiritual self-sufficiency (and superiority) needs to be broken or at least bypassed. Yet the events of life will do that for us – and in the meantime, the Lord never gives up on us. He keeps on sowing.