One of my favorite places in all of DC is Dumbarton Oaks. The most recent owners of the famed Georgetown mansion and gardens were the Bliss Family who punctuated the gardens with their family credo, “Quod severis metes.” (What you sow you shall reap) in mosaics and even topiary throughout the property. I’ve been thinking about that as I read this coming Sunday’s readings in both the Extraordinary Form (Latin) and the Ordinary Form (English).
In the Latin readings for this Sunday we hear, “For what a man sows in the flesh, from the flesh also will reap corruption.” (cf Gal. 5:25-6:10). In the English readings we hear, “Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.” (cf Jas. 1:17-27). Finally, in the English Gospel we hear, “Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile” (Mk 7). Only the Word of Jesus… the Living Word preserved in Scripture and Tradition brings about unbounded life. Anything that comes from me will always be corrupted, ultimately limited by my own human sinfulness. Often today we lay blame for our personal issues at the world around us, or at what other people may have done to us: “There’s just so much suggestive imagery out there, I couldn’t help it.” Or “Well, if you knew what my mom did to me as a teenager…”. Certainly our external circumstances – whether they be the images that surround us or the details of our past – have an immense effect on us. But ultimately, if we want to be happy, we need to follow Jesus’ Word today, because all that is from outside can eventually pass through us… it’s what we choose to originate, or what we allow to fester for that matter, that determines whether we will be happy or not. As Shakespeare put is, “The fault is not in our stars…” (Julius Caesar)
A couple of years ago I was in a very politically-charged parish. Each week I’d inevitably get beaten up by a few parishioners for either being too strong or too soft on an issue. Didn’t matter what the issue was you were always going to hear about it from someone. I was down and my Pastor noticed. He asked me what was going on and I told him. His response, “That’s fine, but what are YOU going to do about it?” In my prayer, I started focusing less on the outer circumstances and more on the inner… and not so much on my own feelings (though those were taken into account) but on what Christ was doing for me and with me each day… His Word planted in me. Life became sunnier day-by-day, week-by-week and soon ministry opportunities were blossoming left and right and I was visibly joyous.
We’re surrounded by a lot of outer circumstances in Church life right now. What are YOU going to do about it? Over the last week I’ve gotten some wonderful offers of help and volunteerism from folks. We need more!! A group of young professional men are getting together to form a men’s group to grow in their Catholic identity. Amazing!! A woman approached me about entering the Church and asked if her instruction could take place in the context of a small group with her and her friends. ABSOLuTELY. Jesus has planted a Word in each of these folks’ hearts… and he’s planting one in yours. Water it, let it grow and let’s see what happens. If each of us engages this process we can grow a joyful helpful and worshipful community here at St. Mary’s for our good, our neighbors’ and for the Glory of God!
Fr. De Rosa