Date: Sunday, July 16, 2017
Our devotion finds expression in art. There are paintings of Mary dating back to 1346, the early Renaissance, of Mary sitting on a cushion just above the ground with baby Jesus sitting on her lap looking at the viewer(s). The “Madonna of Humility” depicts both Mary’s earthy or lowly station and her favored status in the eyes of God. “Humility,” according to St. Thomas Aquinas, “is to see ourselves as God sees us.” The word “humility” comes from the Latin “humus” – soil or ground.
Jesus tells a parable about seeds, sowing and soil. There is discussion and confusion among his disciples so Jesus takes time to explain why he teaches using parables and then Jesus explains the meaning of this parable. The seed sown is the word of God. The sowing is a the custom of the day when seeds are sown before plowing with some seeds landing on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns and some on rich soil that produces an abundant harvest. The soil (whether packed down or full of rocks or crowded with thorns or ripe for growth) is the disposition of our souls. Jesus, using figurative language, describes how we can receive the Word of God and because of superficiality, worries, distractions or worldly pleasures, the divine seed fails to germinate and mature in us. Yet when we receive the living Word or seed of God in faith it produces a remarkably rich harvest. It is humbling.
Who sows the seed? Is Jesus referring to God, his heavenly Father or to himself or to his disciples or to us? We are sowers of the seed, planters of the Word by sharing our faith with conviction and compassion. When Jesus sends his disciples on mission they are instructed to preach the Kingdom of Heaven and to expel demons, to heal and to forgive. Was it St. Francis of Assisi, a model of humility, who encouraged his brothers and sisters to preach and when necessary to use words? Acts of kindness are planting seeds that will ripen in ways we cannot foresee. Like Mary, Madonna of Humility, let us receive the message of the Angel and respond: “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”