Friday, July 8, 2011

Whoever Has Ears

Romero Center Ministries in Camden, NJ runs wonderful, faith filled programs for youth and young adults. Over the last year I've gotten to know the crew over there and have been blessed to work and interact with the Romero Center in a number of ways. The following is the latest of those interactions: a reflection on this Sunday's Gospel- the parable of the Sower and the Seed. If you want the added bonus of pictures or to find out about the wonderful work the Romero Center does, check it out here.

I feel like I’ve always known the parable of the Sower. You know the story- seeds scattered, birds eat, sun burns, thorns choke, and rich soil bears fruit. Chalk that reality up to the fact that the story is so easily adaptable to felt board story-telling and coloring book pages a la early 1990’s catechetical (CCD, in my case) curriculums.

Just as I can’t exactly recall the first time I heard the parable, I also can’t tell you how many reflections I’ve heard on the topic. The amazing part, though, is that every time I hear the parable of the Sower something new seems to surface.

Writing this reflection, I turned first to the idea of seeds but as I read the Gospel for this Sunday it was the solitary line at the end of the short version of the reading that stuck with me: “Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

All the times I’ve heard this reading, I have never heard that line.

“Whoever has ears ought to hear,” Jesus continues as he talks to his disciples, “but blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear…many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and hear what you hear but did not hear it.” (MT 9, 16-17)

And so, the blessing is ours. Our eyes can see. Our ears can hear. Our hearts can understand. That is the immense blessing that we have been given.

It is easy to recall the times you did not hear, to look back and see the moments of recognition you missed. However, to even know that we have not heard and not seen means that at some point we caught a glimpse of the Greatness and Grace we longed for. Ultimately, it means we have seen the goodness of God and now we can never look back.

I think of the times I have met God face to face. From monumental moments, like the child of the Manila slums who fell asleep in my lap three years ago today, to the almost mundane moments of my everyday life, the high school youth I work with daily to help complete their community service hours, I have seen the difference care and compassion can make in a life, not least of all my own. These are the moments that I’ve been able to hear God’s voice and see God’s hand at work. In them, I’ve found myself most alive and because of them, I can never again live a life that doesn’t seek to share love and discover God. It may sound cliché but these are the moments that make you who you are.

Like seeds exposed to the light, faith has sprouted within us. Seeds that lay dormant for years can flourish at a glimpse of God. With a single exposure we can see and are called to find the Divine in each new moment. Our hearts have been converted. We have been changed. Where once we were seeds, we are now changed into plants.

Growth though does not stop at that moment of realization. When we understand what we are seeing and hearing, when our whole being becomes invested, then true growth can occur. At that moment, our ears become tools to hear the voice of God and the cries of the poor; our eyes are transformed to see the face of God among each person we encounter; and our hearts understand that God is both the sower and the seed. All we can do is allow growth, no matter how fast or slow, to take place. Remaining ever mindful that ‘whoever has ears ought to hear’ and praying that we might hear what we ought to, bringing it to fruition in fullness of life.

Photographic Memories: Monumental Endings

June has come to an end and with it my time with the SSJ Mission Corps has also come to a close. The month was full, as so much of my time in Philadelphia has been. Time that gladly will not end with this chapter. Yet as I move on from this year of service, the year behind me stands as a testament to the wonder that God has laid out before us. It has been a year filled with creativity, both written and visual.

June was no different. My roomates and I set out on the road commonly traveled, becoming tourists and taking in the sights in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. On these journies the beauty was chiseled in stone, stalwart and proud. The US Capitol to the National Shrine and Bascillica displayed visions of granduer. While the muse that has caught my eye all year, City Hall, revealed that mystery, intricacy, and austerity abounded both inside and out. Endings and beginning can each be monumental in their own ways. They loom large on the paths that we travel but ultimaely do not dominate, truncate, or eliminate the journey we take- the simply add to the wonder, marking where we've been and showing us how far we've come. The visions below reveal part of the beauty that stands on my pathway. May these images mark something bigger and reveal what your eyes are meant to see.