Pope Francis urged Catholics Sunday to reflect on whether they are receptive to the Word of God.
In his Angelus address July 12, he meditated on Sunday’s Gospel reading, in which Jesus recounts the Parable of the Sower. In the parable, a farmer scatters seed on four types of terrain -- a path, rocky ground, thorns, and good soil -- only the last of which successfully produces grain.
The pope said: “We can ask ourselves: what type of terrain am I? Do I resemble the path, the rocky ground, the bramble bush?”
“But, if we want, we can become good soil, ploughed and carefully cultivated, to help ripen the seed of the Word. It is already present in our heart, but making it fruitful depends on us; it depends on the embrace that we reserve for this seed.”
Pope Francis described the story of the sower as “somewhat the ‘mother’ of all parables,” because it focuses on a fundamental element of the Christian life: listening to the Word of God.
“The Word of God, symbolized by the seeds is not an abstract Word, but is Christ himself, the Word of the Father who became flesh in Mary’s womb. Therefore, embracing the Word of God means embracing the personage of Christ; of Christ Himself,” he said, according to an unofficial translation provided by the Holy See Press Office.
Reflecting on the seed that fell on the path and was immediately consumed by birds, the pope observed that this represented “distraction, a great danger of our time.”
He said: “Beset by lots of small talk, by many ideologies, by continuous opportunities to be distracted inside and outside the home, we can lose our zest for silence, for reflection, for dialogue with the Lord, such that we risk losing our faith, not receiving the Word of God, as we are seeing everything, distracted by everything, by worldly things.”
Speaking from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, he turned to the rocky ground, where the seeds sprang up but soon withered away.
“This is the image of those who receive the Word of God with momentary enthusiasm, though it remains superficial; it does not assimilate the Word of God,” he explained.
“In this way, at the first difficulty, such as a discomfort or disturbance of life, that still-feeble faith dissolves, as the seed withers that falls among the rocks.”
He continued: “Again -- a third possibility, that of which Jesus speaks in the parable -- we may receive the Word of God like ground where thorny bushes grow. And the thorns are the deceit of wealth, of success, of worldly concerns... There, the word grows a little, but becomes choked, it is not strong, and it dies or does not bear fruit.”
“Lastly -- the fourth possibility -- we may receive it like good soil. Here, and only here, the seed takes root and bears fruit. The seed fallen upon this fertile soil represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, safeguard it in their heart and put it into practice in everyday life.”
The pope suggested that a good way to counter distraction and to distinguish the voice of Jesus from competing voices was to read the Word of God daily.
“And I return once more to that advice: always keep with you a handy copy of the Gospel, a pocket edition of the Gospel, in your pocket, in your purse ... and so, every day, read a short passage, so that you become used to reading the Word of God, understanding well the seed that God offers you, and thinking about the earth that receives it,” he said.
He also encouraged Catholics to seek help from the Virgin Mary, the “perfect model of good and fertile soil.”
After reciting the Angelus, the pope recalled that July 12 was Sea Sunday, an annual observance marked throughout the world, saying: “I extend warm greetings to all those who work on the sea, especially to those who are far from their loved ones and their country.”
In improvised remarks, he added: “And the sea carries me a little farther away in my thoughts: to Istanbul. I think of Hagia Sophia, and I am very saddened,”
The pope appeared to be referring to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to sign a decree July 10 turning the ancient former Byzantine cathedral back into an Islamic place of worship.
Addressing pilgrims gathered in the square below, who stood apart in order to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus, he said: “I greet with gratitude the representatives of the Pastoral Ministry for Health from the Diocese of Rome, thinking of the many priests, women and men religious and lay people who have been, and remain, at the sides of the sick, in this time of pandemic.”