On Jesus, Himself a Parable

"God Does Not Force Us to Believe in Him, But He Draws Us to Himself"

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 10, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus. It was the first public Angelus address to be held this summer in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

I thank you for having come for the Angelus here in Castel Gandolfo, where I arrived a few days ago. I gladly welcome the occasion to address my cordial greetings to all the inhabitants of this dear town with wishes for a good summer.

In today's Sunday gospel (Matthew 13:1-23), Jesus tells the crowd the celebrated parable of the sower. It is a passage that is in some sense "autobiographical" because it reflects the experience itself of Jesus, of his preaching: He identifies himself with the sower, who sows the good seed of the Word of God, and sees the different effects that follow according to the type of reception that is given to the proclamation. There are those who listen superficially but do not accept it; there are those who take it in at the moment but lack constancy and lose everything; there are those who are overcome by the worries and seductions of the world; and there are those who listen in a receptive way like good soil: Here the Word bears fruit in abundance.

But this Gospel also insists on the "method" of Jesus' preaching, that is, precisely, the use of parables. "Why do you speak to them in parables?" the disciples ask (Matthew 13:10). And Jesus answers by making a distinction between them and the crowd: To the disciples, that is, to those who have already decided for him, he can speak openly of the Kingdom of Heaven; but to others he must speak in parables, precisely to awaken the decision, the conversion of the heart; parables, in fact, by their nature require an effort at interpretation, they engage one's reason but also freedom. 

St. John Chrysostom explains: "Jesus pronounced these words with the intention of drawing his listeners to him and to call them, assuring them that if they turn to him, he will heal them (Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, 45, 1-20). Ultimately, the true "Parable" of God is Jesus himself, his Person who, through the sign of humanity at the same time conceals and reveals the divinity. In this way God does not force us to believe in him, but he draws us to himself with the truth and goodness of his incarnate Son: love, in fact, always respects freedom.

Dear friends, tomorrow we will celebrate the feast of St. Benedict, abbot and patron saint of Europe. In light of this Gospel we look to him as a master of listening to the Word of God, a deep and persevering listening. We must always learn from the great patriarch of Western monasticism to give God the place that belongs to him, the first place, offering him, with morning and evening prayer, our daily activities. May the Virgin Mary help us by her example to be "good soil" where the seed of the word might bear fruit.

[After the Angelus the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in several languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters, today is called "Sea Sunday," that is, the day of recognition for the maritime apostolate. I have a special thought today for the chaplains who work in the pastoral care of sailors, fishermen and their families. I assure my prayers for those sailors who unfortunately find themselves the captives of pirates. It is my wish that they be treated with respect and humanity, and I pray for their families that they be strong in faith and do not lose hope of being reunited soon with their loved ones.

[In French, he said:]

To all the French speaking pilgrims, and especially the choir of the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Lausanne, I would like to recommend that during this time of vacation, you revivify your spirits by contemplating the splendors of Creation. Parents, teach your children to see nature, respect and protect it as a magnificent gift that presents to us the grandeur of the Creator! In speaking in parables, Jesus used the language of nature to explain to his disciples the mysteries of the Kingdom. May the images he uses become familiar to us! Let us remember that the divine reality is hidden in our daily lives like the seed in the soil. May it bear fruit in us! I wish you all a good Sunday!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English, he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. Today's Gospel invites us to hear God's word, to let it take deep root in our hearts, and to bring forth abundant fruits of holiness for the spread of his Kingdom. During these tranquil days of summer, let us resolve to draw closer to the Lord through regular prayer, participation in the Eucharist and generous acts of charity. Upon you and your families I invoke his gifts of joy and peace!

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