今天所讀的福音書內容眾所周知，是耶穌說到關於撒種的巧妙比喻。這段經文一開始祂說「有一個撒種的出去」，但中英文譯本的內容並不準確，希臘原文的意思是「出來了一個播種者」。句子從「出來」這個動詞開始，是因為神的兒子從祂自己出來，成為我們的一份子。這是一種出離(exodus)，就像是出埃及記（the Book of Exodus），我們從自己裡面出來。神向我們指出一條人生道路，這人生道路就要我們走出自我，不要封閉自我。這不單是屬靈生命的根基，也是健康人生的根基。例如：夫妻要走出自我，才能與對方相遇，將自己獻給對方。地獄不是某個病態或異端想像出來的虛幻火焰，地獄是指人關閉自己，反而要別人依照他的期待而改變。
聖金口若望(John Chrysostom)說：「那人正在撒種，持續地撒種」(he who is sowing is sowing continuously)。經文的希臘原文很清楚，這是持續發生的動作，而非一次性的事件。撒種者將種子撒出去，因著人將種子撒向各處，以至於撒種看起來像是任意揮撒的動作。但事實不然，因在古時以色列及其他村落，他們的風俗習慣就是先撒種後，再用器具鋤地。所以撒向四處是很自然的動作，撒種者並沒有做錯任何動作。撒完種後，才開始鋤地，種子也就順勢埋進土中。因為這樣的觀點，我們也就能明白耶穌後來解釋這比喻的意思，也就是神要不斷地把祂的話語傳遞給每個人。耶穌並非只把種子傳向好人，也同樣傳給惡人; 神並未將好人、惡人分開來，並沒有在我們中間分門別類。
在我繼續說明之前，我應該先解釋何謂種子。就如同耶穌基督祂自己的解釋，種子就是神的道(word of God)。當我們提及神的道，是從福音的教導開始；之後神的道成為真實，就是成了神的兒子耶穌自己。你能在聖禮儀中明白這事，在聖禮儀中我們聆聽神的道。之後當我們獻上餅酒、舉起聖杯，神的道就成為那愛的食糧。
所以我們所說的不是理論，如果只是理論我只需要問你聽到什麼。但不僅如此，是神親自進入你的裡面，成為你裡面的人，成為你裡面的生命(inner human being)，這種子是真實的。今日你在聖餐中領受了種子，這種子就必須生長。
你們當記得今日心中領受的種子，今日我們要慶祝St. Simeon the New Theologian，他說世人就好像是孕婦，因為他們有耶穌在他們裡面，耶穌在他們裡面長大。聖母懷抱耶穌的聖像具有深刻的意義，所表達是你也能像聖母般，將耶穌懷抱在你的裡面，雖然你無法像她那樣生出耶穌，但你仍可在你的裡面讓基督誕生。如同使徒保羅說的：「我的孩子們！我願為你們再受產痛，直到基督在你們內形成為止。」（思高譯本，迦拉達書4:19）。
紀錄: Timothy Baker教授
Photo: orthodox icon of Mother Mary and Jesus
2014.10.12 Sunday of the 7th Ecumenical Council – The Seed Within Us
St. Paul’s Letter to Titus 3:8-15 TITUS, my son, the saying is sure. I desire you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to apply themselves to good deeds; these are excellent and profitable to men. But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the law, for they are unprofitable and futile. As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned. When I send Artemas or Tychicos to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. And let our people learn to apply themselves to good deeds, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not to be unfruitful. All who are with me send greeting to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen.
Luke 8:5-15 The Lord said this parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell along the path, and was trodden under foot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew, and yielded a hundredfold.” And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but for others they are in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy; but these have no root, they believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.” As he said these things, he cried out “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Fr. Jonah’s Sermon
Today’s Gospel is the very famous and wise parable of Jesus Christ about the sower. He says, “He came out;” the Gospel starts with the word [in Greek] (I am sorry to say, but there are many problems with the English translation.), meaning “Came out the sower.” Because starting from this verb, to come out, it is the Son of God who comes out of Himself and he becomes us. This is an exodus, like the Book of Exodus, coming out of ourselves. And in all of human life God shows to us the way of human life; and what is the way of human life? To go out of our individuality, not to be closed to ourselves. And this is the basis not only of the spiritual life, but of a healthy life. For example, the husband or the wife comes out of himself to meet the other, to give himself to the other. Hell is not some imaginary fires created by the sick or heretical imagination of some people, but it is to be closed in to oneself, and I want the other to be this, this and this for me. This is Hell.
Now the Gospel says that [Greek], and John Chrysostom says that he who is sowing is sowing continuously – it is not just once – because in the original language it is clear that it is something that is happening continuously, not just once. So, to throw his seeds. It seems that he was not careful because he threw his seeds everywhere. But actually not, because the custom in ancient Israel, and even in other villages in the past, was that first we sow the seed and later we use another tool to dig the field. So this was natural, not that the sower made a mistake, since later they will dig and the seed will go into the earth. So from this point of view, we also see as Jesus himself later explained this parable, that actually He continues to send His word to everybody. He does not say that He will give his seed to just the good people, no, it goes to good and to bad, there is no separation between them. God does not distinguish between us.
So, it seems from the Gospel that only one fourth of the seed was successful. The first fell near the roads that ran between the fields, where people are passing and press on the seed, and the birds see it and eat it (like the birds here on our window sills). Other seed where it fell, after it had started growing, under the soil there were stones. Then when it started growing, the roots reached down to the stones and then could not grow further and the plants were destroyed. For this, Jesus gave the explanation that there are people who at the beginning say that Christianity is so good and they accept it. But when Christianity goes deeper and you have to make choices, then we meet ourselves, and the Word of God meets a heart that is like a stone.
And allow me to explain here what is meant by a heart like a stone. Especially in the Chinese world, some people go to the church to receive, not to give. When I say give, it is not for material things, since here we never give money. But you see when most people choose a church, this person goes to the church, which is close to his house, has parking places, has activities for his kids; he does not care what the church teaches. So he does not really care about God, he just wants to use God for a good life or any other things. And you cans see that this person who does not care for God with his heart of stone, in the same way will he behave to his wife or his husband or his children. He will ask first, “Give me. What is it that you do for me?” This is the heart of stone. It is very important when we pray, especially the Prayer of the Heart, to make this stone so sweet, to make it like good soil. So, don’t think that what Jesus Christ says today is only concerned with religion, is only concerned with His work. He who has a heart like a stone will have that heart to his wife, he does not know what is love, and he can’t really love.
And before I go on, I should explain what the seed is. As Jesus Chris himself explains, it is the word of God. But when we talk about the word of God, we start from the teachings of the Gospel. But later this word of God becomes real, becomes Jesus the Son of God Himself. You can see this in the liturgy, where we hear the word of God. And later, when we bring the chalice here [pointing to the altar] the word of God becomes the food of love.
So this is not a theory, for which I could examine you and ask you, “What did you hear of this?” It’s not like this. But it is God Himself who enters yourself, the inner human being, and then this seed is real. Today you took this seed today [in the Holy Communion] and this seed must grow.
And Jesus Christ told of another situation, where the seed was uncovered and next to a small way and so the devils came like birds and ate it. We must understand that we are not alone in this world, that there are so many other invisible powers, and they can really hit us. Many people want to underestimate the strength of the devil, But actually in the Lord’s Prayer we say at the end we say “Protect us from the Evil One,’ which is the Devil, who is like a psychologist and he sees my weakness and he sees your weakness and he tries to take advantage of this to destroy the word of God in your heart.
And there is also something else, which relates to the spiritual life, which is very important and which happens to me and many Christians. Yes, we accept Christianity, the word of God of grows in us, grows from the Holy Sacraments and the teachings we receive. But in parallel other things also grow. And what are these other things? They are the bad way of caring for life. It is my bad thoughts, my adulterous thoughts, my other things that I think first and then I do.
It is what apostle Paul says, that I want to do the good thing but I see some other human being inside me who wants to do bad things. And here is the spiritual life and cultivation: every day of our life, until we die, we try to control – not to suppress these things – but to concentrate on God. As I have told you many times, this is what I know from Saint Porphyrios. We don’t concentrate to cut the thorns, but to make the [sprout from the] seed become very big, like a tree, to grow and then there is no space for the other things to grow up and they will die. It is impossible if you are growing flowers for example, not to have something else growing up in parallel.
And I would like to understand this not only from a religious point of view. Why is it that the love between the husband and the wife, who in the beginning loved each other so much but got divorced after two or three years get divorced. It was because they did not take care to cultivate their love by each one making themselves go out from inside and to the other; they don’t do this. So the thorns and other bad things start to grow. For example, they may say, “My priority is my job,” or “My priority is to go with my friends’” “or “I want to do this.” He is still an “I;” he does not think “we.” So these parallel things become more and more, and love dies.
From this point of view the words of Jesus Christ are very important for us and we must be very careful about this point. But also it’s not that everybody is like this; there are some people who have very good hearts, although not so many. It seems from the Gospel today as if there are one fourth. But God does not count like this He gave his Son for the good people and the bad people, alike.
But one seed in the heart of a good person can become very big and yield a lot of grain. And I hope in our small church in Taiwan that God will give to those who are here and those who have accepted the word of God and the work of God to be so fruitful. And if we see, for example, when Apostle Paul went to Athens, how many people there believed” There were so few people Dionysius, Heirosius and one woman named Damaris. And from one point of view someone might say that he failed. But until now, the Church continues without having stopped.
It is very important to understand that when the seed grows and becomes a large plant, that it will make new seeds, which will grow even more. You are the seeds. You will fall down in the earth of Taiwan and then we will grow more. Or across the Pacific Ocean, like me. Initially it is the duty of everybody to become a missionary. His body actually is the seed to grow. So, remember that everyone can be a seed.
And it is very interesting that the Apostles did not initially understand Jesus in this parable because a few people took Jesus aside and asked him to explain what he meant. Jesus said, “To you it is given to know the mysteries,” (the English translation is wrong here in saying the “secrets”.) because the Church has no secrets and the word mysteries appears in many other places. For example the unity of Jesus Christ and the Church is a great mystery. And also the union of man and woman in marriage is also a great mystery. It is not a secret, but it is a mystery, this union, the personal contact with God.
So the people could not understand what Jesus Christ meant since it was not a matter of intellectual study. For example, it was not like teaching mathematics, where people who do not understand mathematics will not understand anything. This is why Jesus Christ said “to you” to his deep apostles, even the seven: it is given by God to know the mysteries of God. Why? Because they had personal contact and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But to the others he quotes Isaiah, who said that God and the prophets speak in order that the people will not listen and their hearts will become even more like stones. Actually, I should explain that God does not say something to us to make us even worse than we already are. You can see that God made the heart of the Pharaoh like a stone so that the more Moses talked to him and the more miracles he saw, the more his heart became like a stone.
I will give you an example to explain the meaning: If your heart is like an egg, then when the fire of God, the uncreated light, when this warmth comes to us your heart will become thick like a hardboiled egg. It is our internal cultivation and attitude: if our attitude and cultivation are bad then the more God is coming to us, the more we will become aggressive to him. But if your heart is like this wax [picking up a candle] that comes from bees, then when we put it near fire it will melt. And this is why we have candles in the church, because with our light it will become warm and melts in front of God or the love of the Church.
So I will say to you to remember that the seed you received today in your heart, and today we celebrate St. Simeon the New Theologian, who says that human beings who receive the body of Jesus Christ are like a pregnant woman because they have Jesus inside of them and Jesus must grow in them. And this is the deep meaning of the icon of the Holy Mother holding Jesus: it says that you also are like the Holy Mother and you hold Jesus inside yourself, and though you do not give birth to Him as she did, still you give birth to Him inside yourself. As the Apostle Paul says, I am struggling to have Him grow in me.
And finally I wish that all of you and all of us may become seeds of Christianity in all the Chinese world. May the Holy Trinity protect all of us.
Recorder: Prof. Timothy Baker