Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it… The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. (Mt 13:7, 22)
The “Word of God” means all the wisdom in Sacred Scripture particularly the four Gospels of Jesus Christ sown in the world for man’s salvation. It also means Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was always with God and of whom John the Apostle says all things came to be through the Word, and without the Word nothing came to be (Jn 1:3). Thus the Word of God also means God’s eternal providence expressed not only in Sacred Scripture but in creation itself establishing the very plan of the universe.
Catholics believe that there are two great revelations of God. The one we most speak of is recounted in the Holy Bible. God reveals himself to us in the Word through inspired writers who have recorded God’s activity in the history of the world. The other revelation, the one we speak less of and seem to have forgotten, is the world itself, the design of which makes clear the purposes of God. The purposes of God are not fleeting but eternal so that, for example, the creation of male and female is an everlasting principle of life fixed not only on earth but in heaven to be forever embodied in the Resurrection of the Body.
Now the reason why so many people today are falling away from the wisdom of the Word given by God in Sacred Scripture is because they have already fallen away from the wisdom offered in the world made by God. When we no longer believe that killing a child in the womb is wrong or that sexual activity between persons of the same gender is wrong, we have already come to reject the disclosure of God through the world. We have allowed our anxieties, fears and doubts sown by the devil in the world, to choke the revelation of God clearly shown in the schema of the world (Rom 1: 20-21). Not only this, but if we continue to reject the wisdom of God set in human nature, we will purpose to go against God and to falsely remake human nature in any image that relieves us of our swelling anxieties.
For this 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time we place on our bulletin cover a work by the Symbolist painter Odilon Redon, entitled Christ with Red Thorns (1897). Redon is said to have ushered in Surrealism. His interest in Asian and Western spiritual culture places him solidly within symbolic art and as an apparent successor of the likes of William Blake. He painted several meditations on Christ and while certainly not orthodox in intention, many serve as respectable images of Our Lord to be considered for deeper interpretation.
Here is Christ, hung upon the cross. He wears no crown of thorns. The thorns instead act as a climbing plant spreading out over the Christ figure attempting to creep and overtake the Passion and the cross. They even pierce the face of Christ, his human nature. This is symbolic in that Christ is the vine and we are His branches. Thus what we see here is a clash between vine and thorns; nature and grace against fabrication and corruption. This is what we are experiencing today: the great battle between original and immutable truth and diabolic and sham forgery.
-Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services