Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
“When much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable.” And when Our Lord had finished the simple parable, and as he looked at the crowd who had listened attentively, he said, “he that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Had the parable meant anything to them? Did they understand? Did one single person come to Him to ask for the explanation? There is no record of anyone doing so.
His disciples came and asked Him, “what might this parable be?” They had not understood. But they cared enough to ask for the explanation. Because they cared, he said, “Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.”
To others who cared neither for Him nor His words, the parables were only parables, interesting but not convincing. Their minds were like unfenced fields by a roadside, open to flocks of suggestions destructive of serious thoughts. Their minds were as shallow as the thin layer of soil in a rocky field. Their minds were overgrown with absorbing anxieties concerning riches and pleasures; they never could afford the time to think about the deep things of life. So they saw in a blurred way, but never saw clearly. So they heard, but they never really understood. The reason was that they never were inclined to take the pains to try. If they had been so inclined on the day they listened to the parable of the sower, they would have been as welcome as the disciples, and it would have been given to them to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.
You see how this parable may be used as a preparation for Lent? Lent is the time when we go to Our Lord to learn the deeper meaning of the many mysteries of the Kingdom of God. The Church unfolds them, season by season, through the Christian Year. The Collects, Epistles, Gospels and Lessons set them forth in order. The Liturgy commemorates what the Creeds contain and the Scriptures confirm. The Catechism inculcates the principles of the Sacramental life. The channels of Divine Grace are opened for our use. The path of the spiritual life is clearly marked. The voice of God is heard daily in His Church; if we have ears to hear. If we have, then it will be given to us to know the mysteries. If we have not, then the year of mysteries will be only a year of parables. Nothing will be real to us.
The question to ask ourselves is, “how real is our religion?” Is our religion the greatest force and the most absorbing interest in our lives? Does it sublimate all our lesser interests? Does it spiritualize every bit of our everyday life?
When we seriously question ourselves most of us will feel in sympathy with the crowd who lost so much of what Our Lord was trying to make them understand. You notice Our Lord did not rebuke them. He was only sad because they did not understand. And He read the secrets of their hearts and knew the reason why. They needed escape from the waysides, and the shallow places and the thorns of life, just as you and I do.
This is just what Lent can do for us. Lent can rescue us from the waysides and shallow places and thorns of life.
Affectionately in Our Lord,