July 16th, 2017. Fifteen Sunday in Ordinary Time. Matthew 13;1-23
Today we read a very familiar passage-a parable we have heard many times. Jesus speaks to us about the planting of seeds—about the soil, how it grows and ultimately the harvest. The soil is our souls and the seed is the Word of God. I think we would all like to imagine that our hearts are the good soil and that we do produce a good harvest. But perhaps the truth is that we are not as open to the Word of God as we should be, or that even though we try we don’t seem to producing the fruit of growing closer to Jesus and bring many others to Him as well. The reality is, is that we all need the fertilizer of God’s Grace to help us prepare the soil and help the seed grow in us and so bear fruit in our lives.
Today’s gospel points out the obstacles of the world which try to hinder us from allowing the word of God to fully take root in our hearts and minds, in the seedbed of our faith. It is a message, not of condemnation but of hope and encouragement. For the Word of God is powerful and effective and It can change the lives of those who listen to It and accept It into their hearts, even if in the past they have been rocky hard soil and have succumbed to obstacles. If they turn to Jesus and enter into His rest and allow him, He can prepare them to receive the Word, that is to receive Him, and so bear the fruit that will last for eternal life.
First, Jesus speaks of the devil who like a crow, steals away the seed before it even has a chance to grow. Our world today is full of the “spirit of the evil one”, the “father of lies.” Even though it has much good, our western culture nonetheless is one steeped in many, many lies, lies that lead to many injustices against those who are the most vulnerable. The lies are often justified with reasons such as “it’s my choice” or “it was for the good of other,” or it didn’t hurt anybody,” Or I deserved it.” And not only are great injustices done to others, there is also very little done to prevent injustices or to repair the damage once done (reparation).
In this environment the devil tries very subtly to make us question basic truths of our faith that come to us through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. It begins with a question we have about some aspect of our faith--nothing wrong with questions, questions mean our intelligence is searching for the truth; however, instead of forming our intellect and enriching our faith with and through the teachings of the Church, we choose to hear the voice of the world telling us the Church is wrong and out of date. The spirit of untruth tries to convince us that truth is not absolute but evolves and changes over time and according to individual circumstances and preferences.
To combat this obstacle to our faith, we discover that for the Word of God, which is ever constant and ever new, to take deep root in our minds and hearts, we must prepare the soil of our souls in order to make it good soil so the devil can’t snatch it away from us. We do so, by studying and meditating on the truth that comes from God, because God is Truth. This truth is from the Word of God found both in Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition. Sacred Tradition is the teachings of Jesus given to the Apostles and passed down through and by the Church in her official teachings and preaching. Sacred Scripture springs forth from Sacred Tradition as truths that have been written down through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for the sake of our salvation.
Additionally if we work the soil, the seeds of faith which are sown when we hear the Gospel proclaimed and explained each week can more and more begin to produce fruit in our lives and consequently we can begin to more fully have a living and vibrant faith. We need to humbly ask God for help in order to open ourselves more fully to the seed of God’s truth. And He will help us, if we do our part by listening more carefully to the prayers and readings, especially the Gospel, in order to understand and remember what we hear in the homily. Christ speaks to His people in and through His priest, however, limited and unworthy the priest may be. The priest may be a more or less effective homilist, his message may come through loud and clear or dull and garbled, it may seem too long, we may like him or not, but God nonetheless can and does speak to you and me through him, if we keep the soil ready. It’s the message that is important, not the messenger. And if the priest is not a good preacher then by your prayers and sacrifices you can make him better.
Other obstacles to the Word of God not taking root are similar. These obstacles stem from trials, persecutions, or from caring too much for material things or security. At the root of these obstacles is something fundamental to all humans and that is- we fear suffering, we do not like to suffer in any way. When we have trials our greatest fears are realized. In the midst of our trials we look at others who seemingly have no problems and we begin to think, “If God were really good, He would just change or remove all of my problems…maybe he doesn’t love me.”
Likewise, in persecutions, we fear being ridiculed for our faith. We don’t want to suffer being embarrassed or ashamed. We fear the loss of human respect, much more than offending our Blessed Lord. Or our fear also stems from our lack of knowledge of our faith which prevents us from being able to stand up to other’s who mock our faith and call the Church’s teaching into question. In caring too much about worldly and material security or comfort, we fear that we might have to do without or be inconvenienced.
In our efforts to overcome all of these obstacles, we discover that we have to suffer; suffering is a part of our life. Without suffering a little, we would not be able to grow in virtue and character in order to become stronger. Many suffer through great trials in order to obtain the things of this world—wealth, power and pleasure. We should be willing to sacrifice and even suffer as much or even more to grow closer to God and obtain union with Him and to lead others to Him. In our sufferings, especially in our sufferings for Christ, for His Holy Word and His Holy Church, St. Paul today encourages us not too lose heart; “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.”
Let us today, as we celebrate this Holy Mass, remember that blessed are we who hear and see. Let us enter into the rest of the Lord and ask Jesus to make our hearts the good soil for His work. He will do the work for us, He will carry our burden, if we but turn to Him in silence and lay open our souls before Him and let Him enter fully In. As we continue to hear the Word of God speak to us, let us hear with our ears; as we see the Word of God become Flesh in the Holy Eucharist, let us open our eyes and see; and as we receive the Word of God come to us—Jesus at Holy Communion, let us adore; all so that we may understand with our hearts and be converted and healed and so bear great fruit, the fruit of bringing many others into the eternal rest of the Lord. Let us ask our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel to help us to do as she did; that is, surrender all to God and He will do the rest!!! Amen. God bless you!