16 July 201715 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
15 Ordinary Time
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - A Cycle - Matthew 13:1-9

Mark Twain wrote: "Giving up cigarettes is easy. I do it a hundred times a week." Many of us, like Twain, grow easily discouraged from one broken resolution or other. If you do, today's parable has your name on it.

When this Gospel opens, Jesus is sitting by the Lake of Galilee. He is getting a tan and much needed beach time.

Leisurely He is reading the sports pages of a week old copy of the Jerusalem Times and sipping a glass of good red wine. Suddenly out of that famous nowhere appears a huge crowd.

He springs to His feet lest He be trampled by these happy friendlies. They clamor for what they think will be an impromptu lecture. The favorite outdoor sport of the Jews was to search out distinguished rabbis and drain them dry. Intellectual gymnastics was the Jewish idea of a good time. Today was the turn of our Jesus. Good-naturedly He obliges the almost playful group.

Remember Teacher is the Gospel term used most commonly of Jesus.

Since the microphone system was poor, some of His words were being lost. The crowd was pushing Him into the lake to better hear Him. Since He had showered that AM at the Holiday Inn, He did not need another bath. So, the Teacher nimbly lifted Himself into a large fishing boat drawn up on the sand. He obviously exercised. (Do we? If not, why not?) Seated in the bow, He continued His talk.

Incidentally, when was the last time you were sitting at the beach and a large mob surrounded you? And they shouted, "O great teacher, share your wisdom with us." Do you see now the type of Man we are lucky enough to follow? Have you sold Him short when He has so much to teach you? If yes, reconsider. Put this point into your mental computer. Matthew says this was the first parable Jesus spoke. So, He must have spent hours burning the midnight oil at His Sony laptop polishing it. This was to be His debut on the lecture circuit. Jesus knew one bomb and you were road kill. This is one more reason to pay this parable super attention. There is gold out there in those parable hills. We have to dig it out with some old-fashioned sweat. Even in the spiritual life, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Many others on the lecture circuit have used the parable method, but no one has matched the Master's skills. A literary critic wrote: "He is one of the world's supreme masters of the short story." How many short stories of de Maupassant or O Henry do you remember? Yet you know all of Christ's.

This is a parable of encouragement. It was meant for the apostles and ourselves. To the twelve, the Nazarene was numero uno. He was an original. Yet they were discouraged that so few were actually buying into Him. "Master, why so much effort and so few gold rings?" His answer was this parable. (William Barclay)

Even the dullest gardener among us does not expect every single seed he sows to come up singing roses. He knows the wind will blow some seeds away. The squirrels will grow fat on others. However, even the amateur gardener keeps on sowing. And he certainly does not give up expectations of a generous growth of flowers.

Jesus tells His own troops never to throw in the towel even when one's efforts seem an exercise in futility. People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway. (Kent Keith)

Think of of John Harvard here. In 1640, he came to the American colonies from England. He was a promising scholar. The New World appeared to be his oyster. But the poor fellow upped and died after but one year. His will gave $3500 and 200 books to a fledgling university. The school became Harvard University. Today it staffs a faculty of 1000 and has a student body of 10,000. It enjoys an international reputation. (Barclay)

John Harvard's death appeared to his contemporaries to be an abomination, but it produced riches beyond anybody's imaginings.

So, this parable of the Nazarene teaches that even if much of your labor or your money seems to go for nothing, do not allow yourself to go into a downer. The ballgame may well go into extra innings. Your honorable self may prove to be as much a winner as Christ Himself. Struggle on.

We mourn that the glass is half empty. With a smile, Jesus fills up the glass. Had Mark Twain taken this parable seriously, he would have ended his nasty cigarette habit. 
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
15 Ordinary Time
Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Where is the Seed Being Thrown?

Today's Gospel reading contains the Parable of the Sower. I have a story I like to tell in my wedding homilies that perhaps you have heard. It's great for weddings, but it also really fits today's readings.

The story is the story of the fussy vegetarian. A young women was committed to being a vegetarian, but she was never satisfied with any of the fruit or vegetables she bought. For her, all melons were too ripe, or not ripe enough. In her eyes, she could never find tomatoes that weren't bruised. Heads of cauliflower and broccoli were too big or too little. She was never happy.

Then one day, driving down Tarpon Avenue, she drove past a new store with a long line of people waiting to get in. She looked, and the sign said, God's Fruit and Vegetable Stand. "Finally,” she said, "I can get some decent vegetables and fruit.” So she stood on line and waited. Hours went by before she walked into that door. She was enveloped in light, but she didn't see any apples or oranges or tomatoes or cabbage, or anything to buy. She walked to the light, and there was a counter there. And behind the counter, there stood God. She could tell it was God because of the light, and because he had an apron on with a big G on it. Anyway, she placed her order, "I would like some perfect broccoli, and some perfect carrots, some perfect tomatoes and a perfect melon. Also, if you have perfect Brussel sprouts, that would really be a miracle.”

"Sorry,” God said, "I only sell seeds here.”

Actually, God doesn't sell seeds, He gives seeds to us. The seeds are his Word in its many expressions. But we have to do something with this gift. It simply is not enough just to hear the Word of God. We have to let it grow within us to such and extent that we are covered in its foliage. It is simply not enough to go to Church. We have to be Church. It is not enough to read the Bible. We have to be People of the Word.

The Divine Sower is throwing seed. And not a few seeds. He is throwing out big huge handfuls. He is pouring out his Word upon us. We've got to do something more than just let the seed hit the ground. We've got to be good soil. We have to nourish the Word of God. We have to strengthen it. We have to let it take root and grow.

So we hear the words: Love one another. That's nice. And useless. Useless unless we are able to look at that person in our family whose life has become the bane of our existence and make up our minds that we are going to end the vicious cycle of sarcasm, of silence, of nastiness, and maybe even of hatred. Let the Word of God take root and grow. We need to pray for that father who avoids us, and look for ways that he might enjoy our presence. We need to pray for the mother who snaps at us, and find a way to ease her burdens and fears. It may be something as simple as making dinner. We need to pray for that child who is both hurting and hurtful. We have to refuse to let him or her destroy himself or destroy us. Instead, we rebuild him with encouragement; we rebuild her with re-enforcement. Give children the opportunity to succeed. And support whatever success they might have, even if, like you and I, that success is imperfect. It is not enough for the Word of God to be scattered into a home. It must take root. When it is nurtured by our prayers, and cared for with our charity, it will grow.

This is where St. Paul comes in. St. Paul says in the second reading, "I consider the sufferings of the present nothing compared to the glory to be revealed to us.” Maybe this appears to be one of those lost statements. Something that we shelve until a crisis hits us. Wrong. To be a Christian is to accept suffering and accept the challenge of the Cross. It is a challenge and it is suffering for us to swallow our pride and forget about what he or she said or did for the sake of making love real in our family. That's not easy. Our pride does not like stepping aside. But that is how the Word of God will take root and grow.

The Divine Sower throws his Word on us to look with love and compassion on all the people in the world. We live under the constant threat of terrorism. Yet, for us to worship the Word of God and allow it to grow, we cannot return hatred with hatred. Yes, we must be protected from radical Islam, but if we allow these people to reduce us to hatred, then we are trampling the seeds of God under our feet. Have any of us prayed for the terrorists, prayed that they see that their actions are only destroying themselves? Let's be honest. It is hard to pray for them. In fact, it is suffering; particularly if you know someone who has been killed or hurt by terrorists or who has been sent to fight radical Islam. But we have to pray for them. And that hurts. Still, the suffering of this present life are nothing compared to the Glory that is to be revealed to us.

The Divine Sower is throwing seeds. He is begging us to let his Word take root. But how can it take root if instead of soil it is thrown into a cesspool? How can His Word grow when it is thrown into a society that condones immorality, even supports immorality, in the name of freedom and political correctness? How can it grow when we willingly participate in the worst of our society? Pornography is destroying our society. Men are treating women like objects, not like people of love. Women are letting it happen, even joining in, in the name of liberation. How can the Word of God take root in a place where the soil has been replaced with sewage? The Word of God can't grow in a cesspool. But it takes courage and suffering to stand up against the immoral aspects of society.

"Lord come and heal the pains of our lives, of our world” we pray. And He gives us what we need. He gives us His Word. But the Word is a seed. What are we going to do with it?

Today we pray for the courage to be good soil.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
15 Ordinary Time
Spiritual Warfare Week 4: Relax & Pray
(July 16, 2017)
Message: Relax. Pray. God's purpose will prevail.

Last week we saw that even though we are in a spiritual war, it does not mean constant combat. Jesus wants us to have time to retool. "Take my yoke upon you," he says, "and I will give you rest." He adds, "My yoke is easy and my burden light." Today Jesus gives a good reason to relax. He has already guaranteed the harvest. He tells about the good seed that produces a hundred, sixty or thirty-fold. For sure it faces obstacles - birds, stones, thorns - but they will not block its ultimate purpose.

Bishop Richard Sklba (in Fire Starters) observes, "Human instruments are frail and counter-forces may be many and often powerful, but God will prevail." Today's Gospel, he says, is "a parable of hope, possibly addressed to the disciples at a moment of deep human inadequacy." I have to admit I sometimes feel inadequate and get discouraged. Not so much at the state of the world. Or about our church although you can see many signs of decline (as well as rebirth). But I don't so much get discouraged about the world or the church as I do about myself. I thought that when I hit 70 I would have things together. I knew I would decline physically and mentally, but I thought by now I'd be better spiritually.

For sure I can get into a comparison game: I may not be a great saint, but look at that other guy. You know what I mean. The comparison game can also work in a positive way. When I compare myself with men like Fr. Augustus Tolton, St. John Paul or (pause) Archbishop Sartain, I sense how much more I could achieve - with God's help.

Today's parable has a powerful message for me - and for you if you also sometimes get discouraged. The message is: It's not about me. And it's about you. It's about Jesus. Yes, let's try to be the best we can, but it's not about us. It's about God. He will bring the harvest. The obstacles in our lives can seem like thorns and sharp pebbles, but God will bring the harvest. This is powerfully illustrated by the Lord of the Rings. If you remember the novel or the movie, it follows Frodo the Hobbit - a halfling, three feet tall. Frodo has to take the Ring of Doom to the one place it can be destroyed. He struggles to get up the mountain and Samwise has to carry him the final stretch. Frodo arrives at the ledge where he can throw away the ring. He cannot do it. Samwise pleads, "Please Mister Frodo, throw it in the fire. Just let it go!" Of course he can't. In the end the ring has to be torn from him - along with his ring finger.

Today's parable is like that. God purpose will prevail. One way or another, in spite of obstacles and counter-forces, God's purpose will prevail.

It may take time, but God's purpose will win out. As young priest I was assigned with a pastor about ten years older than me. With us we had a senior priest - a sweetheart of a man. Or so I thought until I rode in a car with him. When a driver got too close, he started to shout and shake his fist. I covered my Roman collar. I had never heard him swear - until that car ride.

Getting back to the rectory, I tell the pastor about the uncontrolled rage. Do we need an intervention? Maybe call the Archbishop? Relax, he says. This has been going on for a long time. Celebrate his positive qualities - and pray.

God did have his way of working things out. In this case the elderly priest lost his license. As you can imagine, he wasn't happy. It was like Frodo getting the ring torn off. Also like Frodo, after the worst happened he was at peace, deep down relieved. I know people get discouraged about long time debilities - anger, obsessions, over-indulgences, compulsions, greed, self-pity. Not that we should make peace with our demons. Keep asking for daily grace. At the same time, relax. God's purpose will prevail.

We'll see another aspect next Sunday when Jesus speaks about weeds sown among wheat. Today recall the words of Isaiah: As rain comes down and does not return until making the earth fertile so "my word shall not return to me void but shall do my will." Relax. Pray. God's purpose will prevail. Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
15 Ordinary Time
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Classic
Matthew 13: 1-23

Gospel Summary
This parable about the sower of seeds is the first of seven parables that Matthew placed in the center of his gospel. Each of the parables adds a specific dimension to the reality that Matthew has described in the previous two chapters: although there are disciples who have begun to believe in him, Jesus is experiencing much rejection.

In the parable, the sower goes out and sows a great amount of seed. For various reasons much of the seed does not come to fruition. However, some of the seed that fell on rich soil produces an extraordinary amount of fruit.

The disciples then ask Jesus why he speaks in parables. Jesus, quoting a prophecy of Isaiah, enigmatically replies that parables both reveal and conceal the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. Many, even though they hear the words of a parable, refuse to recognize the voice of divine wisdom calling them to conversion of heart and to healing.

Matthew concludes this section by having Jesus amplify the parable of the sower by transforming the meaning of the seed from the word which initiates life in the kingdom, to the person who is called to life in the kingdom. Some persons hear the word without understanding its deeper meaning; some receive it, but fall away when tribulation comes; some hear it, but worldly anxiety and greed choke off the life it gives; some hear the word, understand it, and bear an extraordinary amount of fruit.

Life Implications
Jesus tells us the good news that the seeds of God's kingdom have been abundantly sown everywhere in the world. Despite all the violence and despair that threaten us, we can live in hope. God's kingdom has already come, will continue to grow, and will ultimately triumph. Henry David Thoreau remarked: "Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders."

The human-divine mystery of God's kingdom means that we cannot grasp its meaning as we do the realities of this world. It is only in the humble attitude of prayer that we may receive the gift of faith's understanding and conversion of heart. " . . . although you [Father] have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike" (Mt 11:25).

Jesus warns us that even if we have heard his word, worldly anxiety or greed can destroy our Christian life. Today, in our celebration of the Eucharist we pray that the Spirit will grant us faithful perseverance in living according to Christ's word so that God's kingdom will flourish beyond measure.

Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

15th Sunday of the Year, Modern
Sunday, July 16, 2017

Lectionary 103 Gospel: Matthew 13: 1-23

It is appropriate that in the warm days of mid-summer we should have readings at mass that reflect on life through the lens of planting and harvesting. After all, this is the time when the corn is more than knee-high and gardeners are eagerly awaiting ripe tomatoes, loads of zucchini, and other fruits of the earth. We begin our scriptural harvest with the prophet Isaiah, who announces the Lord's promise that his word is like rain falling upon the earth during the growing season, "making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats.” He concludes, "thus shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void” (Isa 55:10-11).

The Psalmist next carries on this theme, praying: "You have visited the land and watered it; greatly have you enriched it” (Ps 65:10), and we answer as a congregation by responding repeatedly: "The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest”. Saint Paul continues the agricultural reflection as he uses images of natural growth and development to illustrate how our human lives are like the rhythm of planting, waiting, withering, and finally enjoying the harvest whose arrival did not always seem so sure. He writes: "the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God” (Rom 8:18-19).

Finally we come to our Lord's parable of the sower and the seed in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew's Gospel. After presenting the familiar image of seed that falls without bearing a harvest, Jesus tells his hearers exactly what it is that makes the "good seed” yield such a rich harvest: "the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold” (Matt 13:23).

Two things are brought to our notice here: first, we are the seed; that is, each one of us contains the potential for a bountiful harvest. Whether we bear fruit or not depends on the second point: our listening carefully to the word and putting it into action. The word is the message of the Kingdom of Heaven, which is not like our world; it is frighteningly beyond all that we experience, yet it is also within grasp. The Kingdom requires growing pains at times, and helps us to flourish at other times, all the while drawing us closer to the vision of justice and love which is its essence.

What is said of planting and harvesting that people in our Lord's era would have immediately recognized is also true of life in general: it is a fragile process; it sometimes looks like it will flourish only to be nipped in the bud, and on the other hand it can turn up a greater yield than ever imagined. This sounds good, but what about our Lord's words in response to the question "Why do you speak to them in parables?” He replies, "Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich” (Matt 13:10-11).

Knowing that the Kingdom of Heaven is both here and still coming, impossible, yet utterly attainable, let it be our prayer that the mystery of the Kingdom and our desire for it might grow like the crops of the fields, stretching and discomforting us at times but eventually yielding within us a bounty of "a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold” (Matt 13:23).

Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
15 Ordinary Time
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today we are given a rather agricultural parable for our consideration and we might think that Jesus would have been sure that the people would easily understand his meaning since their whole lives were spent so close to the land.

'Well certainly not according to the text. And it seems that the Apostles were just as baffled as the people, even so far as finding it necessary to ask Jesus why he was using parables that apparently no one could understand.

Jesus then launches into a quotation from Isaiah stating that people will listen but not understand. He then initiates them into the inner meaning of the parable and how it is essentially all about our receptiveness or lack of it to the Word of God.

Of course, once you understand Jesus' method of speaking in parables it doesn't take very much to understand the content of his message. Once you adopt a particular way of thinking about them, their true intent quickly emerges. Parables are, as we know, stories which operate on a number of different levels. They usually make perfect sense when they are taken at face value but then after further examination the parables also yield up another level of meaning relating to the Kingdom of God.

It seems Jesus' intent therefore is to keep the real message of his teaching somewhat obscure so that it is only able to be understood by the determined listener. Actually, this method is a good one because it means that the more determined listeners when they gain insight into the meaning of a particular parable feel as though scales have dropped from their eyes. This good feeling that comes when they have gained insight into Jesus' meaning excites them and fills them with hope.

These determined listeners start to listen to Jesus always expecting that there is a deeper meaning below the surface of the words he speaks to the people. They end up paying very careful attention to the actual words that he uses and they are soon imprinted on their memory. In this way Jesus has ensured that his message is enduring because it will remain in the minds of his followers who will never forget what he has to say.

We should not think that Jesus is being tricky here or making things difficult for ordinary people. He has an important message and he wants it to be accepted by everyone but he realises that people only value those things that they have had to work for. He understands that his deeper message should not come too easily otherwise it will not be valued.

More than this, the fact that the parables need explanation means that people are needed to do this explanation. Obviously, this starts with the disciples but then the circle widens and more and more people are drawn into the role of teachers of the faith, or catechists as we call them today. This helps in the formation of a structure for the early Church and provides it with a way of deepening the beliefs of the people.

As an increasing number of people end up reflecting on the content of the faith in the context of their everyday lives they find that their spirituality becomes ever deeper and more profound. Their faith deepens, and this has an effect on their prayer lives and on the morals that they choose to live by.

It would be true to say that the parables are the seed-bed for the development of a truly Christian theology.

This parable about the Sower and the Seed is rather interesting. Of course, we have to ignore the fact that the farmer in the story is very inefficient. A proper farmer would have spent good money buying seed and would not waste it by scattering it willy-nilly. He would ensure that as much as possible fell in the good soil where it would produce the very best results.

But we are dealing with God and his Word here and not a real farmer with real seeds. And God can afford to be extravagant and indeed we know that he spreads his Word far and wide seemingly quite careless of the reception it gets. This is actually a good lesson for us; because we tend to think that the Word of God is to be found primarily in the Church or in other holy places, but actually this is not so.

The Word of God is to be found absolutely everywhere. For many years I worked in a prison and you would be surprised how often discussions about God and the meaning of life took place among the prisoners. When I talked to them about beliefs and the truths of the Gospel I usually found them to be very interested and they always had questions and wanted explanations about the things they read about in the Gospels.

Much less interested were my people back in the parish; they tended to be preoccupied with other matters such as bringing up their children and getting promoted at work. Good people though they were, it was always more difficult to get them into discussions about the meaning of life of the place of prayer or other important topics.

So, God is very liberal and he lets his Word fall in all sorts of different places and we find that it is quite difficult to work out what constitutes the good or bad soil we heard about in the parable. What to us might appear to be rather good soil may turn out to be completely infertile. And people and places that we think might turn out to be unreceptive to God's Word may actually be where it is embraced most fully.

The point of the reading is that we should constantly ask ourselves what kind of soil we are? Are our hearts full of stones or thorns? Or are our hearts places of rich and fertile soil that enables the Word of God to bear a rich harvest? Do we see his Word multiplying before our eyes? Is the harvest that we bring in going to be a hundredfold or something far more modest?

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