Sunday, July 13, 2008

15th Sunday - homily

I would like to offer a guided meditation on today’s Gospel almost as if we were on retreat and taking a step back on our relationship with God. This parable – the parable of the sower – is often used on retreats as a way to look at our relationship with God and see where we are and have been. Whenever we come to Mass or even enter into prayer, it is like a retreat in the sense that we take a break from the busy-ness of our everyday lives. We see if we’ve been hearing what God has been saying to us or if we’ve ever heard him speaking to us. If we haven’t, then we try to see why not. It is an opportunity for us to see if we are doing God’s Will which is we are here in the first place.

The parable of the sower helps us to see if we hear the word of God and understand it. The sower is God, the seed is the word of God, and the soil is us. The parable teaches us that God speaks to all because his seed goes to all areas. So, He is speaking to me to each one of us; the question is, then, is each one of us hearing Him? If not, why not? Jesus offers three reasons why not.

First, it could be the Devil or demons who have stolen the word of God from our lives just like birds would steal seed from a path. Second, we might be careless or uncommitted in hearing the word of God like someone who is careless in allowing soil to become rocky ground; we just might not care about hearing the word of God. Third, thorns might choke the word in our lives; Jesus says these are worldly anxieties or riches. Are there thorns in my life? If so, what are they?

Most of us were raised Catholic. We heard the word of God growing up from our parents, priests, and teachers. And, we lived it; even if it was by rote, we lived the word of God. Then, as we got older, we met the world and its riches. In high school, it was popularity or acceptance. In college and in the business world, it was success, money, power, fame, possessions, or pleasure. Have these things choked the word of God in our lives? If we doubt whether the things of this world are opposed to Christ, then we only need to look at one image from our Lord’s passion: the world choked the head of Christ with a crown of thorns. The riches of this world can choke the word of God like thorns in our lives.

The only option for us to bear fruit in our lives, Jesus says, is to hear the word of God and to begin to understand it. It’s the only way to do God’s Will and to find happiness. I’ve known many people who have gone on retreat and heard the word of God with regards to the Eucharist for the first time. They heard the teaching and understood it, and it changed their lives. They understood that the teaching is for real. They understood that the Eucharist is for real. They understood that our faith is for real. The teaching on the Eucharist is a great starting point for us to hear the word of God and to understand it.

When we hear the word of God and begin to understand it, it takes root and bears fruit. This is how we do God’s Will. The first reading says that this is the purpose of our lives on earth. We have been sent to bear fruit. When we hear the word of God, we bear fruit, do God’s Will, thus achieving the end for which we have been sent.


At 5:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, He is speaking to each one of us, but some of us aren’t hearing Him. Based upon the homily, the following are (some) reasons why:

Devil or demons- some evil force at work
We’re careless or uncommitted
We’re indifferent
We allow money, fame, possessions, success or pleasure to get in the way

I’m hardly alone in stating that I have many responsibilities. I’m raising children, helping a spouse, caring for a parent- all things that, were I NOT to do them, would be considered morally reprehensible. I’m NOT careless, indifferent, uncommitted or wanting for things, and I don’t think there’s “evil” at work in my life. However, it’s hard to quite the noise, and some of my responsibilities are the very things that “choke” me. I have a hard time hearing that I must be acting erroneously if I don’t get what God wants. I don’t know if I could say that I know God. I know good people, and I’d like to think their goodness is a reflection of Him. More than that, I don’t know, but it’s NOT for a lack of willingness or desire. God reveals Himself to each of us in his own way and in His own time. If that happens on retreat for some- great! If it’s a lifelong courtship for me, I’ll have to be okay with that, but I don’t believe I’m doing something “wrong” if I’m having a hard time hearing Him.

At 10:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...we take a break from the busy-ness of our everyday lives."

...Hmmm... what are the results of the busy-ness of our everyday lives? A busy-mess of our everday lives?

Both are busy, maybe that's the underlying problem. Perhaps we need to slow down a little so we can hear God's words.

At 11:55 PM, Anonymous Why does my brain work like this? said...

I don’t see how the Devil or demons steal God’s word from us. They may steal our ability to be open to His word, but they can’t steal His word. His word is eternal. What do I not understand here? And then…..should I be frustrated that I can’t see how a bird stealing seed from a path is bad? Is it bad that the seed may not be used as intended? God was pretty smart when he made the universe, of which birds are part of. When a bird eats seed from a path, that seed may not produce the intended crop, but it will help produce the energy the bird needs to fly to another plant, stop, rest and pollinate it, helping to keep our food chain alive. His word (seed) may provide the energy needed to sing beautiful songs, enlightening our lives, or to sit on its eggs in the springtime. God’s seed always yields something. We simply have to keep our “soil” fertile and healthy enough to able to see, hear, smell, touch and taste the “something” His word yields.

At 4:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First anon: I too have no sense of God in my life and the more I try, the stronger my unbelief becomes. I cannot find the source of the problem, unless chronic depression can do it. I too am busy, hard-working, and committed, and I am not at all attached to material things. Sometimes people's explanations for others' lack of faith seem oversimplistic and a bit defensive.

At 10:26 AM, Blogger fran said...

Perhaps I am wrong, but I don't think the intent behind the parable of the sower, is to point out who is doing "right" or who is doing "wrong," based upon whether or not we hear, sometimes hear, or fuzzily hear the word of God.

To me, it is more of a "wake-up" call, and as was stated in the homily, one which prompts us to evaluate where we are in our relationship with God. There is no "right" or "wrong," but more of an "is there room for improvement?,"(in my case there is always room for improvement!) and then what changes can I make in my life to hear Him more clearly; to allow what I am hearing to take firmer root.

In yesterday's morning mass homily there was discussion of why more parishioners do not take advantage of what is offered in the parish - daily mass, Friday night Adoration, bible study. These are all opportunities to hear God. Why not let them be a starting point to hear God, or to deepen a budding or ongoing relationship with Him? To be a part of these parish offerings is, as the first Anon so appropriately put, to NOT allow the busy-ness of our lives to "choke" us.

At 10:34 AM, Blogger fran said...

I should have also said that the opportunities a church or parish offers are also there for those who wish to begin a relationship with Christ.

At 2:25 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

Recently I read about a parish in Massachusetts that is raffling off gas cards to encourage attendance at Mass. Somehow this practice doesn’t sit right with me.

I can understand wanting to get more people in the door, in hopes that the seeds of faith will grow, or that more parishioners will make Mass a regular part of their week. But if one needs the extrinsic motivation of a door prize to walk into a church, how meaningful is it for one to “go through the motions” of the Mass? The efficaciousness of the Sacraments may not be dependent on the recipient’s righteousness, but is it not dependent on having some level of faith?

I wonder also whether just going through the motions shows respect for the Sacraments. My husband has a step-niece who has never been baptized, much to the distress of my faithful in-laws. They think the child (now a teenager) should have been baptized, even though her father is an atheist and her mother has long since turned away from the Church. Would it really have been appropriate for the girl to be baptized when the parents had no faith and thus no intention of rearing her in a community of faith?

At 2:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 4:37-

It’s not that I have NO sense of God. In fact, I’ve faulted God with a lot my troubles, and my lack of an understandable relationship was high on the list. The way I’ve been able to make peace for myself is to accept that all happens in God’s time, not necessarily mine.

That homily kind of brought up my issues; at a point, I’d thought about walking away (from the church), mostly because there have been times I’ve come away (from the church) thinking I’d done something or not done something that explained my being confused, unsure and even doubtful. The thing that held me in place is my solid belief that He is at work in all things. At the moment, I’ve a strangle hold on the idea that God does what is best, even if I don’t understand it. That belief, honestly, may be more out of self preservation than faith, but isn’t there a saying about acting as if one has faith leading to faith?

There was a little thing I read about a conversation between mother & daughter regarding God’s plan-

The daughter came home from school with a laundry list of awful things that happened during her school day. She “hated school and was never going back!” Her mother asked her if baking the daughter her signature chocolate cake would make it better. The daughter said of course. So, the mom handed the daughter an egg and said, “Here, you can start by having a bite of this raw egg. Then I have a spoonful of baking soda you can eat next. I also have a stick of butter for you to chomp on while I get the other ingredients.” The daughter said, “Gross! Raw eggs, a stick of butter- you expect me to eat those things alone?” The mom explained that life was like her chocolate cake. Many different ingredients go into it, all in their own measure and in their own time. Isolated, the ingredients would be “gross,” but placed in the bowl in the correct order and in the correct proportion, you end up with a beautiful result. She told her daughter to chalk her awful day at school up to “one raw egg.”

Maybe I don’t understand what God wants from me or for me, but He does want me. Listening- never my strong point. Best I can do, right now, is what I think is right and have faith that He’s working my life with me.

OMT, part of our humanness is the quality of being fractured, and it’s not a quality we’re meant to overcome. We’re designed to be fearful, anxious, angry, happy, joyful and peaceful beings, for how can we understand good without experiencing the rest? So, when I hear a homily about, for example, being anxious meaning we don’t have faith in God, it strikes me as ridiculous. I can think of a time I listened to a homily and felt unfaithful that I was fearful about a situation over which any sane person would feel trepidation. That's more the sentiment that I was reacting to, though it wasn’t one expressed in this homily.

At 11:35 AM, Blogger fran said...

"So when I hear a homily about, for example, being anxious meaning we don't have faith in God, it strikes me as ridiculous."

"Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves' but he was asleep. They came and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" He said to them, "Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?"
Matthew 8:24-26

"Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said, "Why could we not drive it out?" He said to them, "Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
Matthew 17:19-20

It's not about the quantity of faith that any of us possesses, but rather, how we rely on and live the faith we do have. Even if it is "little."

p.s. Anon, I liked the story of the "cake." I will have to share it with my children. Thanks!

At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Fran,
You always have something good to add.

“It's not about the quantity of faith that any of us possesses, but rather, how we rely on and live the faith we do have. Even if it is ‘little.’”

I’ve realize that I have a tendency to listen to matters of Catholic faith with the ears of a Protestant, and I don’t quite know why. When I hear preaching about faith in the midst of trials and tribulations, it often sound to me as if our normal human emotions should be absent if our faith is big enough. I hear, if that isn’t the case, then we aren’t being faithful. I hear is that if our faith is first then we won’t have those things, but that’s simply not how life works, and I don’t believe it’s how it is meant to work. Instead, I believe faith isn’t the absence of those things (fear and anxiety, for a few) but about how we do what we do in the midst of them. Sometimes, however, that’s not the message I hear expressed from the pulpit.

I consider it a good day when I am having troubles and they don’t rule me. Maybe I’m worried, but if I don’t let the worry direct me- if I leave enough space for God too, He’ll take care. That’s my faith, and that’s what takes a big load off. It’s my working definition of Let Go & Let God.

At 5:55 PM, Blogger fran said...

Hi anon,

I promise this will be my final 2 cents on this topic... a couple of thoughts crossed my mind as I was reading your post.

I understand totally your thoughts on "what we hear" vs. "what is being said." We all have different perspectives, or ways of interpreting the same topic don't we? Sort of akin to the "glass half full; half empty" scenario.

On a personal note: I have been dealing with a situation which has kept me on an emotional roller coaster for the past year and a half. (Have never been a fan of roller coasters!) While I would not say that my faith was diminished or lacking, I would say that I was beginning to lose hope. I think sometimes the lines between losing hope and lacking faith are blurred when we face challenging life situations. Maybe this is what you are experiencing. Just a thought. Your "let go and let God" approach is definitely a good one.


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