Wednesday, September 24, 2014

power for conversion - the parables of Jesus

OT 15th Sunday                                                                      7-13-2014
Is 55:10-11          Psalm 65          Rom 8:18-23          Mt 13:1-9

I have been thinking about this parable recently and am reposting the homily from the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  First, because I think this parable is such an important message for out times.  Second, because I noticed some lines from the original posting that were missing - that were in the original homily but somehow were deleted.  Third, because I have recently been having some fun with adding pictures to the blog.  And, in this posting I am also adding the text of the gospel as the necessary text for contemplation.   In the Sunday proclamation, I recall reading only the shorter text for the sake of time.  Here in the blog I am including the longer text with the interpretation that Jesus himself gives.

Gospel MT 13:1-23
On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore. 
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow. 
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up. 
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. 
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots. 
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. 
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. 
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
The disciples approached him and said,
“Why do you speak to them in parables?” 
He said to them in reply,
“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;
from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 
This is why I speak to them in parables, because
they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understandIsaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You shall indeed hear but not understand,
you shall indeed look but never see.
Gross is the heart of this people,
they will hardly hear with their ears,
they have closed their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their hearts and be converted,
and I heal them
“But blessed are your eyes, because they see,
and your ears, because they hear. 
Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
“Hear then the parable of the sower.
The seed sown on the path is the one
who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it,
and the evil one comes and steals away
what was sown in his heart.
The seed sown on rocky ground
is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. 
But he has no root and lasts only for a time. 
When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
he immediately falls away. 
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. 
But 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.”


For three weekends this July we get to listen to parables from the Gospel of Matthew.  Today is the parable of the sower and the seed.  Next Sunday we will hear the parables of the wheat and the weeds, the mustard seed, and the yeast in the dough.  And at the end of July we will hear the parables of the buried treasure in the field, the pearl of great price, and the fishnet full of fish of every kind.

Parables are great.  They are multilayered, kind of like an artichoke.  Ever cook and eat an artichoke?  You pull the layers off to get the soft part of the leaf at the bottom.  Dip it in butter and eat it.  Yum.  Layer after layer.  Parables are like that.  So our job is to listen closely at Mass and ponder the layers of meaning.  When we give time to prayerfully study and meditate on the scriptures, then God is faithful to give us power for conversion.  Conversion of our own lives and of our community.

In order to hear scripture fruitfully I offer a little prayer I like to use.  Youve heard me say it before.  Its simple.  Something like this:
Lord, open my ears to hear your Word.  
Lord, open my mind to understand your Word.
Lord, open my heart to believe your Word.  
Lord, open my life to live out your Word.

Easy.  With that prayer to help us, lets go forward.  This first parable is the farmer who sowed the seed in the field.  Now, in any field, there is the main area that has good tilled earth, soft and ready.  This is usually the middle of the field.  And we know what the margins of the field are like.  Fence rows with weeds, paths, and rocky areas. So when sowing seeds - avoid the bad spots and farm where the seed will grow.  Right?

But Jesus farmer is different.  The seed is being thrown everywhere - on the path, on the rocky ground, in the middle of the weeds, as well as on the good soil.  Now remember, this parable is not really about farming techniques.  Instead, it is about Gods method for cultivating our souls.  So the sower is Jesus, the seed is the gospel, and our souls are the field.   God brings us his Word of salvation no matter what condition our souls are in.  In this parable Jesus teaches about what prevents us from growing in our faith.  So lets take a deeper look. 

Problem #1.  Ignorance.  This may be the #1 reason why some Catholics leave the Church.  We have a rich deposit of faith, but some people dont bother to study it and understand it. They come to Mass occasionally but not every Sunday.  They bring their kids to RE classes or Catholic school, but dont really practice the faith at home.  So the kids grow up ignorant of the faith because the parents never understood it or practiced it.   They dont want to grow in knowledge. They are ignorant of their faith.  And so they are easy prey for the devil, who comes to steal their faith.  They leave the Church.  They may go to another religion that tickles their fancy or they stop going all together.  How many people have lost their faith because of ignorance?  
never understood it or practiced it. 

People of God  Decide today to grow in knowledge of the faith.  Lets cultivate our souls through study of sacred scripture, sacred tradition, and church teaching.

Problem #2.  Shallowness. This is the 2nd problem Jesus addresses.  These people have some knowledge of the faith BUT there is not much of a relationship with Jesus and with his church.  They can be enthusiastic while times are good.  But when the difficulties come, then they fall away. They were never transformed by a deeper relationship with Jesus and his Church.  That relationship is cultivated through a personal commitment to ongoing prayer and worship.  But they dont do that and so they are shallow in their faith.  They are easy prey for the devil, who comes to steal their faith.  How many people have lost their faith because of spiritual shallowness?

People of God - let us make a decision today for spiritual depth.  Lets cultivate our souls by seeking true spiritual depth together through regular prayer and worship.

Problem #3.  Distractions.  This is the third problem Jesus addresses - distractions.   He specifically mentions anxiety and the lure of riches.  This one is so relevant for today.  We have many distractions.  There is so much noise all around us and even inside our heads.  It is easy for people to become completely distracted.  And then, before we know it, there is no time for personal prayer.  Sunday Mass is merely another option for the weekend.  Time for spiritual growth cant compete with work, or sports, or other activities.  The gospel of Jesus has no opportunity to change these people because there is no time or place for it.  They have a malnourished and shallow faith because of too many distractions.  And so they are easy prey for the devil, who quickly steals their faith.  How many people have lost their faith because of distractions?

People of God - let us make a decision today to set aside distractions and make Jesus and his Church our highest priority.  Lets cultivate our souls by putting God first.

God desires to cultivate our souls for the salvation of the world.  What the church does in Marion County truly matters  not just for our own community but even for the whole world.  So here is the guarantee of the Word of Christ we hear today.  A soul prepared by spiritual knowledge, spiritual depth, and spiritual focus will bear a rich harvest.  A harvest of love.  A harvest of service.  A harvest of holiness.  A harvest that can truly change the world.

Whoever has ears  let them hear!

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