This is my homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – JULY 10, 2011. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/071011.shtml. As always, thanks for reading and your comments and feedback. Always appreciate people taking time to read and respond… God Bless, Fr. Jim
This past Tuesday was a beautiful, 80 something degree, sunny, light wind blowing off the ocean afternoon. I had escaped for a few days down the shore and was enjoying the peace, quiet and tranquility of the afternoon. What made it a bit more quiet was, uncharacteristically, my family and some of their close friends who sit with them on the beach hadn’t arrived yet. But to be honest I was enjoying the solitude too much to notice.
Not exactly sure how much time had passed when I heard my Mother’s voice. She was still a little ways off, but she yelled to me “ I DON’T BELIEVE THAT… DID YOU HEAR???” “Hear what” I asked, somewhat startled out of semi-consciousness. “The Verdict!” (Do I even have to mention which verdict?) Before long the entire circle of family and friends had formed and a debate about the trial, the verdict not to mention a wider-variety of tangents ranging from dissecting what’s wrong with the justice system, our country, kids, parents, morality in general with everyone giving their theories, opinions and explanations. Even people at the circle next to us were chiming in.
Just your average, perfect, summer day on the beach, huh?
Very easily and quickly I got drawn into all of the discussions and debates myself. I found myself getting aggravated and upset with some of the conversation. I could feel the blood pressure starting to rise. And before I knew it, my peaceful, relaxing, beautiful day on the beach was spoiled (at least a little bit).
For those of us not into gardening and kill full grown plants so easily that we wouldn’t even think about messing with seeds… Just looking at this Gospel reading, it hit me that my less than perfect beach day could be a modern take on Jesus’ parable. Because in the past, when I’ve heard this parable, I kind of looked at it as Jesus is affirming us who are here week after week and kind of shaking his head in a mixture of anger and sadness at all those who don’t join us every week (or at all) . We’re the good seed, the good plants – they’re the rocky, weed infested soils…
But the more I’ve prayed with it, it seems that the point of the parable is to question us about the state of our own souls: How’s our soil. How open are we to God in our lives? Because one of the central things Jesus is asking us here is How easy is it for people, events, things to distract us? How easy is it for our faith to be undermined, our relationship with Jesus to be questioned, our joy in Him to be robbed?
On days when things are okay, when all is well with family and friends, we can come to Mass and feel reasonably comfortable that our faith is strong. But then we see our neighbor has that new car and we fixate on it and then we look at our dependable, reliable, paid off car with contempt… We see friends and relatives who are losing their jobs and we wonder how secure our job really is? A family member is rushed to a hospital and is awaiting results… There’s an unexpected death of a loved one… All of those somewhat random, but absolutely real things can shake our faith, cause us to doubt, unleash fear, makes us wonder – How present is Jesus to us? Is He really listening to our prayers? Why even bother praying; why follow Him when I can’t seem to get ahead, or even get by for that matter.
Everyone of us will at sometime endure weeds entering our soil… or there will always be something that disrupts our pleasant, sunny, beach days. The real-life crises and tragedies, the temptations that we endure (and sometimes succumb to) can make the most devout, devoted of believers begin to doubt. Which is why Jesus is gives us this bit of a pulse check, asking How is our soil, or rather our souls? How deep are our roots in Him?
Because he’s trying to tell us that it’s in the day to day, week to week, somewhat routine parts of life that we keep nourishing and deepening our relationship with Him that makes it possible to withstand those varied things that life throws at us and still remain faithful, still trust that He is with us, still know deep within that He is the only way, the only truth, the only life worth following. If we can attune our ears to His voice and set our eyes and see His presence in the everyday… if we allow His word to speak to us, His Body and Blood nourish us on a regular basis, then we are more and more confident that His grace is enough to help us endure whatever it is we face.
When we do, it’s true we might not see the miracle we want. God may not answer our prayers in the exact fashion we want (I know that’s often the case in my own prayer life). But here’s the thing, we will be okay with that, because we would know on a personal, intimate level that He does desire what is best for us. We might suffer through some painful situations, but our faith will be remain and even grow… Our seedlings would grow strong… even our beautiful beach days could endure a few disruptions without forgetting the beauty and peace that was there (and remained) before we were interrupted.