It’s hard to find things on social media that can actually catch your attention and stop your scrolling – but seeing the post “waited an hour to see ‘the corpse flower’ today” definitely was enough to pique my interest. The Amorphophallus titanium – the actual name for the “corpse flower” is one of the rarest and most unique plants in the world. It’s considered one of the largest flowers to bloom. It has one of the smelliest, foulest, and most repugnant of scents (hence the nickname, corpse flower) and what drives even more interest, is that it takes the plant over a decade for its huge lily-like – flower to finally bloom – and then after that, it’s bloom only lasts for a day before the bloom closes up and dies. The University of California, Riverside, Botanic Gardens shared a post on YouTube from the corpse flowers blooming that took place last week so you could see the plant open its bloom in a minute-long time-lapse video. There’s something so beautifully simple when you think about it – this plant has been nurtured, grown, cultivated, all for this one moment – these 24 hours where the fulfillment of its life will be on display for all to see – and then it will fade away.
Thanks so much for stopping by to read my homily for the 18th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME -July 31, 2022, for sharing it on your social media posts and your feedback and comments… I’m also grateful for all those who’ve asked for the audio version and share them as well at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. May the Lord be glorified in your reading and sharing Sincerely in Christ – Father Jim
Hearing about this plant and reflecting on this Gospel throughout the week, the message that kept hitting me was not particularly earth-shattering or breaking news to any of us – Life is fragile. Our time on this planet is unpredictable. For a vast number of us, that reality often hits us in dramatic, unexpected ways that are jarring – whether it’s some horrific story from the news of the inhumanity and evil that one person inflicts on others or when any of us have a loved one with a terrible diagnosis, or when we have had an unexpected loss in our families. Those moments snap us out of the ordinary, routine, day-to-day busyness of life that we so easily allow to manipulate all of our mental, physical, and sometimes even spiritual energies.
Most of us don’t like to think about the end of our lives – let alone talk about it. It can be upsetting and heavy, particularly on a hot day at the end of July when we’re on the cusp of August (forget the end of our lives, we’re probably wondering where is the summer going so quickly?) It’s jarring… and that’s why this gospel kind of catches us off guard.
Jesus sounds somewhat frustrated in this Gospel reading. Some guy in the crowd yells out to Jesus – “tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” This guy has probably seen or heard or experienced something that made it evident that Jesus has power, has authority. Maybe it was a miracle… Maybe it was Jesus’ preaching… Maybe it was just being in His presence – something made this guy discern that many people who’ve had problems, difficulties, struggles, and questions about life went to Jesus and found what they were looking for. So he decides to go to Jesus to share what was on his heart, what was troubling him in life. And what was that? His anger with his brother over his inheritance.
That’s where Jesus hits him with this short parable about the rich man who obsesses about his wealth, his possessions, his goods. He has such an abundance of them that he worries about what to do with this abundance. How can he better store everything? How can he find bigger barns, and warehouses for all his possessions? Not realizing that all of that will be meaningless that evening as his life will be at an end – and very starkly, Jesus tells him – none of that will matter to God.
In God’s creation, plants are fortunate. Their entire existence glorifies God by their very lives. They don’t have to make choices or decisions. They’re in a sense programmed to do what they do. The unique Amorphophallus’ entire existence for 12 years builds to this beautiful climax where the bloom is revealed (the scent is smelled) and God is glorified by it. And it’s over so quickly.
For you and I, this Gospel is a reminder that we do have to make choices, decisions that either glorify God or not – that preach his Gospel or diminish His presence to the world. He gives us the tools, the talents, the gifts, the abilities – the opportunities – to determine how we will bloom. But – none of us knows the length of time. That’s a part of the mystery of life and being a part of God’s creation. Heavy stuff – I know, particularly in the middle of the summer.
Yet maybe that’s why it’s good that this Gospel reading itself catches us in such a sudden, unexpected manner. How many New Year’s Resolutions have fallen by the wayside for us? How many Ash Wednesdays with our Lenten promises didn’t quite turn out the way we had expected or hoped… There seem multiple opportunities we’re given in our lives to “clean the slate” – to start over again. Rather than focusing on the past failures — all the opportunities we’ve had up to this point to change something about ourselves, our relationships with God, our relationships with our family and friends – the Gospel message is meant to constantly remind us of a Loving God, a forgiving God who never stops encouraging us, calling us, again and again, to try again – try again to make things right that need to be made right…
Those opportunities continue to be there. Maybe someone is coming to mind right now that you feel a nudge to make amends with. Maybe there’s something that’s been weighing on your heart for some time that you want to bring to confession. Maybe this call to examine how much I own, how much I possess, and how much I share – especially with the poor, those near to me – and those who are strangers are resonating in a way it never has. The Holy Spirit is going to hit each of us in a different way with this proclamation.
Whatever it is, we can be confident and are guaranteed that each and every day we wake up God our Father is patiently there waiting for us to choose to Glorify Him in our very lives. But where a sense of urgency comes from is that we don’t have a guarantee on how many mornings we will wake up… how many opportunities we have left to glorify God and choose to be a beautiful bloom in his Creation.