Introduction: Today’s readings are about the transforming power of the word of God when read, preached, and lived. They also warn us not to be disappointed at the absence of immediate results. We must take a positive and optimistic view of our missionary efforts, as we keep on bearing witness to Christ’s Gospel. The parable of the sower in today’s Gospel challenges us to listen intently to God’s Word, to be open to it, and to allow our lives to be shaped by its power. The parable reminds us that man’s reception of God’s Word is determined by the condition of his heart. (You may add an anecdote).
Scripture lessons summarized: In the first reading, Isaiah consoles the Jewish slaves in Babylon, assuring them that, like rain and snow which water the earth so that seeds may sprout and grow, God’s word will accomplish its purpose, in this case by returning the exiles to their homes in peace as God promised. In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that just as seeds must fall into the earth and die to produce abundant crop, the pain and sufferings God permits in our lives help our redemption. Paul wants us to wait for our eternal reward while we continue sowing the word of God diligently and suffering for the Lord, as he did. Today’s Gospel teaches us that the word of the Lord is the seed, and our hearts and minds are the soil. The seed’s good spiritual yield in one’s life depends on how fully one willingly accepts and responds to the word of the Lord. The yield arising from the positive response will be abundant beyond all imagining. The parable tells us to do our part by preparing fertile soil in our hearts in which the word of God can germinate, grow, and yield 30-, 60, or 100-fold.
Life messages: 1) We need to assess our use of the word of God. We need to read the word of God every day, starting with a prayer to the Holy Spirit for the gifts of attentive reading and the ability and willingness to apply the message we receive to our daily living. When we listen to the word of God as read and preached in the Church during the Holy Mass, we need to pay full attention to the message given by God Who uses the priest as His instrument. We also need to ask God’s special grace to remove all types of blocks, like laziness, anxiety, worries, and the burden of unrepented sins, any of which can prevent the word of God from influencing and transforming our lives. When we receive Jesus, the Word of God and the Source of the word of God, in Holy Communion we need to ask him to transform our lives so that we may see Jesus in all of us (for we are all brothers and sisters in Him), and share with each of them Jesus’ unconditional love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. 2) We need to keep our spiritual soil fertile and prepared for the word of God: We need to keep our hearts open to the word of God instead of closing it with pride, prejudice, fear, or laziness. We have to remove from our hearts the weeds like evil habits and addictions, evil tendencies, hatred, jealousy, fear, and greed. We should not allow the trials and tribulations of this world, the cares of this world, our ambitions, or our desires for worldly success and happiness to choke out the messages that God gives through His word.
OT XV [A] (July 12) Is 55:10-11; Rom 8:18-23; Mt 13:1-23
Homily starter anecdotes (Biblical reason why preachers may use anecdotes in their homilies? Mt 13: 34: All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable).
# 1: Sonora 64 and IR 8: Agricultural scientists like Dr. Norman Borlaug from the U.S., Dr. M. S. Swaminathan from India, and Dr. Gurdev Khush from the Philippines proved to the world that seed has enormous power in it to save a nation from poverty. In the sixties, political scientists were predicting massive worldwide famine, acutely hitting countries like India with its 440 million people and leaving millions to starve. There was, however, one scientist who saw things differently. His name was Dr. Norman Borlaug an agronomist from the U. S. who went to India with a seed called “Sonora 64,” a wheat seed he developed at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in Mexico. Borlaug convinced the Indian agricultural scientists and the government authorities to give it a try. They planted some Sonora 64 wheat in the Punjab region of India. The results were spectacular and soon they were using it throughout the subcontinent. Later, they introduced a new variety of rice, called IR8, developed by Dr. Gurdev Khush at the International Rice Research Institute at Manila, Philippines, and it brought even better results: It increased rice production five-fold without using chemical fertilizers and ten-fold by using chemical fertilizers. These new seeds enabled India and other Asian countries to avert famine. Today with 1,378,604,014 people (as of Monday, May 25, 2020—www.Worldometers.info), India produces a food surplus and has become a major rice exporter, shipping nearly 4.5 million tons in 2006. Here we see the power of a seed. Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel about the far superior power of the word of God. [Fr. Phil Bloom (http://www.homilies.net/e/E-08-07-13.asp).] Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
# 2: Moso bamboo’s surprise growth: The Moso (Phyllostachys pubescens) is a bamboo plant that grows mostly in China and the Far East. Moso bamboo is the largest of the cold-hardy bamboos, growing to a height of 75 feet with a diameter of eight inches. After the Moso is planted, no visible growth occurs for up to 50 days – even under ideal conditions! Then, as if by magic, it suddenly begins growing to its full height of 75 feet within 42 days. The Moso’s rapid growth is due to the miles of roots (rhizomes) it has developed during those two months of getting ready. Jesus’ parable of the sower invites us to be patient when we fail to achieve instant results from the preaching we do, and from our exemplary lives of bearing witness to Jesus and his Gospel. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
# 3: Sowing imported seed to start a broom manufacturing industry: Outstanding among the heroic founders of the United States was Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790). Printer, author, publisher, inventor, scientist, businessman, thinker, statesman and diplomat, Franklin was a great blessing to the U.S and to humanity. One day he received a gift of a whiskbroom from India. He noticed a few seeds fastened to wisps of the broom. Franklin planted them. When the first crop came up, he distributed the seeds among his friends and neighbors. Their crops flourished. Thus, Franklin was responsible for introducing broomcorn into the American colonies and starting the American broom manufacturing industry. Today’s Gospel challenges us to do something like that, using the high yielding seeds of the word of God freely given to us. (Msgr. Arthur Tonne). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Introduction: We all realize the sad truth that only a few professing Christians are really living productive spiritual lives. Hence, today’s readings invite us to take a positive and optimistic view of the missionary efforts we make, and to continue to bear witness to Christ’s Gospel through our transparent Christian lives, instead of turning cynical and becoming depressed. In the first reading, Isaiah, in the midst of a desert, can feel sure of the approach of spring for his people. Like Isaiah, all religious reformers confidently depend on the power of God’s word. In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that suffering is part of creation (seeds must fall into the earth and die in order to produce a fruitful life) and suffering and death produce redemption. Paul is expectantly waiting for his eternal reward, as he has sowed the word of God diligently and suffered for the Lord. Today’s Gospel assures us that, since God is in charge, He will bring the harvest, and it will be abundant. We need not despair if that harvest is not immediately visible. The Church in every century has seen people reject Christ, as illustrated in the parable of the sower. The parable tells us to do our part by preparing fertile soil in our hearts for the word of God to yield 30-, 60- or 100-fold. We are to imitate the farmer who loses no sleep over a few seeds eaten by birds or a few suffocated seedlings. He knows well that the harvest will depend on the quality of the soil and the care and attention the seed receive.
The first reading (Isaiah 55:10-11) explained: The prophecies collected in Isaiah, chapters 40-55, are known as the Book of Consolation. Written for the exiles who would return from Babylon to Judah, the chapters are meant to comfort the dispirited people. There are promises of fertile land and restoration, water for the thirsty, and secure defense against enemies as the result of Yahweh’s power, and mercy. What Isaiah means is that, like rain and snow which water the earth so that seeds may sprout and grow, God’s word will accomplish its purpose, in this case, to return the exiles to their homes in peace. Their return will be an everlasting memorial to the power of Yahweh’s word. Thus, today’s passage promises spiritual fertility. It implies that God will make the peoples’ religious lives fruitful, as He has done for their land. And it could bespeak a promise that God will make fruitful the work of the prophet, whose job it is to proclaim God’s word. In this reading and in today’s Gospel, we are assured that God shares His abundance with us and that His plans will not be frustrated. That is why Jesus in today’s gospel talks about the wonderful effects on human life from the rain-like Word of God.
The second Reading (Romans 8:18-23) explained: In this passage, descriptions of our spiritual distress are combined with descriptions of nature’s distress. Following in Jesus’ footsteps, Paul reminds the community in Rome of their obligation to trust God’s word. But he does not use Isaiah’s farming imagery. Instead, Paul states that the sin of Adam has brought corruption both to humankind and to nature. Genesis 3:14-19 describes nature turning against the convicted Adam and Eve. For Paul, then, what God is doing for us in Christ will redeem, not just mankind, but nature too. Paul uses agricultural imagery when he explains to his readers that they enjoy “the first fruits of the Spirit.” Paul advises us to be patient in awaiting redemption and the kingdom.
Gospel Exegesis: A parable to boost morale: The word “parable” comes from the Greek word parabole, which means putting two things side by side in order to confront or compare them. And that is exactly how Jesus uses parables: He places a simile from life or nature against the abstract idea of the reign of God. Jesus’ parable of the seed sown in various soil types was an attempt to boost the morale of his frustrated disciples. They were upset and discouraged because they realized that their master was facing opposition and hostility from the scribes, Pharisees and priests. The synagogues refused to admit him to preach. So, Jesus had to go to beaches and hillsides. Some of the Pharisees were planning to trap him, and the common people were more interested in his ability to heal them than in his preaching. Using the parable of the sower in today’s Gospel, Jesus assured his confused disciples that the “Good News” he preached would produce the intended effect in spite of opposition and controversy. Matthew may have included this parable in his Gospel, because his own Judeo-Christian community had experienced similar adverse reactions from their fellow-Jews, just as people today are frustrated in their attempt to live the Gospel in our consumerist, hedonist, secularist, materialist, atheistic/agnostic society.
A parable of God’s prodigality. Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 13, repeats seven parables Jesus taught on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The parable of the sower is the first. Some Bible scholars think that Jesus told the parable in verses 3-9 and that the early Church may have added the allegorical interpretation in verses 18-23. According to the traditional Palestinian farming practices, sowing often precedes plowing. We can assume that the sower intended to come back and plow the seeds into the soil. This parable is a story of God’s prodigality, sowing seeds right and left, in abundant measure, so that we constantly receive the word in our hearts from a merciful and generous sower. God is always scattering the seeds of His kingdom around us whether we deserve them or not, so that when the soil of our hearts is ready for the seed to germinate, the seed is already there. Even the tiniest seed of God’s love can produce in us a harvest beyond our imagining. The Church is prodigal too, proclaiming the Gospel among primitive tribes in far-away jungles and among teenage gangs in urban ghettos, trusting in the power of the word of God which is described as a “sharp sword” (Is 49:2), “two-edged sword” (Heb 4: 12), and “fire and hammer” (Jer 23: 29). In other words, God’s Word is powerful – and, as we know, no power exists that can frustrate it.
The yield depends on soil type: The good spiritual yield in life depends on fully and willingly a person accepts and responds to the word of the Lord. His word never blossoms alongside greed, snobbishness and the love of the easy life. Christ is the sower, and while we desire to be good soil, we know there are times when we are pretty shallow like the depth of soil along the path. There are areas of rock in our lives where God’s word has not taken root, and there are areas where God’s word finds difficulty in taking root. In his parable of the sower, Jesus uses four different soil-types to represent four separate responses people can give to God’s saving word. In fact, each one of us may display all four different types of soil at various time in our personal lives.
1) The soil along the path. This soil is too hard to absorb the seed. Soon the birds eat it up or passers-by trample it under foot. Jesus explains that this soil is like the person who hears the word of God without letting it sink in. The seed/word is then replaced by worldly concerns. This type of soil represents people whose hearts and/or minds are closed because of laziness, prejudice, fear, pride, or immoral living. You and I are called to “sow” God’s word in our children, and to live out the values that Jesus “sowed” in us through his Church; but first we must open our hardened hearts and become true disciples (CCC #546).
2) The soil on flat circular pieces of limestone. This soil-type represents emotional people who are always looking for novelties but never take a permanent interest in anything. Jesus explains that this kind of person is at first impressed by the message but quickly loses interest because of the effort needed to keep the word alive. We have the example of a group of disciples who followed Jesus for a long time until the day he announced that he was the “bread of life.” They found that teaching “too hard to accept” and just drifted away.
3) The soil filled with weeds: This soil represents people addicted to evil habits and tendencies and those whose hearts are filled with hatred, jealousy, fear, and greed. They are interested only in acquiring money by any means and in enjoying life in any way possible. Jesus explains that these people are filled with worldly interests that undermine them. The classic example is Judas who follows Jesus for a long time, but in the end, it seems, cannot let go of his worldly interests and so exchanges his Lord for earthly silver.
4) The good soil. This soil-type represents the people who hear the word of God and diligently keep it. They have open hearts filled with holiness and humility. They are eager to hear the word and ready to put it into practice. They are attentive to the Holy Spirit. Fortunately, the Gospel is filled with people who have accepted the Lord’s message and whose lives have been changed. In them, Jesus’ words, in spite of obstacles and barriers, will produce the Kingdom. Although the seed may seem scattered at random, it will nevertheless produce amazing results: thirty-fold, sixty-fold – even a hundred-fold, an enormous yield with modern farming methods, let alone with those of first century Palestine.
Life messages: 1) A challenge for examination of conscience. The questions we need to ask ourselves are: Am I merely hearing God’s word without understanding it? Does God’s word meet with a hard heart in me? Am I too anxious about money, security, provision for retirement or old age? Is God’s word taking root in me? Converting me? Transforming me? Enabling me to sacrifice? And what about the “fruits” that we are being invited to produce: justice and mercy, hospitality for the immigrant and those with AIDS, the dispossessed, the unborn, the single mother? By refusing to consider these things, we may be missing the healing that the Word of God can bring into our lives. The parable of the sower challenges us to see how deeply the word of God has taken root in our lives, how central God is to the very fabric of our day-to-day life. Jesus also invites his followers to embrace the Faith of the sower: to trust and believe that our simplest acts of kindness and forgiveness, our humblest offers of help to anyone in need, may be the seeds that fall “on good soil” and yield an abundant harvest.
2) What kind of soil are we? How do we respond to the Word of God and to the various Acts of God in our lives? Do we allow the trials and tribulations of this world to overwhelm the tender seed growing within us? Do we pull back when people harass us because we are believers? Do we decide, because things are not working out the way we think they ought, that God doesn’t care for us, or that He is powerless, weak, and not to be heeded? Do we allow the cares of this world, our ambitions, or our desires for success and happiness, to choke out the messages that God sends us through the various events of our daily lives and through the various people we encounter? How we respond to the Word of God is the key to how fruitful the Gospel is going to be in our lives. Unlike the situation in nature, we can, as it were, change the kind of soil that we are. God allows the seed to land on the hard paths, on the rocky ground, and in the thickets of our lives in the hope that in those places it will find a place to mature and bear fruit, that those things which impede growth will be removed, and that the soil may be just a little deeper than it at first appears to be in those rocky places. Jesus challenges us in the parable of the sower to sow seeds of encouragement, joy, and reconciliation regardless of the “soil” on which it is scattered, and to imitate the seed’s total giving of self that becomes the harvest of Gospel justice and mercy.
JOKE OF THE WEEK
# 1) The costly parrot trained to sow the word of God: Four brothers left home for college and became successful doctors and lawyers. Some years later, they had a reunion. They chatted after having dinner together. They discussed the gifts they had been able to give their elderly mother who lived in a faraway city and decided to open their mother’s thank you letter to each. The first said, “I had a big house built for Mama.” The second said, “I had a hundred-thousand-dollar theater built in the house.” The third said, “I had a Mercedes dealer deliver an SL600 to her.” The fourth said, “You know how Mama loved reading the Bible, and you know she can’t read anymore because she can’t see very well? Well I met a preacher who told me about a parrot that can recite the entire Bible. It took twenty preachers 12 years to teach him. I had to pledge to contribute $100,000 to the church, but it was worth it. Mama just has to name the chapter and verse and the parrot will recite it.” The other brothers were impressed. Then they solemnly opened the thank-you letters sent to them by their mom. Mama wrote: “Milton, the house you built is so huge. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house. Thanks anyway.” “Michael, you gave me an expensive theater with Dolby sound, it could hold 50 people, but all my friends are dead, I’ve lost my hearing and I’m nearly blind. I’ll never use it. Thank you for the gesture just the same.” “Marvin, I am too old to travel. I stay at home and I have my groceries delivered, so I never use the Mercedes. The thought was good. Thanks.” “Dearest Gerald”, she wrote to her fourth son. “You have the good sense to know what your mother likes. I cooked the chicken you sent. It was absolutely delicious!”
# 2: If we cannot use the Lord’s name in vain, can we joke about God? Fr. Mike makes the case that there is room for humor about God in the context of love. https://youtu.be/Tqb0BO3-FVU
WEBSITE OF THE WEEK:
1) Septuagint English online: http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/septuagint-hyperlinked.html
4) Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066
27- Additional anecdotes:
1) Keep sowing the seed: One of William Barclay’s friends tells this story. [William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, CD-ROM edition (Liguori, MO: Liguori Faithware, 1996)] In the Church where he worshiped, there was a lonely old man, old Thomas. As he had outlived all his friends, hardly anyone knew him. When Thomas died, his only living old friend had the feeling that there would be no one else to go to the funeral. So, he decided to go, so that there might be someone to follow the old man to his last resting-place. There was no one else, and it was a miserable wet day. The funeral reached the cemetery, and at the gate there was a soldier waiting, an officer, but on his raincoat, there were no rank badges. He came to the graveside for the religious ceremony. When the pastor finished his prayers, the officer stepped forward and gave a solemn military salute to Thomas in the closed coffin as if to a dead king. The friend walked away with this soldier, and as they walked, the wind blew the soldier’s raincoat open to reveal the shoulder badges of a brigadier general. The general said, “You will perhaps be wondering what I am doing here. Years ago, Thomas was my Sunday school teacher. I was a wild lad and a sore trial to him. He never knew what he did for me, but I owe everything I am or will be to old Thomas, and today I had to come to salute him at the end.” Thomas did not know what he was doing. No preacher or teacher ever does. Keep sowing the high-yielding seeds of the word of God. This is the GOOD news of today’s Gospel for all of us tenant farmers. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2) How about living for God by becoming a sower of the word of God? On June 1, 2001, a young Arab man named Saeed Hotari strapped a load of explosives to his body and walked into downtown Tel Aviv. He waited until he was surrounded by a crowd of Israeli citizens, and then Hotari triggered the bombs. Twenty-one Israelis died along with Hotari in the blast. As soon as the news reached Saeed Hotari’s community, his family and friends began celebrating. To them, he is a hero. The Palestinians who commit these bombings, and those who celebrate them, believe that a jihad, an act of holy war, is the highest form of religious service. And anyone who dies in a jihad is guaranteed to go straight to Paradise. The Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that is behind these bombings, believes in educating young children in the glories of jihad. There are signs along the walls in Hamas-run schools extolling the heroism of suicide bombings. Saeed Hotari’s proud father remarks that he hopes Saeed’s brothers and friends follow his example and become suicide bombers, too. As he says, “There is no better way to show God you love him.” That’s scary. It’s misguided of course, even demonic, but it’s also a level of commitment that most of us don’t know anything about. There IS a better way to show God you love Him. Rather than dying and killing other people for Him, how about living for Him? How about becoming a sower of seed? You don’t have to be someone special to sow seeds of the kingdom, but you do need to be committed. You do have to know what you believe, and you do have to give yourself completely to that belief. That is what today’s Gospel challenges us to do. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
3) Professor Popsicle or “Dr. Cool” sowing seeds with commitment: Gordon Giesbrecht is the director of the Laboratory for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at the University of Manitoba. His nickname is Professor Popsicle. This is not a sign of disrespect. Professor Giesbrecht has spent his career studying the effects of extreme cold on the human body. He quite literally immerses himself in his subject. Throughout the course of his career, Professor Giesbrecht has induced hypothermia–extremely low body temperatures–on himself thirty-seven times. He regularly exposes himself to freezing temperatures and records the effect those temperatures have on his physical and mental health. His research has led to life-saving advances in treating victims of exposure and hypothermia. (“Dr. Cool” by Alisa Smith, originally published in Outside Magazine, reprinted in Reader’s Digest, February 2005, pp. 109-111.) We do not know if Dr. Giesbrecht is more brilliant than other scientists. But we do know he has a high degree of commitment. We know that God was committed to saving humanity from its own foolish ways. How do we know? Because of the cross. You and I want to go through life on the cheap. We want to get by on minimal effort. And it simply will not work. So, ask yourself what kind of seed are you sowing in the lives of those you love? In the community? In the world for which Christ died? Will this be a better world because you’ve been here? It doesn’t take a lot of talent to make a difference in the world. All it takes is someone willing to take up a cross. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
4) Sowing seeds by lives: Bruce Larson tells about a young African woman who came to the U.S. from Angola. Her name was Maria and she was always laughing. One day she went to a meeting on evangelism in her church where they were talking about pamphlets, missions, campaigns, and all the rest. At one point, someone turned to Maria and said, “What do they do in your Church in Angola, Maria?” “In my Church,” said Maria, after a moment’s thought, “we don’t give pamphlets to people or have missions. We just send one or two Christian families to live in a village. And when people see what Christians are like, then they want to be Christians themselves.” [To Dance (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1972), p. 58]. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
5) “Dear comrade in Russia.” Dr. Keith Wagner, of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Sidney, Ohio tells the story of a small boy in Florida some years ago. It seems he heard that the Russians were our enemies. He began to wonder about the Russian children, finding it hard to believe that they were his enemies. He wrote a short note: “Dear comrade in Russia. I am seven years old and I believe that we can live in peace. I want to be your friend, not your enemy. Will you become my friend and write to me?” He closed the letter, “Love and Peace” and signed his name. He then neatly folded the note, put it into an empty bottle, and threw it into an inland lake near his home. Several days later, the bottle and note were retrieved on a nearby beach. A story about the note appeared in a local newspaper and the media picked it up nationwide. A group of people from New Hampshire who were taking children to the Soviet Union as ambassadors of peace, read the article, contacted the boy and his family. They invited them to accompany the group to Russia. So, the little boy and his father traveled to Russia as peacemakers. One little boy made a difference. He planted his seed and it bore much fruit. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
6) Michael Pe’s heroism: In 1998, sixteen-year-old Alden Tucker read a news story about Michael Pe, a fifteen-year-old boy of multiracial heritage who had contracted leukemia. Michael’s only hope for recovery was a bone-marrow transplant; unfortunately, his exotic ethnic heritage–African American, Hispanic, and Korean–drastically reduced his chances of finding a matching donor. Alden Tucker who is of the same ethnic mix as Michael immediately volunteered to serve as a donor. Because bone marrow donation is an invasive and painful procedure, federal law prohibits bone-marrow testing for people less than eighteen years of age. Alden Tucker wasn’t about to take “no” for an answer. He began talking to reporters and legislators about changing the consent laws for bone-marrow donation. He also met and befriended Michael Pe. Just before Michael’s death in 1999, Alden promised him that he would never give up the campaign to change bone-marrow donation laws. In March 2000, the Michael Pe Law allowing bone-marrow testing and donation by people under the age of eighteen was signed into law in the state of Washington. (Rebecca Cook in Teen People, cited in “Everyday Heroes,” Reader’s Digest, Nov. 2001.) He was only a teenager, but Alden Tucker made a difference. So, can you and I, if we are willing to pay the price by sowing the seeds of the Gospel with a high level of commitment. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
7) The harvest is God’s: Pastors and people worry about shrinking Church membership. At times this worry is expressed by criticism aimed in one direction or another. “If only our pastor preached the Gospel,” a church member said recently, “then our Church would be filled to overflowing every Sunday.” “If only my people would live out their Faith,” a pastor said recently, “then our congregation would grow.” “If only our bishops would develop some effective guidelines for evangelism,” both pastors and people say on occasion, “then we wouldn’t have to face another year with fewer members.” Both worry and criticism of this kind grow out of a concern for the coming of God’s Kingdom. We long for the promised harvest. At times, however, what we may be doing by such worry and criticism is trying to force God’s hand. We may find ourselves not only impatient for the harvest, but also impatient with having to live by His promise alone. We want more and more visible assurance of the harvest’s coming. And so we look for people or for programs to make it happen. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with pastors preaching the Gospel, or with lay people living out their Faith, or with denominations issuing effective guidelines for evangelism. It certainly may be wrong, however, to connect such activity with guaranteed growth. Pastors, people, and denominations may do everything “right,” and growth may still not occur. That is no reason for not doing things “right,” but it is a reason for optimism beyond any visible success. The harvest is God’s, and you and I should be cut free from ever thinking that it is ours. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
8) Listening without hearing: During World War II, the city of Palermo, Sicily, a military objective of the Allied Powers, was to be bombed by the American Air Force. To warn the Sicilians, telling them to flee, thousands of pamphlets were dropped on the city beforehand, but the citizens simply did not believe the warning. They listened, but they did not hear! When the American planes came and dropped their bombs, hundreds of Sicilians were killed; in fact, in some cold, dead hands were found the very pages urging them to leave the city. Listening without hearing is also what Jesus refers to in the Parable of the Soils which was spoken at a high point in his career – when people were flocking to him in great numbers. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
9) “Some seeds fell among thorns.” It was early evening on November 9, 1965, when a power station at Niagara Falls became overloaded with power demands. It was set to measure power output, and to transfer power to a backup system if the output rose too high. This system had been put in place two years earlier, but no one had thought to re-adjust the measurements to reflect the changes in power demands in those two years. At the first sign of a power overload, the station shut down and began transferring power to the backup generators. These, too, became overloaded and shut down, resulting in a massive blackout across most of the northeastern United States and Canada. Airports, utilities, corporations, schools, hospitals, public transportation systems, and homes were without power for thirteen hours. Millions of people were affected. And all because someone had not thought to re-adjust the numbers on the main generator. [James Burke, Connections (Boston: Little, Brown, 1978)] — I see people every day who are overloaded and choked. We want to do everything so well. We want to provide for our families, excel in our work, make sure our children are able to participate in all kinds of extracurricular activities, and look after aging parents. The list suddenly becomes overwhelming, and religion, well it will just have to take its place in line. Jesus described us well when he said that “other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
10) “People going to Church for recreation and in conformity to custom.” We all know that sometimes the message of Christ does not get through because of the person entrusted with conveying it. The most famous example of that, of course, was Mahatma Gandhi. In his autobiography Gandhi tells that during his early days in South Africa he inquired into Christianity. He attended a certain church in Pretoria for several Sundays, but, he writes, “The congregation did not strike [him] as being particularly religious; they were not an assembly of devout souls, but appeared rather to be worldly-minded people going to Church for recreation and in conformity to custom.” He therefore concluded that there was nothing in Christianity which he did not already possess. Gandhi was driven away from Christianity by the fact that the performance of Christians he met fell far short of their profession of faith. (G. T. Bellhouse, The Hand of Glory, pp. 7, 8). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
11) Life is filled with choices between grains and weeds. There is an old Native American tale about a chief who was telling a group of young braves about the struggle within. “It’s like two dogs fighting,” said the chief. “One dog wants to do right. The other dog wants to do wrong. They growl at each other all the time.” “Which is going to win?” inquired a young brave. “The one you feed,” replied the chief. Verse 8 says, “Still other seed fell on good soil where it produced a crop, a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
12) “Some seeds fell on ‘good soil’” They are people who are receptive to the Good News of Christ. They understand that Faith is not meant to be an add-on. It is not a burden you carry in addition to other burdens. When we open ourselves to Christ and say to him, “All I am, all I have, all I hope to be, I give to you,” we discover a sudden lifting of all our burdens. Then we restructure our priorities according to our Faith commitment. Dr. Tom Kim did that. Dr. Kim is the Korean-born grandson of a Presbyterian minister. Arriving in the United States, his family settled in Knoxville, TN. He chose a small Christian college to attend. Kim wanted to be a medical missionary to Korea. When he prepared to attend Korean medical schools, despite being accepted at Indiana University, his mother was opposed. “She never wanted to go back and didn’t want me to either,” Kim says. Evidently his mother’s wishes prevailed, because when he finished Korean medical school he returned to Knoxville and has been practicing internal medicine, hematology and oncology since 1979. The unique thing about Dr. Kim’s office is that he does not charge the uninsured or the working poor. “My father became a physician because he didn’t want to be so poor as his father, the minister. But he still had the Faith, and I do, too. I finally realized that I didn’t have to go so far to find people in need that I could minister to.” Dr. Kim estimates that he has seen 1,000 poor patients. When he began this policy five years ago, he set aside two extra hours a night for treating nonpaying patients after each of four days of regular office hours. Now, all his patients, both insured and uninsured, are seen throughout the workdays. “I give them free everything. Sometimes I have free samples from drug companies for giving medicine. Sometimes I give them a check to buy medicine.” For patients with ailments he can’t treat, Dr. Kim makes referrals. Dr. Kim says that most of his free patients could get nowhere if they made the referral calls, but he can! “I explain this patient is without insurance and ask if they can’t treat them and work out something on payment.” Kim says donating his time is a way of repaying his debt to the U.S. where he’s “prospered so much.” “I got a talent–curing sick people–and I want to use it to do a little of what Jesus did. I don’t want to be a Sunday-only Christian.” (Knoxville, TN News-Sentinel 7-11-98, p. A4, “Doctor Ministers to Poor.”) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
13) “You see that fire in there?” The Tennessee Valley Authority started building its many dams on the Tennessee River in 1930s. To do that, they had to relocate a number of people who were living in the area that would be flooded when the dams were finished. One family in particular lived in an old, ramshackle cabin. The TVA built them a beautiful split-level ranch home on the hill overlooking the location of their former home. But when the Authority came to help the family move, they refused to go. The engineers tried to reason with them and, when that did not work, they called the project manager in. He failed, too. Finally, the TVA brought in a social worker. She asked the family to tell her the reason they did not want to move. The father of the clan pointed to the fireplace and said, “You see that fire in there? My grandpa built that fire 100 years ago when no one in these parts had matches. So he made the family promise to never let it go out. He tended it as long as he could and then my father took over and kept it going while he was alive. And, now that it’s my responsibility, I am not about to let it go out.” That gave the social worker an idea. She asked the family if it would be all right if the TVA brought in a coal bin and transported the burning coals from the cabin to the new house up on the hill. That way, they would have the same fire in their new home. The family huddled together to discuss the suggestion and decided that would be acceptable. And so that family was moved out of the way before the river came and covered their old cabin. — Have you ever felt that it was absolutely and utterly up to you, against all opposition, to keep the fire going (no matter what “the fire” might be)? If you have, you are certainly not alone. The situation being addressed in this morning’s Gospel parable is along that line. Matthew’s Gospel was compiled and distributed probably some fifty years after Christ’s earthly ministry (around 85 AD). The early Church had expanded beyond Jerusalem through the missionary efforts of Paul and others but was still rather minuscule in terms of numbers and influence. There was opposition and even some persecution at the hands of political and religious establishments. It was a time when discouragement could easily have overcome that small band of believers. Hence, Mathew included the parables of chapter 13 in his Gospel (“earthly stories with Heavenly meanings”), perhaps to motivate and encourage the preaching and practice of the good news in the face of opposition. (David E. Leininger). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
14) Raccoon and opossum story: Doug Murren, in Churches That Heal (1999), retells that old Native American tale of an opossum watching a seed grow. One day an opossum visited his good friend, a raccoon, at his home near the river. The opossum marveled at his friend’s lush garden and asked if he could grow one like it. The raccoon assured the opossum he could do so, although he cautioned him, “It is hard work.” The opossum eagerly vowed to do the hard work necessary, then asked for and received some seeds. He rushed home with his treasure, buried them amid much laughter and song, went inside to clean up, ate, and went to bed. The next morning, he leapt from bed to see his new garden. Nothing. The ground looked no different than it had the day before! Furious with anger and frustration, the opossum shouted at his buried seeds, “Grow, seeds, grow!” He pounded the ground and stomped his feet. But nothing happened. Soon a large crowd of forest animals gathered to see who was making all the commotion and why. The raccoon came to investigate with all the others. “Wait a minute, Possum,” he said. “You can’t make the seeds grow. You can only make sure they get sun and water, then watch them do their work. The life is in the seed, not in you.” As the truth sank in, the opossum ceased his yelling and began to care for the seeds as the raccoon instructed, watering them regularly and getting rid of any weeds that invaded his garden. Then one glorious morning the opossum wandered outside to see that multitudes of beautiful green sprouts dotted his garden. Just a few days later, gorgeous flowers began to bloom. With uncontrollable excitement and pride, the opossum ran to his friend, the raccoon, and asked him to witness the miracle. The raccoon took one long look at the thriving garden and said, “You see, Opossum, all you had to do was let the seeds do the work while you watched.” “Yes,” smiled the opossum, finally remembering the wise words of his friend many days before, “but it’s a hard job watching a seed work.” Doug Murren concludes: “There’s a lesson there for all of us. Sometimes, as Christians and Church leaders, we work too hard and take ourselves too seriously instead of simply planting people in the proper environment and letting them grow.” [Doug Murren, in Churches That Heal (Howard Publishing, 1999), 13-14, 15.] Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
15) Mallard duck hunting: The Reverend Jerry Anderson, a retired pastor in Tennessee, was an avid duck hunter as a young man. Every fall when the first cold front moved in from the north, he would take out his duck decoys, clean them up and put new anchors on them. When duck season opened, he was ready. He and his dad usually hunted mallards. Now, mallards are puddle ducks, according to Reverend Anderson. They paddle around in shallow water and feed on the marsh grasses growing there. They eat only what they can reach from the surface. Occasionally, though, he and his dad would see a redhead or canvasback slipping into their decoys. These are diving ducks. They dive to great depths to feed on plants growing on the bottom of the lake. Now in some ways Anderson says, Christians are like those ducks. Some are puddle ducks, satisfied with the nourishment they find in the shallows of the Christian life. Others are divers. They plunge deeply into the Word through study, reflection, and participation in the life and ministry of their Church, and, in accord with the parable of the sower, the word yields a rich return in their lives. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
16) God’s vegetable seed store: This is the story of the fussy vegetarian. A young woman 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, all tomatoes were bruised or unripe, heads of cauliflower and broccoli were too big or too little. 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 through 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 Brussels 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 precious gift. It simply is not enough just to hear the Word of God. We have to let it grow within us and influence our lives, enabling us live like the People of the Word [Fr. Joseph Pellegrino (http://www.homilies.net/e/E-08-07-13.asp) ]. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
17) There once was a farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked. “Why sir,” said the farmer, “didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.” Fr. Lobo S. J. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
18) “The Man Who Knew Too Much” is a short story by Alexander Baron. In this story he speaks about a man who knew everything. He was known as Private Quelch. Anyone who saw Private Quelch, lanky, stooping, frowning through horn-rimmed spectacles, understood why he was known as the Professor. Those who had any doubts on the subject lost them after five minutes’ conversation with him. He joined as a trainee in the army. During every lesson he interrupted and corrected the instructors. Once a sergeant asked him, ‘You had any training before?’ The Professor answered with a phrase that was to become familiar to all. ‘No, Sergeant. It’s all a matter of intelligent reading.’ And day in and day out, he lectured to his companions on every aspect of human knowledge. Each time one of them made a mistake the Professor would publicly correct him. Once Corporal Turnbull, a young tough man, began his instructions on grenade. Professor Quelch interrupted him too. Corporal Turnbull was annoyed. ‘Here,’ he said at last, ‘you give this lecture!’ As if afraid to say any more, he tossed the grenade to the Professor. Quite unabashed, Private Quelch climbed to his feet and with the air of a man coming into his birthright gave us an unexceptionable lecture on the grenade. When he finished, Corporal Turnbull announced: ‘The platoon officer has asked me to nominate one of you for-‘ He paused. Everyone looked at Professor Quelch, who stood in expectant attention. He continued: ….’the platoon officer has asked me to nominate one of you for permanent cookhouse duties. I’ve decided that Private Quelch is just the man for the job.’ There are the hearers of the word of God with the shut mind. It pushes them into the cookhouse, to remain there, filled with pride of self. (Fr. Bobby Jose). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
19) “The more I practice the worse it gets.” A Chicago novelist, John Powers, wrote a book called The Unoriginal Sinner and the Ice Cream God. It’s about a boy named Tim Conroy. Tim is in the process of growing up, and it’s proving to be a tough job. One day Tim confided to a friend: “I came from a family of practicing Catholics. But do you know something? The more I practice the worse it gets.” All of us feel like Tim, at times. Maybe we aren’t getting worse, but we aren’t improving much either. Think of it this way. By the time we are 25, we have heard God’s word read and explained about a thousand times. After all these times, why haven’t we improved more than we have? The answer to this question may lie in the parable Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel. Maybe the problem is not in receiving God’s word. The problem is in treasuring it and putting it into practice.(Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
20) Christo-therapy: I am reminded of a priest who wrote a book on what he called “Christo-therapy” In that book he shared his own experience. He had lived an ordinary life and nothing special had happened to him. After some years in the ministry he was feeling depressed and fell sick. This depression carried on for some time and began to worry him. He went from doctor to doctor but to no avail. No remedy would cure him. Someone told him of an old Hindu doctor who lived in the vicinity of his parish, who, they claimed, was very good. The priest decided to try him and went to his clinic. The doctor examined him and listened to the story of his prolonged depression. Finally he said: “Father, I find nothing physically wrong with you. I feel awkward to say this. You are a priest. Don’t you believe God’s word can heal you?” Embarrassed, the priest left the clinic and went home. From that night he started reading the word of God wanting to be fully open and believing in its power. Slowly the depression disappeared, and that priest experienced healing and wholeness as he read the Word of God with Faith. (Anonymous, Quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
21) God speaking through life events! God speaks to us in varied ways. He can use people, events, things, and even our misery to deliver His message. After fire destroyed his mansion, basketball star Kareem Abdul Jabbar told reporters: “My whole perspective has changed. I think it is more important for me to spend time with my son Amir and appreciate other things besides basketball.” Kareem was fortunate. He heard what many others never heard: God’s word speaking to him through events. He saw what many others have never seen: that life contains more important things than fame and money. — Can you recall a time when God seemed to speak to you? What did God seem to say to you? God often visits us, but most of the time we are not at home. (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
22) “When I found Christ Jesus, it made me relax”: Carl Lewis is one of the greatest athletes of all times. In the 1984 Olympics people expected him to win, not one but four gold medals and break one or two world records. The pressure on him to win was tremendous. He jumped longer and ran faster than any other athlete. His physical fitness was the result of the time-tested training, and his mental coolness was the result of his Faith in Jesus Christ. He once said, “I became a Christian in 1981 at a track meet; when I found Christ Jesus, it made me relax because I realized where my power came from.” In 1987, in his warm up to Seoul Olympics the following year in California he was to run for his 200 meters dash; tragedy struck him just before the event -his father died of cancer at the age of sixty. After attending the funeral, he vowed to make this event the best and thus offer it to his dad -so that he could see this from his new place-Heaven. The death of his father was painful; the pain was real; but his Faith also was real -his Faith overcame the pain, and he posted the best time of the year. Jesus enabled him to overcome his mental disability. John Rose in John’s Sunday Reflections; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
23) Guerrilla Goodness –Kindness grows: A woman in a red car pulls up to the toll booth at the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge. “I’m paying for myself and the six cars behind me,” she says with a smile. One after another, the next six drivers arrive at the booth, money in hand. “Some lady up ahead already paid your fare,” says the collector. “Have a nice day.” The woman, it turned out, had read a note taped to a friend’s refrigerator: “Practice Random Kindness”. Judy Freeman spotted the same phrase on a warehouse wall, 75 miles from her home in San Francisco. When she couldn’t get it out of her mind, she finally drove all the way back to copy it exactly. A few days ago I heard from a friend in Marin County, California. She had jotted the phrase down on a restaurant place mat after mulling it over for days. “Here’s the idea,” she says. “If you think there should be more of something, do it – randomly. Kindness can build on itself as much as violence can.” A passer-by may plunk a coin into a stranger’s meter just in time. A group of people with pails and mops may descend on a run-down house and clean it from top to bottom while the elderly owners look on, amazed. A teenager shoveling snow may be hit by the impulse and shovel his neighbor’s driveway too. Senseless acts of beauty spread. A man plants daffodil along a roadway. A concerned citizen roams the streets collecting litter in a supermarket cart. A student scrubs graffiti from a park bench. It’s a positive anarchy, a gentle disorder, a sweet disturbance. And you can’t be a recipient without feeling a pleasant jolt. If you were one of those commuters whose toll was paid, who knows what you might have been inspired to do for someone else? Like all revolutions, guerrilla goodness begins slowly, with a single act. Let it be yours. Today’s Gospel challenges us to sow seeds of random kindness and see how it will produce a hundred- fold in the lives of so many. (Lara Adair in Glamour; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
24) Consider this: From failure to success: *Woody Allen –Academy-Award-Winning writer, producer and director-flunked motion picture production at New York University and the City College of New York. He also failed English at New York University. *Leon Uris, author of the bestseller Exodus, failed high school English three times. *When Lucille Ball began studying to be an actress in 1927, she was told by the instructor of the John Murray Anderson Drama School, “Try any other profession. Any other.” *In 1959, a Universal Pictures executive dismissed Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds at the same meeting with the following statements. To Bert Reynolds: “You have no talent.” To Clint Eastwood: “You have a chip on your tooth, your Adam’s apple sticks out too far and you talk too slow.” As you no doubt know Bert Reynolds and Clint Eastwood went on to become big stars in the movie industry.
When *Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, it did not ring off the hook with calls from potential backers. After making a demonstration call, President Rutherford Hayes said, ‘That’s an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one of these?”– Today’s Gospel challenges us to go on sowing God’s word without discouragement. (Jack Canfield & Mark Hansen in A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
25) Keep your goal in sight: When she looked ahead Florence Chadwick saw nothing but a solid wall of fog. Her body was numb. She had been swimming for nearly sixteen hours. On that 4th of July 1952, the sea was like an ice bath and the fog was so dense she could hardly see her support boats. Against the frigid grip of the sea, she struggled on – hour after hour- while millions watched on national television. Alongside Florence in one of the boats, her mother and trainer offered encouragement. They told her it wasn’t much farther. But all she could see was fog. They urged her not to quit. She never had ……until then. With only a half mile to go, she asked to be pulled out. Still thawing her chilled body several hours later, she told a reporter, “Look, I’m not excusing myself, but if I could have seen land, I might have made it.” It was not fatigue or even the cold water that defeated her. It was the fog. She was unable to see her goal. Two months later, she tried again. This time despite the same dense fog, she swam with her faith intact and her goal clearly pictured in her mind. She knew that somewhere beyond that fog was land and this time she made it! Florence Chadwick became the first woman to swim the Catalina Channel, eclipsing the men’s record by two hours! Today’s Gospel reminds us to sow the word of God, expecting God to give us a bumper crop. (Author unknown –Submitted by Michele Borba; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
26) “But with God and three pennies I can do anything.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta, India died as a world-known figure. But who would have ever thought she would have attained such influence when she first began? What did she have to recommend her? A tiny woman, she began with the most meager of resources. Mother Teresa told her superiors, “I have three pennies and a dream from God to build an orphanage.” “Mother Teresa,” her superiors said, “you can’t build an orphanage with three pennies . . . with three pennies you can’t do anything.” “I know,” she said, smiling, “but with God and three pennies I can do anything.” Mother Teresa understood the principle of the seed. It takes very little — but very little blessed by God — and miracles can occur. This, of course is akin to Jesus’ teaching elsewhere, that faith only the size of a mustard seed can produce an enormous bush (Matthew 17:20). That is a constant law in God’s world. (King Duncan, www.Sermons.com). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
27) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: In a televised interview, Maya Angelou (1928-2014), one of the great voices of contemporary American literature, told of a childhood tragedy that had a profound and lasting impact on her life. When she was seven years old, Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. Because the man threatened that he would kill her brother if she told anyone what had happened, she told no one. But her brother, sensitive to his sister’s sadness and pain, eventually convinced Angelou to share with him her private horror. When she did, the man at fault was arrested, jailed for a short time, and then released. Not long thereafter he was found dead, kicked to death by unknown assailants. The rapist’s young victim, believing that her words had perpetrated the man’s death entered into a self-imposed silence and did not speak a word for six years. Later in life, Angelou would give voice to the silence and suffering of those six years in her book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Her appreciation of the power and effectiveness of the words is reflective of a similar understanding of the word of God in Scripture. (Sanchez Files). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 39) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at email@example.com. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under CBCI or Fr. Tony for my website version. Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604