Taking Our Soil Sample, Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), July 10, 2011 Audio Homily

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Anthony of Padua Church, New Bedford, MA
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
July 10, 2011
Is 55:10-11, Ps 65:10-14, Rom 8:18-23, Mt 13:1-23

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click at the bottom of the page. The following text guided this homily:

  • Jesus in today’s Gospel gives us a hugely important parable that describes the quality of our faith, the quality of our response not only to his words but to Him, who is the Word. He said today, “Let anyone who has ears to hear listen!,” and we’re called to give him our full attention.
  • In an age of so many words, of thousands of books published every day, newspapers, magazines, blogs and so many websites, we are so bombarded that we begin to become selective listeners. We block a lot of it out. We only half-listen to other stuff. Today, however, Jesus wants us to call our attention to how we listen to him.
  • Last November, when Pope Benedict released his beautiful and important apostolic exhortation on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, he  wrote with amazement about the wonder of God’s speaking to us. “By this gift of his love God bridges every distance and truly makes us his ‘partners’ in order to bring about the nuptial mystery of the love between Christ and the Church. In this vision every man and woman appears as someone to whom the word speaks, challenges and calls to enter this dialogue of love through a free response. Each of us is thus enabled by God to hear and respond to his word. We were created in the word and we live in the word; we cannot understand ourselves unless we are open to this dialogue. The word of God discloses the filial and relational nature of human existence. We are indeed called by grace to be conformed to Christ, the Son of the Father, and, in him, to be transformed. In this dialogue with God we come to understand ourselves and we discover an answer to our heart’s deepest questions.”
  • He is the sower who went out to sow his words. As we saw at his own time, some heard those words and responded and followed him on the path to sanctity bearing much fruit, like the Blessed Virgin, like St. Mary Magdalene, like St. John; others heard, like the Rich Young Man or like Judas, but the lure of worldy cares and anxieties choked the growth of the seed and he wandered away. Others, like most of the apostles, heard the word but when the persecution took place on account of the word, they ran away. Still others, like many of the scribes and Pharisees, heard the word but the word was never able to penetrate.
  • It’s the same way today.
  • There are still many with hardened soil, hardened either by repeated habits of sin, or hardened because of stubborn adhesion to routines, where the seed cannot penetrate. The word of God does no good. The readings at Mass, the words of the homily, the presence of a Bible at home, really don’t change a thing. If we come with an attitude that says, “I’m right, God’s wrong” with regard to some sin in our life, or “I’ve heard this all before; let’s get it over with,” then we are listening with hardened soil. What needs to happen? We all need to come to Mass knowing the power of the word of God and hanging on Jesus’ word, open to change, open to conversion.
  • Rocky soil — Initial joy at receiving, but it doesn’t go deep. How is it supposed to go deep? Prayerful application of the word of God to our life. Preparing the soil by reflecting on the readings prior to Mass. Watering the soil by going over the readings after Mass and applying them to our lives, with the help of the homily. Asking God for help to see the many ways the Word is seeking to change us for the better and through us change the world.
  • Thorny soil — Acknowledge our fears and anxieties as well as the pleasures we’re seeking. Take them to the Lord in prayer, so that they can no longer distract us, but actually unite us to the Lord. Give our concerns to the Lord and ask him for the grace of treasuring Him above every earthly good, the willingness to sell everything for the pearl of great price.
  • Good soil — Bears not just a little fruit, but abundant fruit, through uniting ourselves more deeply to God and allowing his Word to bear that fruit in us. God used an image through the Prophet Isaiah of what he wants the fruitfulness of his word to do in us: “For just as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” When we receive his word on good soil, we do bear abundant fruit. When we hear his word on forgiveness, we begin to share that mercy. When we hear his word on being peacemakers, we seek to go out with the Prince of Peace and spread that tranquility of order with God and others. When we hear his word on seeking first the kingdom, we begin to seek him in our study, our work, our relationships, our family life. When we hear his word to chop off our body parts if they lead us to sin, we focus with brutal determination on eliminating from ourselves not just sins but near occasions. When we hear his word to love others as he loves us, we begin immediately to look around us and ask for the grace to love each other here at Church with the love with which Christ loved us, to sacrifice for those in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, to lead them to salvation.
  • Pope Benedict said in Verbum Domini that we are called to listen to and respond to the word of God with faith. “The proper human response to the God who speaks is faith.” And faith doesn’t mean merely we believe that it is true, but rather live it as the truth that will set us free and lead us to happiness. “By faith one freely commits oneself entirely to God, making ‘the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals and willingly assenting to the revelation given by God.’ … Faith thus takes shape as an encounter with a person to whom we entrust our whole life,” namely Christ.
  • All of this starts with a true hunger and appreciation for what the word of God is and who speaks to us. Do we listen with that obedient [listening] faith or do we take the word for granted.
  • Image of St. Anthony’s preaching to the fish. Rimini. He had gone there to try to convert the people who were believing some serious heresies, perversions of the truth, but the people didn’t want to listen to Sacred Scripture or the teachings of the Church. So he said to them that if they were not going to listen to the word of God, he was going to go offer it to the fish on the banks of the river flowing out to the sea. He did and a few people followed him to see what they thought would be the result of what to them seemed a crazy absurdity. Standing on the shore between the sea and the river, he said, “Hear the word of God, you fish of the sea and of the stream, since heretics and infidels are loath to listen to it.” His biographer tells us that all of a sudden schools of fish came that had never been seen in those quantities there holding their heads out of the water and turned attentively toward St. Anthony. He told them about God’s goodness to them in Creation, how they had an advantage in the great flood, how they preserved the prophet Jonah, gave Christ the money to pay the temple tax, and served as food for the Son of God in miracles both before and after the resurrection. The biographer says the fish had their mouths agape. Seeing their creaturely reverence, and noticing that a crowd had formed behind him, St. Anthony said, “Blessed be the eternal God, since fish honor Him far more than disbelieving men!” After witnessing the miracle, people’s hearts were moved to contrition over the power of the word of God and the faith of the preacher and they began to listen to him. He stayed in Rimini for several days and many returned to the faith.
  • This is the power of the word of God. We have to ask ourselves, however, if we give the word the reverence it deserves or whether we treat it like the people of Rimini initially treated it. If St. Anthony were preaching here, not just on a given Sunday but for a year, would he readily conclude that you and I were listeningto him attentively, with good soil, or would he go down to New Bedford harbor and start preaching to the marine life? I remind you that St. Anthony used to give homilies that lasted at least an hour. Would he find us, or find fish, more attentive and hungry for God’s word?
  • If we’re really listening with good soil, then we will be able, somewhat easily, to point to the way we listen to the word of God and the fruit that it’s been bearing in us.
  • Four weeks ago, we spoke about the power of the Holy Spirit in us to teach us to pray, to bring about true unity, to make us saintly disciples and fervent apostles. Has it made a difference?
  • Three weeks ago, we talked about the true adoration of the Blessed Trinity, about putting God first, giving him our best and celebrating His love more than Bruins fans celebrated the Stanley Cup. What fruit have you seen?
  • Two weeks ago, we spoke about centering our entire life on the Eucharist, by worshipping him at Mass, adoring him in Holy Communion and accompanying him into the streets. Have you noticed abundant progress?
  • Last Sunday, we spoke about yoking ourselves to Jesus throughout our entire day. Did we truly make the effort to yoke ourselves to Jesus over the course of the last week?
  • If we haven’t borne fruit in abundance on account of this word, it behooves us to examine why. Is it because we have hardened soil and believe we don’t need the word of God? Is it because we don’t pray over the word of God and allow it to go deep into our lives through meditating on it and applying it to our lives over the course of the week? Is it because worldly cares and anxieties have choked its growth despite our attempt to pray over it? The word of God had the power over the course of this last month to make us bear great fruit.
  • Pope Benedict in Verbum Domini mentioned about the way the saints respond to the word of God. He said that they’re the ones who have “truly lived the word of God.” Their life is a “viva lectio,” a living reading.
  • “I am thinking for example of Saint Anthony the Abbot, who was moved by hearing Christ’s words: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mt 19:21).…  Saint Francis of Assisi – we learn from Thomas of Celano – “upon hearing that the disciples of Christ must possess neither gold, nor silver nor money, nor carry a bag, nor bread, nor a staff for the journey, nor sandals nor two tunics … exulting in the Holy Spirit, immediately cried out: ‘This is what I want, this is what I ask for, this I long to do with all my heart!’”.… Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus discovered that love was her personal vocation by poring over the Scriptures, especially Chapters 12 and 13 of the First Letter to the Corinthians;… Every saint is like a ray of light streaming forth from the word of God: we can think of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in his search for truth and in his discernment of spirits; Saint John Bosco in his passion for the education of the young; Saint John Mary Vianney in his awareness of the grandeur of the priesthood as gift and task; Saint Pius of Pietrelcina in his serving as an instrument of divine mercy; Saint Josemaria Escrivá in his preaching of the universal call to holiness; Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, the missionary of God’s charity towards the poorest of the poor, and then the martyrs of Nazism and Communism, represented by Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), a Carmelite nun, and by Blessed Aloysius Stepinac, the Cardinal Archbishop of Zagreb.”
  • Elsewhere in his apostolic exhortation he focused on the greatest saint of all and how she responded to the word of God: “We need to look to the one in whom the interplay between the word of God and faith was brought to perfection, that is, to the Virgin Mary, ‘who by her ‘yes’ to the word of the covenant and her mission, perfectly fulfills the divine vocation of humanity.’ The human reality created through the word finds its most perfect image in Mary’s obedient faith. … Her obedient faith shapes her life at every moment before God’s plan. A Virgin ever attentive to God’s word, she lives completely attuned to that word; she treasures in her heart the events of her Son, piecing them together as if in a single mosaic (cf. Lk 2:19,51). In our day the faithful need to be helped to see more clearly the link between Mary of Nazareth and the faith-filled hearing of God’s word. … Mary is the image of the Church in attentive hearing of the word of God, which took flesh in her. … As we contemplate in the Mother of God a life totally shaped by the word, we realize that we too are called to enter into the mystery of faith, whereby Christ comes to dwell in our lives. Every Christian believer, Saint Ambrose reminds us, in some way interiorly conceives and gives birth to the word of God: even though there is only one Mother of Christ in the flesh, in the faith Christ is the progeny of us all. Thus, what took place for Mary can daily take place in each of us, in the hearing of the word and in the celebration of the sacraments.”
  • Jesus in the Gospel said that his mother, his brothers and sisters are those who “hear the word of God and put it into practice” (Lk 8;21). When an anonymous woman cried out blessing her womb and breasts for their physical relationship to Jesus, he pointed out her greatest grandeur of all: “Blessed, rather, is she who heard the word of God and kept it!” Our greatness as Christians depends on how well we hear the word of God and respond in faith.  The word of God has the power to make us great saints if only we allow it to bear the type of abundant fruit in us that it has the power to do, if we receive it with the good soil of obedient faith.
  • After mentioning the example of how the saints were saints precisely because they allowed the Word of God to become truly alive in them, he called upon their prayers for himself and for all of us in the Church saying. This prayer is a fitting way to finish this homily: “Through the intercession of these saints, let us ask the Lord that our own lives may be that ‘good soil’ in which the divine sower plants the word, so that it may bear within us fruits of holiness, ‘thirtyfold, sixtyfold, a hundredfold.’” Amen!

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1IS 55:10-11

Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

Responsorial PsalmPS 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14

R. (Lk 8:8) The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.
You have visited the land and watered it;
greatly have you enriched it.
God’s watercourses are filled;
you have prepared the grain.
R. The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.
Thus have you prepared the land: drenching its furrows,
breaking up its clods,
Softening it with showers,
blessing its yield.
R. The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.
You have crowned the year with your bounty,
and your paths overflow with a rich harvest;
The untilled meadows overflow with it,
and rejoicing clothes the hills.
R. The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.
The fields are garmented with flocks
and the valleys blanketed with grain.
They shout and sing for joy.
R. The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.

Reading 2ROM 8:18-23

Brothers and sisters:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us.
For creation awaits with eager expectation
the revelation of the children of God;
for creation was made subject to futility,
not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it,
in hope that creation itself
would be set free from slavery to corruption
and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now;
and not only that, but we ourselves,
who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
we also groan within ourselves
as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower.
All who come to him will have life forever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelMT 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 understand.
Isaiah’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.”