Growth in Faith versus Growth in Vice, 3rd Friday (II), January 29, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Friday of the 3rd Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Votive Mass for Religious
January 29, 2016
2 Sam 11:1-10.13-17, Ps 51, Mk 4:26-34


To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today Jesus continues to speak to us about the growth in faith he desires. On Wednesday, he gave us the Parable of the Sower and the Seed and focused on faith-filled receptivity, which he said features hearing the Word, actively accepting it, and bearing fruit 30, 60 and 100-fold. Yesterday he said true faith can’t be hidden, but shines like the light of a lamp placed on a lamp stand, and that the more we exercise the spiritual muscle of the theological virtue of faith, the more it will grow. Today he gives us two images to teach us two more aspects about the increase in faith that is meant to happen when we enter and live in his kingdom.
  • Jesus says, first, that faith grows like a mustard seed. “When it is sown in the ground,” Jesus says, “it is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” Even a little bit of faith is enough, Jesus would say elsewhere, to move mountains. Even when it seems small, we should know that it contains within the power to grow to be enormous.
  • And Jesus by another image describes one of the most important parts of that growth. It’s God’s work. Jesus compares the growth in faith to what happens with a farmer scattering seed in the Holy Land, turning it over once, and then allowing the growth. “It is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.” The farmer certainly does a little of the work, but most of the work happens by what is contained in the seed, what is contained in the soil, and the water that comes. So it is with growth in faith. God has given us that seed, he’ll provide the water, and he’ll give so many of the nutrients necessary for us to be rich, fruitful soil. And so we should have great confidence in God’s work.
  • But as Jesus will describe in other agricultural images, the soil of our receptivity can also receive other seeds in it, seeds of thorn bushes and darnel that can suck the nutrients out of the soil and even prevent choke the growth Christ wants to do in us. We see that type of seed in the first reading. David, rather than working in the afternoon while his troops are righting against the Ammonites and besieging Rabbah, is taking a nap. When he awakened, he strolled about the roof of the palace and saw a neighbor, Bathsheba, bathing. And the seed of lust in David’s eyes and heart began to grow. After having committed adultery with her in his heart, he summoned her and committed adultery with her in the flesh. And the destructive seed of sin continued to grow larger even still. After Bathsheba told him she was pregnant, he summoned her husband, David’s trusted armor bearer Uriah, home from the battle lines in the hope that he might go home, have relations with Bathsheba and cover up David’s sin. But it didn’t work. Uriah was too loyal to David even to visit his wife because it was the custom that soldiers would have no relations with their wives during battle because it was thought that love-making with weaken them of vigor and valor. He slept with the troops outside the gates of the palace instead of in his own house with his wife. And so David by Uriah’s own hand sent a note to Joab that essentially ordered Uriah’s death by total betrayal. The seed of lust grew to physical adultery, to lying and deception, to the betrayal and murder of an innocent man.
  • As we prepare for the end of the Year of Consecrated Life on Tuesday, we can learn a great deal about faith and the types of seeds that are battling for the garden of our souls. On the one hand, the three-fold lust battles for the human heart, what St. John calls in his letter concupiscence of the flesh, concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life, what interpreters have generally interpreted as lust proper, greed and pride. These seeds are growing in the lives of so many today through hedonism, materialism, and autonomous individualism. Against them the Lord Jesus plants the mustard seeds of the evangelical counsels that distinguish consecrated life, chastity, poverty and obedience. Jesus says against lust of the flesh, “The lamp of the body is your eye. When your eye is sound, then your whole body is filled with light, but when it is bad, then your body is in darkness.” Chastity is the virtue, united to purity, that helps us to see God in others and to reverence them. Against materialism, Jesus reminds us, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions” and “You cannot serve God and mammon.” Poverty is the means by which we can place our heart in the true treasure of the kingdom that moths can’t consume, rust can’t destroy and thieves can’t steal. Against pride, Jesus reminds us by his own words and witness that happiness comes from saying to God, “Thy will, not mine be done,” and from “becoming obedient even to death… on a Cross.”
  • In David’s fall, we see the lack of these virtues. The Lamp of his eye became corrupted. He lacked spiritual poverty, such that, even though he had a whole “flock” he wanted his neighbor’s solitary “ewe lamb,” as Nathan will tell him later. And he refused to obey God’s clear commandment, “Thou shall not commit adultery” and even “Thou shall not kill,” perhaps allowing his being king to corrupt his judgment such that he thought he no longer had to obey anyone. In him we see the terrible consequence of a failure to respond to God’s gift of poverty, chastity and obedience. The same things seem to be suggested from Bathsheba’s side. She was bathing naked on her roof in the sight of the royal palace rather than modestly in a place she couldn’t be seen? Was she not herself hoping to seduce the eyes of her regal neighbor? Likewise, was she perhaps not satisfied with what she had, such that when the king called her, she treated his advances far differently she would have treated the advances of someone who was not the king? She likewise seemed to put pleasing an earthly king above obeying the King of Kings. Sin generally begins, as St. John suggests in his letter, with the three-fold concupiscence and we see it on full display today.
  • The Lord, however, continues to plant his good seed in us and then seeks to send us out as seeds in the middle of the world. Those living in union with the poor, chaste, and obedience Lord Jesus might seem small in comparison with the porn industry, the greedy worship of the golden calf in many sectors of the economy, and the radical autonomy so many trumpet by glorying in disobedience to God’s explicit commands. But even if we’re a mustard seed, God can and will give us growth, so that, if we persevere faithfully, we will become, individually and together, shrubs in which all of the birds of the air, all those who seek to fly to the Lord, will be able to find refuge. And the stricter poverty, chastity and obedience of consecrated men and women makes it possible for all Christians to live these counsels according to their state in life.
  • Today as we come forward to receive Jesus, he implants himself in us as a seed. We ask the Father to allow that Seed to continue to grow in us until he becomes all-in-all.


The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 2 SM 11:1-4A, 5-10A, 13-17

At the turn of the year, when kings go out on campaign,
David sent out Joab along with his officers
and the army of Israel,
and they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah.
David, however, remained in Jerusalem.
One evening David rose from his siesta
and strolled about on the roof of the palace.
From the roof he saw a woman bathing, who was very beautiful.
David had inquiries made about the woman and was told,
“She is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam,
and wife of Joab’s armor bearer Uriah the Hittite.”
Then David sent messengers and took her.
When she came to him, he had relations with her.
She then returned to her house.
But the woman had conceived,
and sent the information to David, “I am with child.”David therefore sent a message to Joab,
“Send me Uriah the Hittite.”
So Joab sent Uriah to David.
When he came, David questioned him about Joab, the soldiers,
and how the war was going, and Uriah answered that all was well.
David then said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and bathe your feet.”
Uriah left the palace,
and a portion was sent out after him from the king’s table.
But Uriah slept at the entrance of the royal palace
with the other officers of his lord, and did not go down
to his own house.
David was told that Uriah had not gone home.
On the day following, David summoned him,
and he ate and drank with David, who made him drunk.
But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his bed
among his lord’s servants, and did not go down to his home.
The next morning David wrote a letter to Joab
which he sent by Uriah.
In it he directed:
“Place Uriah up front, where the fighting is fierce.
Then pull back and leave him to be struck down dead.”
So while Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah
to a place where he knew the defenders were strong.
When the men of the city made a sortie against Joab,
some officers of David’s army fell,
and among them Uriah the Hittite died.

Responsorial Psalm PS 51:3-4, 5-6A, 6BCD-7, 10-11

R. (see 3a) Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.”
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
I have done such evil in your sight
that you are just in your sentence,
blameless when you condemn.
True, I was born guilty,
a sinner, even as my mother conceived me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Let me hear the sounds of joy and gladness;
the bones you have crushed shall rejoice.
Turn away your face from my sins,
and blot out all my guilt.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Alleluia SEE MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the Kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”

He said,
“To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

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