Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Saturday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of Saint Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church
September 17, 2016
1 Cor 15:35-37.42-49, Ps 56, Lk 8:4-15
To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- Today’s readings and feast are all about various forms of sowing and they provide an opportunity for us to consider our receptivity to God’s sowing in us and our generosity of sowing his word, His very person and ourselves to others.
- The first sowing is what Jesus himself does. He first sows the seed of his word, hoping that he will find in us not tough soil by the path that signifies a shut mind and a hardened heart that refuses to allow the word to penetrate and change; not the superficial rocky soil with just a think layer of soil over a thick subterranean layer of limestone that initially receives the seed with joy but doesn’t nourish it to make sure it grows; not the thorny soil full of the weeks of world cares, anxieties, riches and the pleasure of life that can suck up the energy that should be dedicated to the growth of the seed, but rather the good soil that hears the word, embraces it with a generous and good heart and bears fruit — 100 fold — through perseverance. Today is an opportunity for us to take again a soil sample of our heart to whether the word of God that Jesus seeks to sow in us daily changes our lives in 100 ways or more, or whether we’re resistant, superficial or existentially distracted from allowing our whole life to develop in accordance with what God proclaims.
- But that’s just the first way Jesus sows. He goes beyond it by sowing himself. In St. John’s Gospel, he says that “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12:24). He is the grain of wheat who fell to the ground on the way of the Cross and died on Calvary to bear much fruit in us. He inseminates himself in us in Holy Communion and wants to transform us totally from the inside out, changing us in an astronomical number of concrete ways to become more and more like him, as we seek to respond to this gift by aligning our entire life with Him with Whom we enter into communion, knowing that there are far more than 100 ways in which we’re not presently like him. What’s our receptivity to that sowing with Him in his Risen life?
- St. Paul in the first reading talks about one of the effects that Christ’s sowing himself and his word in us is meant to have. Just like a seed grows and matures and eventually bears fruit that contains other seeds that then can be sown, so Jesus’ sowing in us is meant to lead to our seeking to sow his word in others and to sow ourselves as grains of wheat. St. Paul talks about the way we’re supposed to imitate Jesus’ Eucharistic sowing of his own body for God and for others in the way we die. Death is not supposed to be something that just happens to us. It’s supposed to be something with which we actively cooperate, imitating Jesus in freely laying down our life for him and for others. Answering the questions of the Corinthians who wondered what the resurrected body would be like, St. Paul turns to the image of sowing. He said, “What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind; but God gives it a body as he chooses, and to each of the seeds its own body. … So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.” He was communicating that the corruptible, occasionally unpresentable, weak, natural body we have in this world is meant to be sown as a seed that in the resurrection will flourish as an incorruptible, glorious, powerful, spiritual body that is the tree that has grown from that act of self-giving. What we sow here, in other words, is reaped eternally. There is an intrinsic connection. That’s one of the reasons why Jesus’ risen body bears the marks of his crucifixion, because those are the lasting signs of the love that he sowed for us in dying so that we might live.
- Today we celebrate the feast of St. Robert Bellarmine, who was someone who allowed the Lord to sow his word and his very life within him in good soil and who spent his adult life helping the Church recover from the problems and scandals that led to the Protestant Reformation. There were so many thorns in the soil caused by scandals that many had become hardened. The Church for centuries in many places had stopped producing the fruit of charity. But slowly St. Robert helped the popes of his lifetime to care for the fields, the vineyards, entrusted to them. One important innovation was the creation of seminaries, literally places in which the seed of the word of God could be inseminated, sown, within the hearts of future leaders so that they could intern sow the seeds sown in them to others. He worked on the thorns that had creeped into the relationship between faith and science in his famous conversations with Galileo, after an occasionally stale and hardened philosophy was almost being raised to the point of dogma. He was one who cared very much for the seeds of holiness, as we see in his mentoring of the vocation of the young St. Aloysius Gonzaga. And we see how much fruit his work continues to bear in his books that remain relevant to the discussion of the controversial questions among Christians. He sowed himself together with the word that had been sown within him.
- Today as we celebrate this Mass, the Lord wants to sow his word in our ears, minds and generous hearts. He wants to sow himself within us and not just in a part of the soil of our life but in the entirety of our life. He wants to help us to persevere in allowing him to grow within us so that we can more effectively sow his word and his very presence in the lives of others. He plants his own body within us and then irrigates that seed with his blood so that we may learn how to slow ourselves together with him. That is the means by which the seed of that sowing will grow into the fruit bearing tree that will be incorruptible, glorious, powerful and spiritual. That’s what awaits St. Robert Bellarmine at the general resurrection of the body. That’s what we pray we will enjoy with them forever if we, at harvest time, when the day of judgment comes, have grown to maturity in the grace of God as adopted children in the heavenly kingdom.
The readings for today’s Mass were:
1 cor 15:35-37, 42-49
Someone may say, “How are the dead raised?
With what kind of body will they come back?”
What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies.
And what you sow is not the body that is to be
but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind.
So also is the resurrection of the dead.
It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible.
It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious.
It is sown weak; it is raised powerful.
It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.
So, too, it is written,
“The first man, Adam, became a living being,”
the last Adam a life-giving spirit.
But the spiritual was not first;
rather the natural and then the spiritual.
The first man was from the earth, earthly;
the second man, from heaven.
As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly,
and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly.
Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one,
we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.
ps 56:10c-12, 13-14
Now I know that God is with me.
In God, in whose promise I glory,
in God I trust without fear;
what can flesh do against me?
R. I will walk in the presence of God, in the light of the living.
I am bound, O God, by vows to you;
your thank offerings I will fulfill.
For you have rescued me from death,
my feet, too, from stumbling;
that I may walk before God in the light of the living.
R. I will walk in the presence of God, in the light of the living.
journeying to Jesus, he spoke in a parable.
“A sower went out to sow his seed.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled,
and the birds of the sky ate it up.
Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew,
it withered for lack of moisture.
Some seed fell among thorns,
and the thorns grew with it and choked it.
And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew,
it produced fruit a hundredfold.”
After saying this, he called out,
“Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”Then his disciples asked him
what the meaning of this parable might be.
“Knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God
has been granted to you;
but to the rest, they are made known through parables
so that they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.“This is the meaning of the parable.
The seed is the word of God.
Those on the path are the ones who have heard,
but the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts
that they may not believe and be saved.
Those on rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear,
receive the word with joy, but they have no root;
they believe only for a time and fall away in time of temptation.
As for the seed that fell among thorns,
they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along,
they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life,
and they fail to produce mature fruit.
But as for the seed that fell on rich soil,
they are the ones who, when they have heard the word,
embrace it with a generous and good heart,
and bear fruit through perseverance.”