July 12, 2020
At the Churches of St. Peter the Apostle and St. William in Naples, FL
Isaiah 55, 10-11 + Psalm 65 + Roman 8, 18-23 + Matthew 13, 1-23
All the parables are about God. Jesus uses them to reveal something about his Father. While that is true of this parable revealing a generous God, whose is not particularly fussy about how much and where “seeds” are sown, God is not really the focus in this parable. Comfortably sitting back gratefully over a God who is so generous isn’t going to help us or lead us anywhere. While it is sometimes called, “The parable of the Sower”, it really ought to be called, “The Parable of the soil.” What the farmer is doing is not remarkable at the time. First, they plowed the field, to loosen the top soil, and then the farmer would simply walk along a path and throw seed out along the way. There were no neat rows or machines to measure out just enough seed in just the right place to get a good cop.
As always with the Living Word of God, something new pops up every time we proclaim the Gospel. That’s just the way it is for people who continue to live and internalize the Word of God which is exactly what Isaiah is proclaiming in the first reading. So, for me, what I heard this week had not caught my attention before. There is a movement here. I hope you caught it. Jesus moves out of the house and sat down by the sea. He is no longer speaking “in the house” to the apostles. Now he speaks to crowds, and he concludes with a statement that makes clear the meaning and the purpose of this parable. Those who have ears, those who are open and listen to the Word of God are Blessed because they understand.
Jesus calls our attention to the privilege that is ours. We have been given the opportunity to see and hear (to understand) what those in the past and some still around us have longed to see and hear. In the second part of the parable, the word “Hear” is used five times, and when spoken in this parable it is not about an audio sensation, but about receptivity. This is what it takes. This is what God requires. This is what discipleship is about, Receptivity. We have to be open to the Word of God. We have to be loosened as was the dry top-soil in that arid climate. The rigid, the smug no-it-all who has made up their mind about everything is not receptive.
I believe what this “Parable of the Soil” asks of us today is to examine and reconsider our receptivity. We must ask and wonder how receptive we are to change, to growth, to conversion of heart. The receptive good soil allows faith to take root, and that faith to produce a harvest which Matthew calls: “The Kingdom of Heaven.” The work of the Holy Spirit in us makes a church that changes, a life that is full of wonder and curious about the unknown. A church and a people who are unafraid of something different or new, but able to see good in all things and all people because, God can’t make anything bad. We rejoice today in the promise that as long as we remain open and receptive to what the Gospel asks of us, we shall be among the Blessed.
At the 9:00am Mass in St William Church, this homily continues.
Among us today are several children whose parents are bringing them into the fullness of our faith. What we have to give these children today is not just Holy Communion in consecrated bread, but Communion among the Holy, a place among God’s people made holy by the sacrificed Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. My dear parents: on the day you brought these children to the Church and to Jesus Christ, you traced the sign of the cross on their forehead, and you promised that you would bring them up in the practice of the faith. You have done so in a beautiful and faithful way, and we recognize that today. For an old priest like me I see your great desire and love for your children, and I share your hope that the seed you have planted in their hearts will grow and bear fruit for countless generations. You have done what you can, and there is more yet for you to do, but the seed is planted, and now it will do only what the seed can do. In years to come, you may grow impatient and perhaps even feel guilty if the seed does not produce the way you wanted. There will come a time when you must simply wait to see what comes up. The waiting is hard, imagining what comes needs some openness and receptivity. Teach that to your children. Help them to remain open and hear the Word of God. The more they are open and receptive, the more they will be Blessed. Please step forward now with your children.
To the children: When you drive home today, I want you to ask your parents to tell you the story of the day you were Baptized. Have them tell you about your God-parents, about what you were wearing, who was there, maybe the name of the priest, and where it all happened. Have them tell you about the name they gave you that day. Then, I want you to ask them what they were feeling like and what they hoped for you that day and what they wanted to give you. Whoever that priest was, he made the sign of the cross on your forehead. It’s like a mark that makes you different. It’s almost like a scar that shows something about you, something that happened. Then he asked your parents and godparents to do the same, and I want them to do it once more right now. We claim you today as children of God, and as members of this Church family, and I want everyone here to welcome you today into God’s holy family. Now be seated while we prepare and pray over the gift that God has for you, the Body and Blood of his only Son.