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Bishop's Homily for the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time

July 16, 2017

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A – July 16, 2017
[Christ the King Church, Kahului (Confirmation Mass)]

We are people who like to see results – and now!  Microwave ovens often seem to take too long.  We think a five or six hour flight is an ordeal, when our ancestors would have taken weeks to travel the same distance.  We look at our watches when the high-speed internet is not downloading a video fast enough.  Jesus, however, seems to have a different perspective.  Even though his message is urgent, he knows that it takes time and preparation to really sink in, to take root, and to grow, so that it can bear the fruit he wants it to bear.

Surely you did not come to church today to learn about agriculture, as interesting as it might be.  You came to worship God, to thank him for his blessings, and to open yourself anew to the mission Jesus entrusts to every one of us, his disciples.  He wants us to go out and sow the seed of the Word of God – that is, to witness to Jesus himself, who is the eternal Word made flesh.  He has come down from heaven to dwell among us, and God’s word is always “fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats.”  It does not return to him void, but achieves the end for which he sent it.  And so Jesus teaches us, by way of an agricultural image or parable, how we are to go about the work he has entrusted to us.

First, gives us the seed.  He gives us himself.  This is why we gather to hear the Word of God at every Mass and sacrament.  It is the way that Jesus gives us the kernel of what we are to proclaim to the world.  But, as Jesus points out, not everyone who hears actually listens.  Sometimes even here we can be distracted and the seed can be blown away by the winds of daydreaming; stolen away by the birds of self-centeredness, which eat it up for its own benefit and not so that it can produce fruit that can be shared; or simply choked by a world that has other ways of looking at things than God’s ways.  And so, we must learn how to nurture this seed, to be better listeners, so that the seed can be planted deeply, open up in good soil, and bear good fruit.  Sometimes we do not understand the Scriptures, so we just dismiss them, casting them aside on rocky ground.  But we need to cultivate our love of the Word of God by spending time with it.  Every person should have his or her own Bible, and we should spend time reflecting on it throughout the day.  When we become frustrated because we do not understand it, we can simply walk away from it; or we can be challenged to study it, to share it with family and friends to glean their understanding and insights.  It growth in good soil is not instantaneous, but takes time, dedication, and patience.  But it will not be void, and if we are faithful, it will always achieve the end for which God sent it.

Then, of course, we need to plant the seed once we have received it.  It needs to be sown and scattered widely, so that all who are living in a world of darkness and dryness can be refreshed by its life giving streams.  Have the poor lost hope of ever escaping from the indignities of their state?  To them the Word of God can bring hope.  Have married couples been allured by the prevailing culture of “what’s in it for me?”, or can the Word of God convince and convict them that living for the other is what will bring them the greatest happiness?  Have we just accepted that there will always be discord and fighting between ethnic groups, political parties, or factions in the Church?  Or can the Word of God be sown in such a way that it can turn situations of misunderstanding and hatred into civil discourse in the truth?

But where do we sow the seed?  Only here in church, where it is safe to do so; where we know everyone embraces it, or at least wants to?  Or are we not sent out to sow it where it might grow and it might not.  Do we ever share our faith at home and make the home a domestic church, where God’s Word is living and active?  Do we share the beauty of the Lord Jesus with our coworkers or classmates, especially with those who have no idea how wonderful Jesus is?  I once remember coming to a Christmas play put on by the youth group of the parish that tried to show the true meaning of Christmas as opposed to the commercialized “holiday” celebrations that have replaced it.  It was a moving play, performed with great devotion.  But afterwards I remember telling the youth how wonderful it would be if they could perform it in a park or at the mall, and not just in a church where everyone really agrees with the message in the first place.  Would that be risky?  Might they be ridiculed or ignored?  Might they be throwing pearls in front of pigs, to use an image Jesus himself used?  Yet how will the powerful Word of God go out unless we take such risks, going beyond what is comfortable, and realizing that some will fall by the wayside, some will be eaten up by cynical birds, and some will simply be choked off by the cares of the world.  Yet some will fall on good soil and produce good fruit, even if only thirty-fold.

It is our privilege and our mission to go out and sow the Word of God patiently but faithfully, so that it may accomplish the healing and the reconciliation for which God sent it.