Homily for 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

[I just realized that I haven’t posted last week’s Sunday homily . . . if anyone has been looking for it, sorry about that!]

In today’s Gospel, Jesus compares us to dirt—well, actually soil.  In the rather lengthy Gospel parable that we have just listened to, the seed is the Word of God which is sown into our hearts through our hearing of the Gospel; our hearts are the various kinds of soil described.  Jesus uses four figures for what happens to the seeds, but there are essentially three possible responses that we can have to the Word being sown within us: first, we can hear and yet not understand God’s Word; second, we can hear and understand yet not persevere in living out God’s Word due to trials and persecutions, worldly anxieties or the lure of riches; third, we can put God’s Word into effect in our lives and bear fruit.

Simply knowing about God’s Word is not enough.  If we stop and think about it, even the Devil knows Sacred Scripture: when Our Lord spent forty days in the wilderness, the Devil put Him to the test and the Devil quoted Scripture to Our Lord in order to tempt Him.  We must go beyond simply knowing about Scripture.  It is important to know Scripture; Bible studies can greatly help us in our spiritual lives: the more we understand Scripture, the more it helps us to grow in our faith.  Yet we cannot stop at merely studying Scriptural texts: Scripture is not a textbook meant to be studied, Scripture is a living Word and we have to let that Word penetrate our hearts and shape the way that we live our lives.

How do we avoid being in the first category that Our Lord described in today’s Gospel?  How do we avoid hearing but not understanding?  This first place where the seed of the Word is scattered is not soil at all: the first seeds described by the Lord fall, not upon soil, but upon the path.  Presumably the path is not made of soil, but stone.  The seed cannot take root because the path denies the seed access to the soil.  In order to allow the Word to enter, we must have hearts that are open to hearing God’s Word.  God will not force His way into our hearts.  We have to be open to believing.  Saint Augustine said that we have to believe in order to understand and then our understanding will help us grow in our belief.  If we are not open to faith, we will not understand.  It would be like trying to see something while refusing to open our eyes.  A heart that is open to God is a pre-requisite.  Then we need to learn about Scripture and pray with God’s Word.  Fr. John often says that the Bible is God’s love letter to you.  The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of Scripture thousands of years ago, yet the Bible is not irrelevant or out-dated.  The same Holy Spirit Who inspired the authors of Sacred Scripture to write wants to speak to your heart through Scripture.  We believe that it is the Holy Spirit that speaks to us through the Scriptures.  Every Sunday we pray together in the Creed that we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life; Who Proceeds from the Father and the Son; Who is worshipped and glorified; Who has spoken through the Prophets.  Every week we all profess that the Holy Spirit inspired the Prophets to write what they wrote in Scripture: that the Holy Spirit speaks through the Prophets; who does the Holy Spirit speak to through the Prophets?  He speaks to you, and to me through the Prophets.  Do you want to hear God speak to you?  Listen to Him: read His Word.  Study it to learn what it means, but more importantly pray with Scripture: God will speak to you through it if you allow Him to.

The second and third categories mentioned by Our Lord in today’s Gospel is the seed sown on rocky ground and the seed sown in thorns; Our Lord explains that these are those who receive the Word yet do not persevere in it.  The Word is received, but then difficulties or worldliness creep in and withers or chokes out the Word.  How do we avoid falling into these two situations?  We avoid it by our day-to-day fidelity.  Our Lord calls us to be faithful to Him: “Take up your cross and follow me,” Our Lord says.  A cross is not a pleasant thing to bear.  Bearing witness to our Catholic Faith in a culture that is so hostile to any religion is not easy: it takes courage.  Fidelity to the daily duties of our state in life is not a glamorous, sensational experience.  Yet that is what God asks of us.  We are called to love; we are called to love God above all things and to love others as ourselves.  We are called to bear witness to God in our lives; regular contact with Scripture not only instructs us how we are to live it also communicates the grace and strength to us to do so.

Only when we hear the Word of God, understand it (through prayer) and bear fruit by living the Word out in our lives can we say that we are rich soil that Our Lord calls us to be.  Let us not only be hearers of the Word but also doers.  May God help us to have hearts that are open to receiving His Word and may we put it into practice each and every day.  Lord Jesus Christ, we believe, increase our faith.  Give us ears that are open to hear and minds that are open to understanding Your Word.  May Your Word instruct us and inspire us that we may follow You ever more faithfully.  May Your Word bear abundant fruit in our lives.  Amen.

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