FATHER O’CONNOR’S HOMILY FOR 13 JULY 2014
FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME-A
Isaiah 55: 10-11
Romans 8: 18-23
Matthew 13: 1-9
Advertisers know that they need to target their audience if they are going to get a response. The “one size fits all” approach in advertising just doesn’t work. People need to feel addressed. There are many audiences that advertising appeals to. I would like to point out two today – the “belongers” and the “achievers.”
For many people, it is important to feel that they belong, that they fit in, and so advertising targets that group. The fashion world does this all the time. Look at eyeglasses – plastic was “in,” and then wire-rims were “in,” and now plastic is making a comeback once more. People want to fit in. These are the “belongers.”
Another group would be the “achievers.” Achievers are often very successful people. They don’t want to fit in – they want to blaze a trail. They don’t want to be like everybody else. They want to set the style. And so advertising to the achiever might be more like: “This is something that most people can’t afford. This is something that most people can’t have – but you can! After all, you are above all the rest!”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is demonstrating that different audiences will receive His Word in different ways. He delivers the same message – the same Word – but it will be heard/received in different ways.
And so He tells a story, a parable, and He says: “A sower goes out to sow some seed, and some of it falls on the footpath. Birds come and eat most of it up. Some of it falls on rocky soil, and it sprouts very quickly, but there’s no depth and it dies in the heat of the sun. Some of it sprouts up among thorn bushes, and the thorns choke out the seed, and it dies. Some falls on fertile ground and produces a harvest thirty, sixty or a hundred fold.” And then Jesus adds, “If you have ears to hear, listen to Me.”
The Word of God – the seed – on what kind ground does it land in our living? On the footpath, or on the rocky ground, or in the thorn bushes? Or on good, fertile soil where it takes root “and produces a harvest thirty, sixty or a hundred fold”? In cooperating with God’s grace, we determine the kind of soil for the seed of God’s Word to grow in – or not. And what can we use to cultivate this soil daily? How about The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic: prayer, study, generosity and evangelization.
I found a similar point illustrated in the exciting news that LeBron James is coming home. He is the same individual who left for Miami four years ago. We are the same people living here in the Akron-Cleveland area.
However, LeBron just made this admission about himself: “My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.” He is the same person – the same seed – but he has grown and matured.
And what about us, the soil for him to continue to grow in? Four years ago we were bitter and angry and displaying all kinds of negative emotions. Today, we are still soil but a more enriching soil that is filled with forgiveness and welcome and joy and all kinds of positive things.
However, the notable difference here is that God’s Word doesn’t change. We do. God is constant in His love and care for us. He wants to plant that seed of His Word in us. But what kind of soil do we offer Him? What kind of soil would we like to offer Him so that His Word can take root and flourish in our lives – helping us to become better versions of ourselves, making us even better disciples of Jesus Christ?
There were two sisters, Lisa and Shelly. Both liked to swim. Lisa practiced all the time, and she had just won a 220 meter meet. Her dad was reading about it in the newspaper at the breakfast table. His other daughter, Shelly, was also there. He read the story to her and said, “Shelly, don’t you want to do something like Lisa did?” Well, that involved practice and Shelly wasn’t in to practice. She just liked to swim. So Shelly said to her father, “No, I don’t really think I want to do that, Dad. I’d rather sit here at the table and eat donuts and drink milk.”
In our own lives of faith we can take that approach too – just to sit back and observe and admire the Christian life. Or, we can be committed to it and practice it, day in and day out.
Jesus tells us that people can receive His Word in different ways. But it is only in the fertile ground that it produces a crop of thirty, sixty, or a hundred fold.What kind of soil are you offering the Lord right now? What kind would you like to offer Him? The truth of the matter is that rich soil is ours for the asking.
There is a prayer at Mass that we pray right before we receive Holy Communion. The priest takes the host and chalice and holds them up – the Body and Blood, the soul and divinity of Jesus Himself – and he says, “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”
And we all respond, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
“Only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Lord, we ask you, say that word.