16th July – Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Normally (apart from Sundays) July 16th is the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the foundation day of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity in 1958.

This was my Sunday homily for today. Gospel follows.

sowerparableAt Denis Hanlon’s funeral last Tuesday I spoke about going to his house and giving the Last Rites. This was Saturday evening, a few hours before he passed away. To anoint his hands I had to pull back the bed clothes. I was touched to see that he had wrapped his Rosary beads around his left hand, maybe his last conscious action before becoming unconscious.

Fr Peyton who did much to promote the Rosary in the last century said that holding Rosary beads in our hands is a way of holding Mary’s hands in ours. What a holy and beautiful thing it is for us to leave this world in the close company of our beloved spiritual mother.

Furthermore Denis made every effort to get to Mass on Sundays. Up until recent times he would come in his wheelchair which involved considerable effort given his 90+ years and poor health. Yet if Jesus had said “Do this in memory of me”, Denis would make every effort to comply with this request.

Jesus is clear in the gospel that we should not judge anybody – one way or the other. Only he knows the depths of the human heart. But from all external appearances, Jesus and the Catholic faith was a very important part of who Denis was.

I begin with this today because the gospel we just heard talks about the different ways that God’s Word is received by people.

At one end of the scale we have the true believers who are likened to rich soil that produce a rich harvest unto eternal life. At the other end of the scale are those who don’t appear to respond to the Word and who are likened to the seed that falls on the edge of the path and which never even sprouts.

In the middle there are another 2 types of response. There is the seed that falls into thin soil that withers under the sun’s heat and doesn’t produce a harvest. Likewise the seed that falls among the thorns doesn’t produce a crop either. Jesus compared the thorns to the worries of life and the lure of riches.

So what are we to do if we are to be the rich soil that produces a harvest unto eternal life?

What we need can be summed up in one word: COMMITTMENT. The seed that fell on the edge of the path, the thin soil and among the thorns quit early and gave up the fight. On the other hand the seed that fell on rich soil endured to harvest time.

Once in the seminary we had a workshop on marriage that was given by a couple who did marriage preparation courses. They said that one can do endless compatibility testing prior to marriage. The only guarantee however that a marriage will endure is if both parties bring unlimited amounts of stick-at-it-ness to the relationship. I have always remembered that. All of you married couples – especially those married a long time – can testify to this, I am sure!

We too need unlimited amounts of stick-at-it-ness in our faithfulness to Jesus and the gospel.

What are we to do if we find ourselves in the wrong type of soil? The good news is that we don’t have to stay there. We have the wonderful gift of repentance provided by making a sincere confession. In this way we recommit ourselves to the Lord and are transplanted into the rich soil that produces the harvest.

In summary: We should aspire to be the rich soil that responds generously to the Word of God and produces a harvest of eternal life. An enduring commitment to Jesus and Christian living is key in this regard.

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Gospel                               Matthew 13:1-23
A sower went out to sow.

Jesus left the house and sat by the lakeside, but such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat there. The people all stood on the beach, and he told them many things in parables.

He said, ‘Imagine a sower going out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away. Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

Then the disciples went up to him and asked, ‘Why do you talk to them in parables?’ ‘Because’ he replied ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them. For anyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. So in their case this prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled:

You will listen and listen again, but not understand,
see and see again, but not perceive.
For the heart of this nation has grown coarse,
their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes,
for fear they should see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their heart,
and be converted
and be healed by me.

‘But happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! I tell you solemnly, many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.

‘You, therefore, are to hear the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path. The one who received it on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once. The one who received the seed in thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word and so he produces nothing. And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

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