15 Sunday in Ordinary Time
MT 13:1-23 OR 13:1-9
July 12, 2020
There were three pieces of mail waiting for me at the parish office this week. As I glanced quickly through the letters, I found one business-sized envelope. It was addressed to me personally, care of the parish. It had an individual’s name and return address…from out of state, so it didn’t appear to be an advertisement or a bill.
The second piece of mail was a larger envelope. I knew immediately that it was from the Michigan Catholic Conference…the headquarters for the Catholic Church for the whole state of Michigan. Based in Lansing, MCC frequently sends out informational bulletins to priests, pastors, and other Church leaders…and sometimes…when there’s something very important going on…to all of the faithful as well.
Finally, from the size of the envelope, I could tell that the third piece of mail was a greeting card. It was addressed by hand. I recognized the name on the return address as a parishioner.
Well, when I finally got around to opening and reading these three pieces of mail, I started with the business-sized envelope, thinking it might be a request for something or other…something that I should take care of as soon as possible. The letter was headed up to me personally: Reverend Randy J. Kelly…care of the parish.
It began: “Dear Fr. Kelly, many people in the Catholic Church are still unaware of the great harm Pope Francis has done to Christ’s Church since he began his pontificate in March of 2013.”
The letter continued for 6-1/2 pages…listing various criticisms of, and grievances against the Holy Father. Quite honestly, I didn’t read it, at least not in its entirety. The small part I skimmed over made me very sad.
So, I turned to the larger envelope from Michigan Catholic Conference. When I opened it, I was absolutely delighted to find a pamphlet celebrating the fifth anniversary of the publication of Pope Francis’s Encyclical: Laudato Si…Care For Our Common Home. Since March 2013, when the Holy Spirit inspired the Cardinals to choose Pope Francis as our shepherd, I have made every effort to read everything that he has written.
I always feel better for the effort. But Laudato Si…Care For Our Common Home…did far more than inspire me…or inform me…or teach me. When I finished reading the document…I felt renewed hope for our world. It literally filled me with joy. It made me happy! So much so, that I ordered 25 extra copies and gave them to friends so that I could share this hope…this joy…this vision of the future for humanity…a future very much embracing the Gospel.
And I have to tell you that it occurs to me, these five years later, that had world leaders read, reflected on, seen the enormous wisdom in…and made even the slightest effort to implement the principles laid out by Pope Francis in Laudato Si …Care For Our Common Home…we very well might not be suffering from a pandemic today. For that matter, had our church leaders made a greater effort to bring this beautiful message of peace and joy and hope to the faithful, there might not be all of the social unrest that’s spreading around the globe as fast as the virus.
But rather than appreciating this document as a way of breaking open the Gospel and applying Jesus’s teachings…rather than recognizing Laudato Si…Care For Our Common Home…as a blueprint for building the Kingdom of God here and now…The Holy Father was criticized for the document by many people who claimed it was too political…speaking to things that weren’t properly within The Church’s jurisdiction. Anyway, I was very happy to see that the Michigan Catholic Conference was bringing the Encyclical back to the attention of at least the Roman Catholic faithful of Michigan.
Then there was the third piece of mail…the greeting card from a parishioner. Before I even opened it, I knew that it was more than just a card. It was thick. I could feel something in it. When I opened it, three packages of flower seeds came falling out onto my desk. There was a handwritten note in the card, and I did read it…all of it…several times.
It began: Dear Fr. Randy, here are some seeds that should flower if planted now… you can even grow them in pots…they’re hardy too…that means they will survive the fall pretty well.
On the back of the envelope, as an afterthought…my friend wrote: Remember to water these.
I just sat at my desk, thinking about how these three very different pieces of mail related to one another, and more importantly, how they related to this week’s Gospel. It was like the Holy Spirit got a job at the post office. I mean, what are the chances that someone sends me packets of seeds, that, if cared for properly, will blossom into beautiful flowers…as we are called to reflect on the Jesus’s parable about seeds…and soil?
So, the takeaway for me, from opening three pieces of mail on the very day that I was reflecting on the passage from Matthew 13 is quite simply this:
Some ideas are like bad seeds…weeds that overpower us and chock out the good and beautiful flowers that God intended to grow and flourish in our minds…our hearts…our lives. Try as we may, it’s nearly impossible to prevent these ideas of darkness, anger, hopelessness, and arrogance from invading and taking root in our minds. They float in without us even noticing, oftentimes, from the most unlikely source. Once they make their way into our minds, they spread and take control. It requires a lot of hard work, often an entire lifetime, to rid ourselves of these destructive weeds. They are a hardy species.
Other ideas are like the packets of flower seeds my friend sent. With the slightest bit of effort… they burst into life. They grow and blossom into a beautiful garden that brings hope and joy and happiness. And once these beautiful ideas mature in our minds and in our hearts…they resist every effort by the weeds to invade them.
So…in these early days of our summer, examine closely the ideas that surround you. If, in your heart, they inspire hope and peace and joy, they are of the Holy Spirit. Plant them…care for them…water and feed them with the Eucharist. Watch them grow and enjoy the beauty they produce.