The Sower of the Seed
July 13, 2014
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The very first “Sunday Homily” I preached was in St Patrick’s church in Palms, Michigan. It was the summer before my Ordination and Bishop Untener wanted me to have a rural, as well as an urban experience of parish ministry before making the determination as to whether or not I was “ready” for my first assignment. For the latter, I was sent to St John the Baptist in Carrollton. At the time, both parishes were pastored by nuns. Among their many other gifts, both were exceptionally fine preachers. They both stressed to me how vital it is to good liturgy to break open the Word proclaimed, and distribute it among the people in a way that nourishes and lifts up their spirits. Fully understanding the gravity of what I was about to do, I stepped forward to the Table of the Word (Ambo). Knees knocking and hands shaking, I began to proclaim Matt. 13:1-23.
Because of the summer heat, the front doors to the church were wide open. At some point, I looked up from the Sacred Text, and caught a view of the rolling, “knee high” corn field thriving in the July sun. Surrounded by an impressive stand of old hardwood trees, the field, directly across the country road from the church, was nothing less than magnificent. During that brief glimpse of natural beauty, it was as if the field spoke to me. Look at me! I’m what Jesus was talking about. Think about all the hard work that it took to make me look like this. Think of how many people will be nourished if I continue to grow and thrive and produce a good harvest this fall. Think about the waste and the loss if I am not cared for. It was a very powerful experience.
I had another powerful experience that Sunday morning. St. Patrick’s at the time, was a relatively small faith community, but the people filled the church for Sunday Mass. The elders, the younger people and families…all looking to the Table of the Word and the Communion Table to be “fed” so that they would have the strength to begin a new week. As they came forward to receive Communion, I noticed how sun tanned most of the people were. When they lifted up their hands for the Eucharist, I couldn’t help but notice the evidence of hard work! The men in particular all seemed to have massive strong hands. But even the teenagers took the Body of Christ on to hands that were clearly used to working in fields like the one across the road. And with that I was graced with another “AHHH!” moment!
Clearly, we the fields in which the Word of God is sewn, and cultivated in hopes that it will grow and offer a bountiful harvest at the end of our earthly season. But, I wonder if maybe Jesus is telling us as well, that we are also the farmers called upon to sow the seeds of faith in the lives of others. I wonder if Jesus is encouraging us to go out into the world and propagate what is entrusted to us from the two Tables. Could He be encouraging us to work hard in spreading the Word of God, the Seeds of Faith, even if it doesn’t always seem to germinate, or survive or thrive… because when it happens to fall onto a rich life eager for Christ, the results will be worth all of our efforts?
It’s true that a good homily is essential to good liturgy. But the duty to preach the Good News doesn’t rest exclusively with the ordained, or pastoral leaders. All of the Baptized should continue to preach the Gospel, out in the fields of their day to day lives; aware that it will not always be well received but that when it does take root the potential good is beyond calculations. It is indeed hard work. However, the faces of committed disciples, made strong for their efforts, glow…like the sun tanned faces of the folks out at St. Patrick’s.