A Cycle – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time 20
Have you kept silent when you know someone you loved, a sibling, best friend or a close relative would be hurt if you told them what you discovered? I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone say they wish someone had said something to them before it was too late. How many times people know about a cheating spouse before it is known by their marriage partner?
Why do we hesitate to tell people we love things that will cause them great pain once they know it? How many times has a revelation become a catalyst to cause them to work on a solution to overcome the problem? We seem to avoid discussing things people need to work on to be successful in life. How often have you heard people complain about their coworker’s lack of performance, but they never tell their coworkers what they need to know to perform their jobs efficiently. Honesty in dealing with relationships is often tempered by how much being honest will hurt the other or damage a relationship.
It is a good thing those in the military do not hesitate to be brutally honest with a subordinate. We are told in the scriptures to correct our brothers and sisters. We are to do this in love so why do we hesitate to tell someone we love the things we sense or know they or someone they trust is doing to them. We cannot ignore how the scriptures tell us we are our brother’s keeper and we should point out their sin. Should we take those passages to heart even if it uncomfortable?
There are many references that tell us it is our responsibility to be honest with members of our Christian community when we know their actions do not line up with their professed beliefs. Yet, we fail to do that because we do not feel it is our place. Should you tell your best friend her husband is cheating on her or you know she is being abused? Should you tell your best friend the drinking that went on at the party their children attended last weekend? We hold back because we know the pain it will cause and the damage to the marriage it will cause. We hold back because we sound so judgmental and self-righteous. We hold back because we sense our words will not be believed or our words will cause a rift in in the friendship.
These are important questions and are being presented to you today because Jesus in today’s gospel tells us we are not allowing his words to penetrate our hearts. We are sleep walking through our faith and we do not know it. Jesus is giving us some insight to cause us to stop and take inventory and pay attention to what he knows about our spiritual journey.
This is more than a parable about seeds and the ground it is planted in. It was not spoken to us just to make us reflect on how we are responding to the word of God. It has more meaning beyond motivating us seek to become good soil.
Jesus, because he loves us is speaking very direct to us. He is not holding back, instead he is being very honest about how we have used our perceived holiness as a means of not even allowing ourselves to be transformed by his words. In Matthew 13 verse 17 Jesus says, “the righteous desire to see but cannot see.” In last week’s homily I spoke of that desire and today Jesus tells us we have that desire but despite it we fail to see. Those words should shake us and make us examine how we measure our standing with God. Is our standing with God, our righteousness, measured by how well we practice our faith? Perhaps we are using the wrong measure to gauge our relationship with God.
Before you even think about how we measure our faith we should consider these words in this story of the sower. These words seem to have gotten lost in the picture of the sower. We easily visualize the sower and the ground the seed falls upon in this parable. It is easy to think of seed on a path, on rocky ground, in the thorns and on good soil and measure our own souls’ condition to grow the seed of the gospel. Yet I will say to you there is something more important for us to consider in this parable. We need to consider his audience listening to him that day. The gospel tells us it was a crowd of ordinary people seeking more than they were experiencing from the practice of their faith.
But this day the words of Jesus were not intended to tickle their ears or make them feel good. No instead his words were directed at correcting what was wrong in their relationship with God. Those words continue to be directed today at us. We need to examine ourselves against these words of Jesus: “(we)…hear but not understand…we look but never see. Gross are our hearts for we hardly hear with our ears… we have closed our eyes lest we see with our eyes and hear with our ears and understand with our hearts and be converted.” Jesus tells us we need a conversion experience and we cannot grasp what that means because we are doing well, so we believe.
Picture the scene, the people in that crowd that day were not the Pharisees. They are the ordinary weekly temple attendees. Those who go to the temple to sacrifice and they go to the temple on the stipulated holy days. What is it they fail to see, hear, or understand? They are curious about Jesus while at the same time they are not open to change what they have been doing for centuries. They have become creatures of habit in their worship and the words of God are not understood by them. Perhaps we are more like them than we like to believe. How many times do we hear the gospel and not only fail to take it into our hearts but cannot remember what it was when we get home?
We should be like the disciples as they seek to understand the meaning of the parable of the sower. You would think the meaning is obvious and so obvious even a child can understand that parable. I believe they wanted a deeper meaning because they were beginning to be changed because they dared to follow Jesus. Think about this for a moment. They had dared to break the law of purification (Mt. 12:1-2) because they were beginning to understand it was what came from within them that made them unclean and not what they put into their mouth. They began to understand by following the law written on their hearts they would fulfill all the laws of God.
Why does this matter to us today? Because the forgiveness offered us by the death of Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation. If we allow the words of Jesus to penetrate our minds, hearts and open our eyes we will be able to stand before Christ and feel loved not condemned. Once we feel loved we can then begin to help others overcome the things that wound and hinder their growth in knowledge of God. We can speak words of truth to brothers and sisters to help them overcome the things that have prevented them from discovering what God is offering them. This means we must become bolder in our witness of the life offered us buy God and the courage to let go of the things that have held us from completely giving God our hearts, mind, strength, and soul.
What Jesus is telling us today is we need to take the blinders off ourselves and be willing to allow the transforming power of God’s love and forgiveness to enfold us. We need to allow the action of the Holy Spirit to touch our hearts, our eyes, our ears, and our minds to respond to the invitation of Christ to discover the path to righteousness is found when we allow Him to guide us to holiness.