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Fr. Tim’s Homily for July 16, 2017

FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME-A

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Isaiah 55: 10-11
 
Romans 8: 18-23
 
Matthew 13: 1-9

 

Advertisers know that they must target a specific audience well if they are going to make a sale.  The “one size fits all” approach in advertising just does not work.  People need to feel personally 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, and so advertising targets that group.  The fashion world does this all the time.  Look at eyeglasses – plastic frames were “in,” and then wire-rims were “in,” and now plastic and wire are “in.”  People want to fit in.  They are the “belongers.”

Another group would be the “achievers.”  Achievers are often very successful people.  They don’t want to be like everybody else.  They want to set the style.  And so advertising might say to the achiever: “This is something that most people can’t afford – but you can!  After all, you are not like everybody else!”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus demonstrates that different audiences will receive His Word in different ways.  He delivers the same message – the same Word – but it will not be heard in the same ways.

Jesus tells a parable:  “A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.  It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.  Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.  But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”  And then Jesus adds, “Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

The Word of God – the seed – on what kind of soil does it fall in our lives?

Unlike the different personality types to which the advertising world seeks to appeal, we choose the kind of soil we offer for the seed of God’s Word to grow in – or not grow in.  The condition of the soil is our response to God’s Word.

And how can we enrich this soil in our lives?  How about using The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic:  regular prayer, study, generosity and evangelization – so that His Word can take root and flourish in our lives – making us even better disciples of Jesus Christ and helping us to become even better versions of ourselves.

There were two sisters, Lisa and Shelly.  Both liked to swim.  Lisa practiced all the time, and had just won a competition.  Her dad was reading about this as he and Shelly were snacking in the kitchen.

He asked, “Shelly, don’t you want to do something like Lisa did?”  Well, that involved a lot of practice and Shelly wasn’t into practice.  She just enjoyed being in the pool.

So Shelly replied, “No, I really don’t want to do that, Dad.  I’d rather just sit here and have cookies and milk with you.”

We can be tempted take that approach in our discipleship – just to sit back and admire the Christian life.  Or we can commit ourselves to practicing our discipleship faithfully and fruitfully, day after day.

Jesus teaches us that we choose how we hear His Word.  And with God’s grace, we can cultivate the soil that we are given so that it produces fruit “a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

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 can be ours for the asking.

There is a prayer at Mass right before we receive Holy Communion.  The priest takes the Host and the 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.”

“But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

Lord, we ask you, please say that word.

 

Fr. Tim’s Homily for July 9, 2017

FORTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME-A

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Zechariah 9: 9-10
 
Romans 8: 9, 11-13
 
Matthew 11: 25-30

 

There is a rather odd comic strip that is tucked in my memory bank.  It is something that you would not want to try yourself.  It is about a man who got caught in a downpour, saw a Laundromat, put some coins in a dryer, and then jumped in!

I remember that cartoon because of its caption:  “Stuck in the spin cycle of life.”  I think that we have all been there before.

I find Jesus’ words to us in the Gospel today both refreshing and renewing:  “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

In the early days of automobiles they frequently had to climb steep hills.  Restaurants began locating themselves at the top of these hills.  As the cars made their way up, they were in danger of overheating.  So the drivers would need to stop to cool down the radiators before making the descent.  Imagine how many times you would hear:  “Honey, look.  There’s a restaurant here.  Why don’t we stop and get something to eat?”  How clever!

That is something like what happens when we come to Mass.  We may arrive tired from a busy week.  We come in here to settle down and rest quietly in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  And during the Mass, the Lord feeds us with His Holy Word in the Scriptures, and He nourishes us with His Body and Blood in the Eucharist.  Then after our time here we can make our way back into our busy world refreshed and renewed.  “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Feeling “stuck in the spin cycle of life” has a lot to do with a certain imbalance in life.  Jesus did not run around helter-skelter during His ministry.  Nor does He expect that to be the ordinary pattern of our living. Jesus worked hard but He also took time to get refreshed and renewed.

We find in the Scriptures how Jesus would regularly withdraw to a deserted place in order to pray to His heavenly Father;  how Jesus would spend an evening at dinner with His friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus in their home;  how Jesus enjoyed going out in the boat with His Apostles;  how Jesus loved nature – the lilies of the field and the birds of the skies;  how Jesus loved to be around children – “Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them.”

Jesus worked hard, but He also took time to become refreshed and renewed.  His words and His example encourage us.

A reporter went to Sea World and was interviewing Shamu’s trainer and learned that Shamu had five periods of time spent each day:  time for work, for play, for feeding, for rest, and for learning new things.  That interviewer wrote, “Well, if Shamu the orca whale can get it all together, why can’t we human beings?”

Of course, we would add one more priority to the top of our list – prayer, work, play, nourishment, rest and learning.  In order to live a balanced life we need priorities on which to build and Jesus leads us by His example.

As far as we know, the only time that Jesus left Palestine while He lived here on earth was when He was a baby and He went with Mary and Joseph to Egypt in order to flee King Herod who wanted to kill the Newborn King.  Other than that, He never left the Holy Land.  He never went to Rome, He never went to Corinth, and yet He is the Savior of the world.

Why did He do that?  His first priority was to the lost sheep of Israel. He left His mission to the world to those who would follow Him:  “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.  Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” [Matthew 28: 19].

We need to have our priorities too, and this weekend is a great time to take a good look at them – especially when we feel like we are “stuck in the spin cycle of life.”  “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

And then Jesus says one more thing that almost seems to be at odds with this statement:  “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me… for my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

At first hearing, that doesn’t sound terribly refreshing and renewing, does it – to have a yoke around our necks?

Well, I learned something from people who know about those things.  If you take ox number one and measure its pulling power, and then take ox number two and measure its pulling power, and then you take ox one and two and put a yoke around their necks and have them pull together as a team, their pulling power as a team is far greater than the sum of their pulling power when they worked independently.

Jesus is telling us that He wants to partner with us, that we are not doing our work in life all by ourselves.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me… for my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

When we feel that we are “stuck in the spin cycle of life,” a wonderful way to respond to Jesus’ invitation to rest in Him and to partner with Him is that prayer that I suggested to you last weekend:  “Lord, help me to remember that nothing is going to happen today that you and I can’t handle together.”

My brothers and sisters, I wish you the Lord’s peace and refreshment.

 

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