Sunday, July 23, 2017

Homily 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

A man lay dying, and they laughed.  The latest sad story to come to us in the week that was showed us the mean and ugly side of humanity.  A 31-year old disabled man decided to go swimming in a retention pond, perhaps to simply escape the heat of a southern summer day.  It was not a good decision and the man began to struggle in the water, crying out for help.  Nearby were three young men, close enough to hear him and close enough to help him.  Yet there would be no help.  The three bystanders instead begin to yell insults and taunts at the drowning man and chose to film his struggle and death.  Imagine dying and the last words you hear on earth are the insults and just plain meanness of fellow human beings.  There will always be weeds among the wheat.  Incredibly there is possibly no law with which to charge the three with a crime.  God knows hearts and we remember there is a reason we pray for mercy for "what we have done and what we have failed to do".

As people of faith, we are called to be God's wheat and to plant seeds of faith!

This reading from Matthew Chapter 13 gives us this well known parable often referred to simply as the "wheat and the weeds".  We learn of a dastardly act of the "enemy" to plant weeds among his neighbors bumper crop of wheat.  Specifically planted was a weed called the darnel or the tares; weeds that early on resemble wheat and only reveal themselves as weeds at harvest time.  Imagine the extent to which the enemy worked on this; no seeds, no machinery, only cultivating weeds for a long period of time to ruin the field of wheat.  This enemy planned a long time to sew these weeds.  But our farmer is a wise and patient man, as our Father is wise and patient and merciful.  Don't pull up the weeds, let then grow with the wheat.  At the harvest the wheat will be collected as a prized harvest while the weeds will be collected and thrown into the fire.  Yes, at the end of time, there will be a harvest; we can be wheat, or we can be weeds.  You and I are called to be wheat, to grow in this world along with the weeds, to be a good witness to the faith; our prayer life, our spiritual life and our life of service to God by being of service to our brother and sister, particularly those who are in most need or struggle to help themselves.

And let us remember, while there are weeds among us, there can also be weeds within us.  In our own hearts and souls, we can certainly afford to do a little internal weeding.  Let us pluck those weeds in our own lives so we may be a powerful witness of the wheat that allows us to shine like the sun in our Father's kingdom.

Jesus proposed other parables in this Gospel and I want to mention that mustard seed.  From our own gardening experiences at home, my wife and I have been amazed at the bountiful harvest of fresh vegetables and even some fruit from the tiniest of seeds.  Jesus tells us that the mustard seed is the tiniest, yet it produces such a large bush that the birds can dwell within.  We start from the tiniest of seeds and Jesus us wants us to be great in the kingdom.  Look how the Church, started by Jesus with 12 Apostles and a handful of followers is now a church of 1.2 billion, in every nation, every continent, from the rising of the sun to it's setting.  How about our own dear parish, just 20 years ago we offered 4 masses total and all were not full; today 6 masses all full including one mass in the extraordinary form.  When I think about small I often remember St. Teresa of Calcutta, Mother Teresa.  Her missionary work, begun humbly in India, now offers care and prayer for the poor and disabled and elderly in 130 countries.  And her philosophy was simple, summed up in this harvest metaphor:

The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.  And here is the answer to live the life of good wheat and planting good seed; to plant seeds of prayer, faith, love and service.  And the promise is peace and when we have that peace, we can respond like this:

 People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered; forgive them anyway

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish. ulterior motives; be kind anyway

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and genuine enemies, succeed anyway

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you; be honest and sincere anyway

What you spend years creating others could destroy overnight, create anyway

If you find serenity and happiness some may be jealous, be happy anyway

The good you do today will often be forgotten, do good anyway

Give the best you have, it will never be enough, give your best anyway

We can be weeds or we can be wheat; be wheat anyway.

And plant those small seeds that produce an abundant harvest of prayer, faith, love, service and peace.

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