Sunday, July 10, 2011

HOMILY - Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

I want to first recognize and congratulate Sister Barbara on her Anniversary (today/yesterday) of her profession to the Dominicans – thank you for saying yes to God’s call and for your service to the Church and Our Lady of Peace Parish.
Today’s Gospel beings: “Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.” This has caused me to think about what Jesus might have been doing as he sat and looked out at the sea in that moment of silence.
Maybe as he stared at the water he thought of the passage from the book of the prophet of Isaiah, from today’s First Reading, in which the Lord speaks of water coming from heaven, watering the earth and making it fertile and fruitful, so that those who hunger and thirst might be satisfied. Maybe Jesus hoped and prayed that, like the effect of water on our physical needs, that his words – the good news of God’s great love and mercy – would be fertile and fruitful to all who heard them.
Then again, maybe Jesus was thinking about how he wanted those who heard him speak to know that there is something greater waiting for them – an eternal joy and peace. And maybe as he looked upon the water he saw the faces of those who have heard him speak and, knowing them each personally, he knew that for many they were suffering and hurting in many ways and would have trouble hearing his message. And just maybe in that moment of silence, Jesus prayed for them that they, like St. Paul from whom we read in our Second Reading, may hear his words and find hope and encouragement; that they may, as St. Paul did, “consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.”
And maybe also in that silence, Jesus had a moment of frustration, wondering why so many who heard what he was saying still did not get it; why so many “look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.” Certainly, we have all had those moments of watching a loved one not see or do what seems so obvious to us – as parents, as friends or co-workers, we have watched someone we love swing at a pitch too high, or date the “wrong” person, or behave inappropriately, or struggle with depression or addiction. I can certainly understand if Jesus felt frustrated, maybe even hopeless as he watched so many ignore his Father’s great love and mercy for them; seemly to reject his offer of eternal peace.

But here is what is so wonderful about Jesus: as the Gospel continues, Jesus is engulfed by a crowd of people who interrupt his silence – he does not get angry or retreat; rather, he makes room so that all can hear his message of God’s great love and mercy. Because Jesus knows the necessity of this message, he gets into a boat and sits down as the whole crowd stands along the shore and he speaks to them at length in parables. In fact, we will hear over the next several weeks Jesus telling several parables to this same crowd of people with the hope that they might look and see and hear and listen and understand.
The parable of the sower is a beautiful story to help us better understand God’s love for us – it is our God who generously and without reservation shares his love and mercy with us. Even in our culture of consumption and greed, we can appreciate the almost recklessness and inefficiency of throwing seed everywhere and anywhere – on the path, on rocky ground, among thorns, as well as on rich soil, with the hope that it might grow and produce fruit. But that is how freely our God loves and is willing to forgive.
And this certainly mirrors our own experiences, right? As parents and children or as spouses we are called to love generously and even recklessly. We love even when we have been hurt or disappointed. We also know the great reward we receive when we do love and are loved in return. And, so we know exactly what Jesus is saying when talks of the “seed falling on rich soil and producing fruit a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” We know the 30 or 60 or 100 fold joy we experience in loving and being loved.
The challenge for us is to give freely and love generously knowing that much of our effort may be wasted. Hopefully this is not true in the case of our marriage or family life. But, we know that often the efforts we make have no result, our dreams never materialize, and the love invested in relationships sometimes fail. Despite this potential, I invite you and encourage you to take the great risk and give freely and love generously, trusting in Jesus’ promise of a 30 or 60 or even 100 fold return that we will experience if we love as we are called to love. And in the moments of doubt or despair, believe in and trust that what we know now in no way compares with the glory to be revealed to us! If we trust this promise, the reward will be endless, the fruit bountiful, and the love overflowing!
May God bless you.