Gospel reading of the day:
On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “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. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them.
“But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
“Hear then the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In this parable, Jesus is being very pragmatic in his assessment of the success of the spreading of the gospel. He says that the gospel will not succeed everywhere the disciples announce it. The reasons for these failures vary, but essentially, the message does not always succeed because the people who hear the message are not in the right state to receive it. Some people stubbornly hold on to attitudes, opinions, and courses of action which make them obdurate. Some appear to receive it, but it doesn’t get under their skin; their lack of resolution or focus keeps them from getting the message. For others, circumstances rise up around the hearers that prevent a successful outcome: sins like anger, greed, sloth, and pride can get in the way. But the gospel will also result in success, Jesus says; the last group receives the message and commits itself to Kingdom values. Jesus is not quantifying the success of the gospel: in some places, of course, the gospel is very successful, and in other places, it meets huge resistance. Jesus gives a lesson here about what we can anticipate when we share the good news, and with this knowledge, attend not only to the outcomes of our missions but also to the outcome of the word in our own lives.
Spiritual reading: If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of man become in its long journey toward the stars? (G.K. Chesterton)
Homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014
I think it is always difficult to understand the concept of sovereignty in a place like the United States where they originally rebelled against kingship and have not known the concept of sovereignty since. I come from Canada and maybe have a little better sense of it, though the concept has changed greatly there over the years as well.
In Wisdom today we get a little essay on God as sovereign. To be a sovereign means that you are in complete control of everyone and everything in the country. The buck really does start and stop there. We do understand a little elf that kind of power when we look at the rich who have great influence in this land, but nothing like sovereignty.
In its original form, sovereign can do anything he or she wants. The sovereigns word is law, his desires are what is given him and what she despises disappears.
But the book of Wisdom gives us the picture of a different sovereign, one who has that same power, but who uses it in such a way that the power is not abused. In fact, the scale is tipped on the merciful and loving side. Wisdom tells us that God cares for all people – not just the Jews or the believers in one God, but also the Gentiles and the atheists, the foreigner and the outcast. To all people God shows righteousness and he is willing to look for ways to spare all people. God is patient with those who have doubts, and shows impatience to those who are insolent, who do not respect others who may not yet know God.
God is strength, but shows only mildness and forbearance, another word for tolerance, in the way he governs the world. He is a role model for the way we should behave – as Jesus said, “Be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect”. We, too, Wisdom says, must be kind, and must fill our children with hope, the hope that is given when repentance for our sins is accepted and granted.
What a beautiful description of God. I know that some people say the God of the Old Testament is a fire-breathing, vindictive God, but God is certainly not in Wisdom! Our Psalm today reiterates Wisdom as it reminds us over and over that God is good and forgiving, abounding in love and always staying true to us.
The description of God the Spirit in Paul’s letter to the Romans today lets us see those beautiful qualities of God at work. The Spirit is God’s gift of himself to us, to inspire, to help us pray, to intercede for us so that justice can be blended with mercy on our behalf.
Ironically, in contrast to all of these inspiring and beautiful words of God, we have a group of parables by Jesus that ends with Jesus seeming like the fire-breathing vindictive one: The Son of Man will send his Angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire where there will be weeping and and gnashing of teeth.”
While that does sound a little fire and brimstone-like, if we examine the passage closer we can see that it does fit in with the sovereign concept of God. The first parable basically tells us that God allows everyone to be cared for – just and unjust. The weeds grow up in the field along with the grain. But justice demands a sorting – God is indeed just. Hopefully though, that justice will be tempered with mercy and only at the very end will there be judgement. Until then there is forgiveness, and those who have remained righteous will be highly rewarded. All three parables show this concept of mixing – good seed and weed seed, yeast and unleavened bread, small seed and large tree. All of us have a chance to be saved, and so we need respect all people and their potential, and let the judging come from the merciful One. Our own judgments are sometimes not so merciful!
Again this week, i have chosen to concentrate on one of readings other than the Gospel, though i hope i have shown how they work together. We need to simply remember that to be like God, we need to be kind, compassionate, accepting, loving and non-judgmental. I am not sure those are all easy qualities to have, but that is what is being asked of us today. The more we strive to be like God in those areas, the more chance we have that we will not be seen to be the weeds at the very end. Let us try this week to put into practice these virtues, make one specific attempt to show mercy to someone, to show love to someone, to accept someone, to be kind to someone. Besides, it might bring you a little happiness as well, and we can all use lots of that!
This is the Good News brought to you by Wisdom, Paul and Jesus today. Make it your own!
Bishop Ron Stephens
Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA
The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 - “Teaching the Church Year”]
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to his Apostles: “No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the slave that he become like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more those of his household!
“Therefore do not be afraid of them. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Blessed Charles de Foucauld was born in 1858 and died in 1916. He started his life as a sort of playboy but died an ascetic in the tradition of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. Charles lived as a hermit in the Algerian desert living in contemplation and service and affording hospitality to passersby. Charles once wrote of the essence of Christian life:
Our entire existence, our whole being must shout the Gospel from the rooftops. Our entire person must breathe Jesus, all our actions. Our whole life must cry out that we belong to Jesus, reflect a Gospel way of living. Our whole being must be a living proclamation, a reflection of Jesus.
This encouragement which Charles offers us mirrors the gospel passage which the Church recommends to us today for our reflection. Jesus, through our meditation, prayer, and participation in the worship of the Church, speaks to us in whispers in the obscurity of own interior lives. But as he says elsewhere in Matthew’s gospel, we are not to hide our light under a bushel basket. Our interior dispositions are not enough. Our insides and outsides need to connect. If we look at the life of Brother Charles, we gain an insight into the meaning of the gospel passage. Jesus is not necessarily asking us to engage in a very public ministry which exposes us to many people; he may ask that of some of us, but he certainly doesn’t ask that of most of us. But what Jesus does ask us, as he asked Charles, is to bear witness to our faith through our presence, our manner, our way of being with others.
Saint of the day: The church remembers today a family of Japanese martyrs who lives in the 17th century. John Naisen was was a wealthy layman married to Monica Naisen and the father of Louis Naisen. He worked with Blessed John Baptist Zola, a Jesuit missionary to Japan who died as a witness to the faith. John Naisen withstood personal persecution for his faith, but when the authorities threatened to force his wife into prostitution, he briefly renounced Christianity to save her. He later repented his backsliding and made a public pronouncement of his return to the Church. John Naisen’s wife Monica was arrested with John for sheltering Fr. Zola. John and Monica, along with their seven-year-old son Louis, were all martyred for the faith in 1626 by beheading. Blessed John Naisen, Blessed Monica Naisen, and Blessed Louis Naisen were beatified in 1867.
Spiritual reading: The spiritual life is the power of our ordinary daily active life. (Walter Ciszek, S.J.)
Jesus said to his Apostles: “As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave. As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you. Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus invites us to cultivate hearts of goodness and peace and to spread the wealth we build there to the people who surround us. In Luke’s gospel, the Lord counsels, “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good,” and in the passage from today’s gospel, Jesus advises that as we “enter a house, wish it peace.” It’s old maxim that you can’t give away what you don’t have. Spreading goodness and peace presupposes that we are engaged in a spiritual journey that acquires and encourages those characteristics.
Saint of the day: Born in October 1954 in Turin, Italy, the Servant of God Maria Orsola Bussone came from a family of blue collar workers. Her father owned a car repair shop and her mother was a basic tailor (a “sarta”). From her childhood she regularly and frequently took part in her parish’s activities and in meetings of youth in the Gen Movement, the young people’s section of the Focolare Movement. The spirituality of that movement so impressed Maria Orsola, that in a letter sent to Chiara Lubich, the founder of Focolare, Maria said that she wanted to aspire to unconditional love of other people, letting “God use me as He wants . . . because that’s the only thing that’s worthy in our life.” She said she had made the decision to become a tool in God’s hands. Her association with the Focolare Movement caused her to deepen in her introspection and evaluate herself in light of her understandings of Jesus and Mary. She was a happy extroverted girl who was always prepared to be of service to others. Whenever she failed, she resolved to try again.
In July 1970 Maria Orsola, who liked to play guitar and sing with other young people of her parish, went to a trip near to Venice, as a group leader in the parish school-camp located at Ca’ Savio. She arrived on July 3 with 40 other teenagers and children, including her brother. Getting ready for Mass one day at camp, she died of an electrical discharge while she dried her hair with a defective hair-dryer at the age of just 15 on July 10, 1970 in Cavallino-Treporti. On May 26, 1996 Cardinal Giovanni Saldarini, the archbishop of Turin, opened a diocesan inquiry into whether she heroically lived out of the virtues of Christian life, an inquiry that resulted in the cause for her canonization being referred to Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Spiritual reading: We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way. (Francis of Assisi)
Jesus summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. The names of the Twelve Apostles are these: first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus.
Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.'”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus’ primary message is the inbreaking of God’s reign in human history, and for this reason, the basic vocation of each baptized person is to help bring heaven’s reign to the world. When Jesus commissions the apostles, he commissions us. The commission we receive through baptism to is to cast out unclean spirits, heal every disease, and make ourselves available to the lost. The reign of heaven is an ethos, a sort of relational environment that exists between us as we live out in the world the things that God values. We live out our commission as Jesus’ disciples when we act compassionately wherever we encounter need.
Saint of the day: The Servant of God Rose Hawthorne was born on May 20, 1851 in Lenox, Massachusetts to the famed American novelist and short story writer Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife Sophia. Rose’s father wrote such works as The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables. Rose and her family lived in Massachusetts; Liverpool, England; then London; Paris; Rome; and Florence, Italy. The family returned to Concord, Massachusetts in 1860. Her mother and the family moved to Germany, then England.
Rose married author George Parsons Lathrop in 1871; both converted to Roman Catholicism in 1891. In 1876, the couple had a son, Francis, who died of diphtheria at the age of five. Afterwards Rose and George separated permanently in 1895.
After her father’s death in 1864, she tried to become an author, like him. She wrote a book of poems, Along the Shore, which was published in 1888. She later decided to rededicate her life to restoring her family’s reputation after her brother’s conviction and imprisonment for mail fraud.
She was known for her service near and within New York City, caring for impoverished cancer by founding St. Rose’s Free Home for Incurable Cancer in the Lower East Side. After George’s death in 1898, she became a nun, and was inspired by “The New Colossus,” a poem penned by her close friend Emma Lazarus, to found a community of Dominican religious, now known as the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne. Rose made her vows as a Dominican nun Dec. 8, 1900, taking the name Alphonsa. With her first companion, Sister M. Rose, she founded the Dominican Congregation of St. Rose of Lima, later called the Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer. In 1901, Mother Alphonsa opened Rosary Hill Home in Hawthorne, New York (now the mother home of the order).
Rose Hawthorne Lathrop was awarded an honorary Master of Arts from Bowdoin College in 1925. She died a year later on July 9, 1926,the anniversary of her parents’ wedding, at Rosary Hill Home. In 2003, Edward Egan, Cardinal Archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York approved the movement for Lathrop’s canonization.
Spiritual reading: There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way. (C.S. Lewis)
Today’s readings focus on the Word of God. In the first reading it is likened to the rain and snow which water the earth and enable things to grow and live. In the gospel, we have the parable of the sower. We see the seed is planted and how the growth of the seed reacts in different ways. But what we must remember is that the seed or the word is alive and active waiting to become active in the right soil and conditions. But if that seed or rain is the Word of God, its meaning is very different from the producing of crops. Through out our Christian tradition, The Word of God is personified as Jesus. He is the Word. he is in the beginning and end and active in our history. The importance of the Word is highlighted in each Eucharist we celebrate, for our celebration is divided into two parts, liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist. For the preacher of the Word, it is an awesome and difficult task to preach the Word. As we know, the Spirit remains in each of us and Christ is present in the Eucharist, but so too he is very much alive and active in his Word. To preach in his name is to be like the sower, not knowing the result or extent of the task just completed. It is truly a moment where God acts through the preacher using his words and person as he sees fit. It is humbling to realize God is in control and to follow his lead. Some times, that Word will ferment and seek root in a person in different ways and a time unknown. It is coming to know that the big picture, God’s plan. is far and above any control we have.
Never forget that God is there for everybody, and that it is his plan and not ours. He calls, entices, prompts to each of us, yet he respects the freedom he gave us and will give up only if there is a final rejection of him. Our joy should be the seeing of God’s embracing of a fellow human being. Peoples perceptions of things can be off-center and even sometimes harmful. How often do we hear how could God allow this, or some other slight or imagined injury as an excuse to ignore God and religion. Indifference and self-confidence can keep others away. In fact, I am sure you know as many reasons that I do that keep people from thinking about or practicing religion or praying. Like in Christ’s time, human frailty and the need to control or some petty and needless rules and non-compassionate understanding of others can lead to disillusionment and cutting people off. But, God’s Word is powerful and as his Spirit remains, so too does his Word in one way or another. I think looking back, experiencing through word and sacraments the power of the Word calling back to Christ the disillusioned and the hurt to a renewed faith are a joy of ministry. To see sometimes even at the last moments of a person’s life God is there for them if they reach out.
So yes, God’s word is alive and active. It is present in what we say and what we do. For us, we need to give ourselves over to Him, acknowledge He is present and speaks to us even now.
Gospel reading of the day:
A demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus, and when the demon was driven out the mute man spoke. The crowds were amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He drives out demons by the prince of demons.” Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Matthew writes that Jesus’ heart is moved with pity for the crowds, because they are troubled and abandoned. The people in the crowds have many troubles. The problems that Jesus notices are the ones we face: The same long hours, the monotony of obligations, the work that everyone finds matter of fact, the long and bitter effort for which no one is thankful, the exhaustion and sacrifice of old age, the disappointments and failures, the misunderstandings and lack of understanding, the unfulfilled aspirations, the small humiliations. For all of these things that constitute the day-to-day condition of living–not to mention the truly hard things, like the deaths of children or parents, alcoholism and drug addition, chronic health conditions, broken relationships, financial reverses–Jesus’ heart is filled with compassion. It is an emotion that runs so deep in him that it makes the evangelist take notice of it: he is so agitated that his face betrays his emotion and his body shows his anguish. So we are not alone in what life presents us, neither in the big things we face nor the little ones that trouble us. This is the mystery of the incarnation, the mystery of God pitching God’s tent among us: We are not alone, because when we suffer, Jesus suffers with us.
Saint of the day: Clelia Nanette was born in 1872 in Italy. She was known as a pretty, high-spirited, intelligent, joyful, energetic, and impulsive girl. Her parents encouraged her to a more active social life in the hope that she would marry, but she declined, working at home, and living a private vow of chastity. At 18 she asked permission to enter religious life, but her parents vehemently opposed it. With her brother’s help, she joined the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary on January 24, 1892, taking the name Maria Chiara (Clare). She frequently said, “Onward always.” She became a missionary to China, but her short lived career ended during a crackdown on foreign missionaries. She was beheaded on July 9, 1900 at Taiyuanfu, Shanxi, China and canonized in 2000. She was 28 when she died. Known as Saint Maria Chiara, her life is celebrated on July 8 each year as one of the martyrs of Shanxi.
Spiritual reading: Behind all seen things lies something vaster; everything is but a path, a portal, or a window opening on something other than itself. (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward, knelt down before him, and said, “My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples. A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.” Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, “Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.” And from that hour the woman was cured.
When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion, he said, “Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping.”
And they ridiculed him. When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose. And news of this spread throughout all that land.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Matthew’s gospel today reassures us the Lord loves us and is wholly trustworthy. Life is full of obstacles, some of which seem intractable and insurmountable, but Jesus is tender, reliable, and greater than our difficulties. When we are in distress, the Lord comes to us to touch our hands with his and restore us to life. He looks into our particular circumstances, understands what eludes us and the people who surround us, and responds to us in the truth of who we are.
Saint of the day: Ralph Milner was a layman who lived in the 16th century was born in Slackstead, Hampshire in England. He probably passed most of his life in his native village, where, being practically illiterate, he supported his wife and eight children by manual labor. He was brought up an Anglican but became a Catholic convert. On the very day of his first Communion, however, he was arrested for changing his religion and committed to Winchester jail.
Here his good behavior meant he was frequently allowed out on parole, and was even trusted with the keys of the prison. This leniency enabled him to introduce priests to administer the sacraments to Catholic prisoners. He then acted as escort first to Father Thomas Stanney, and later to his successor at Winchester, Father Roger Dickenson, conducting them to the different villages to minister to Catholics.
Finally seized with Father Dickenson, Milner was with him placed under close confinement in Winchester jail pending the approaching sessions. The judge urged Milner to attend even once a church other than the one in which he had faith and thus escape the gallows. He refused and began to prepare for death. Every effort was made to persuade him to change his purpose and renounce his faith. When he was approaching the gallows with Father Dickenson, his children were led to him in the hope that he might even then relent. He was unshaken in his resolution and gave his children his last blessing. He was executed at Winchester on July 7, 1591 by being hanged, drawn, and quartered for giving assistance to Blessed Roger Dickenson. He was beatified in 1929.
Spiritual reading: You do not need to understand healing to be healed or know anything about blessing to be blessed. (Frederick Buechner)