Sunday Sermon for July 13, 2014, the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Is 55:10-11; Rom 8:18-23; Mt 13:1-23
In the Gospel reading today our Lord tells the parable of the sower and the seed. As He speaks of the four different types of soil onto which the seed falls we, of course, all want to be the good soil which receives the seed and produces thirty, sixty, or one hundredfold. So, we need to look closely at our own selves and ask honestly if we can include ourselves among those who are producing abundant fruit for the Lord.
It is somewhat easy to suggest that we are not among the first two groups of which our Lord speaks because the Word of God has obviously taken root and has not been snatched away nor has it withered for lack of roots. Praise God! That leaves the other two categories: that of being choked off by worldly concerns and that of the good soil.
In the first reading God says through the Prophet Isaiah that His Word will not return to Him void, but will fulfill the purpose for which it was sent. That being the case, we must first recognize that this Word is not the Word of God as contained in the Sacred Scriptures. Instead, that Word is Jesus, the Word made flesh Who dwelt among us. There is no doubt that He did the will of God and fulfilled the end for which He was sent. In other words, He brought about the redemption of the human race and our reconciliation with God.
The fulfillment we have just mentioned is an objective reality. Subjectively, each of us needs to be redeemed and saved. In order for this to happen, the objective salvation must be received individually and acted upon. This implies having faith in Jesus, but it has to go beyond just stating a belief that Jesus is God, that He is the Redeemer, that He is Lord and Savior. These things are all true, but extending the statement of St. James, the demons also believe these things and they tremble. Jesus said that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will be saved, but only the one who does the will of His Father in Heaven.
This is where the difficulty comes for most people. There is no real problem for them to admit to the existence of God or to believe that Jesus is Lord. The problem is doing the will of the Father. This is a struggle for us on two accounts: first, we are attached to our own will and, second, God sometimes asks difficult things that we do not want.
This is what St. Paul is getting at in the second reading when he speaks of the suffering of the present time being nothing compared to the glory to be revealed in us. It is only through accepting our share in the suffering of Christ that we are going to be able to live out our Christian vocation. I am sure that St. Paul had to look no further than himself to be able to say that not only is all creation groaning, but that even we ourselves groan as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
St. Paul knew the groaning that comes with suffering, but he accepted it, uniting it with the suffering of Jesus for the good of others. He accepted the suffering because of his faith in Jesus. In fact, it was precisely because of the suffering he endured that St. Paul was able to bring so many souls to God. Not only did he do this by his preaching in the first century, but he continues to bring souls to conversion even today.
The suffering purified his soul and helped him to grow in holiness and in conformity to the Lord, but it was the means by which the Word of God, planted within him, was able to grow and produce in such abundance. The Word of God, Jesus Christ, can only work through us to the degree that we allow. This means that the more we allow Him to live His life and continue His work of salvation through us, the more He can do for others through us. His life and His work were marked by suffering. This, then, become the test that will prove the quality of the soil.
If you want to bear more fruit, you must be more perfectly conformed to Christ. If you want to be more perfectly conformed to Christ, it requires a more perfect conformity to the will of God. This. In turn, requires the acceptance of everything God gives us, even though it may cause us to groan at times. The more generous our disposition to being conformed to the Word of God, the better the soil and, the better the soil, the more it produces. So, are you good soil?
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.