From the Pulpit: July 16, 2017

July 16, 2017                             15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

What kind of soil are you?
In other words, how open are you to the message of the gospel and letting it take root in your life?
In our readings for Mass this weekend, there are two words that emerge from the readings.
Of course, one is the word “SOIL” and the other one is the word “WORD ”

First Reading
In our first reading for Mass this weekend, Isaiah the prophet, speaks to us about the presence and the power of God’s WORD.
Essentially, what he saying is that there is power in God’s word. Whenever God speaks things happen.
He then gives a simple example.
He uses the image of rain and snow.
When the rain and the snow come down they are always effective.
Regardless of the circumstances, they always bring moisture to the earth.
It is that moisture from the rain and the snow that causes growth and brings forth fruit.
Isaiah says, God’s word is like that as well.
God’s word always accomplishes the purpose for which it is spoken.

In addition, we have a powerful example in the story of creation from the book of Genesis.
There we are told that when God speaks things come into existence. When God says, “let there be light”, there is light.
When he says, “let the earth bring forth vegetation”, the earth brings forth vegetation.
By the single force and power of his word, all of creation has come into existence.
Not only that, but by the power of his word all of creation is sustained.

Gospel parable
That then brings us to the gospel parable of the sower and the seed.
Jesus is at the home of Simon Peter in Capernaum.
Great crowds have followed him so he gets into a boat on the Sea of Galilee.
As the crowds gather on the seashore, he tells them this parable.
Most of us are familiar with the short parable.
At the heart of the parable is the image of the SOIL.

Sowing the seed
However, there is one interesting fact.
In the parable the sower does a rather strange thing.
He indiscriminately throws the seed everywhere.
He throws it on the path, he throws it in the field, he throws it on rocky ground. He seems to throw it everywhere
It doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.
Logically speaking, he should only throw the seed on the good soil. However, that’s not what he does.
In a sense, Jesus is telling us that the word of God is given to everyone without any kind of distinction.
God is indiscriminate in the way his word comes into the heart of each person. No matter who the person is, or where he lives, the word is always extended.

Now, we come to the distinction of the soil.
Jesus then gives four images of how the word of God is received.

1. In the first image the seed falls on a walking path and before long it’s gone because the birds come and consume it.
It refers to those who have some degree of openness to the transforming power of God’s word, but they don’t understand it.
There is no depth and before long the word is gone and they move on.

2. In the second image Jesus describes how the Word falls on rocky soil.
The sun comes and scorches it and the seed produces no results.
It is a description of the individual who initially embraces the Word with excitement and enthusiasm.
However, there is no depth of understanding here.
As a result, when there are problems or difficulties the person falls away and the word is abandoned.

3. As Jesus describes the third image, the seed falls on ground covered with thorns and eventually, although the seed takes root, it is eventually choked out by thorns and weeds.
Here Jesus describes the individual who receives the initial word with joy and enthusiasm.
However, as life takes its toll that good news is eventually choked out by problems, riches, wealth and so many other distractions.
Eventually, the seed is gone. There is nothing there and the word dissipates.

4. Finally we get to the seed that falls on good ground. Jesus describes the seed as taking root and bearing good fruit.
Yes, finally we get to the one who is excited and enthusiastic to receive the word. That person understands the word takes it into their heart where it takes root.
Here you can see the tremendous power in God’s word. The power of the word bears fruit and yields a tremendous harvest 100, 60, or thirty fold.
Actually, the results are amazing.
The Image shows what can happen in the life of the person who is ready and receptive to the power of the word. They understand it and that word achieves unbelievable results.
It’s also a reminder that Jesus expects us as his disciples to bear fruit.
That means we are empowered to change the world with the good news of God’s kingdom.

Application–gospel challenge
So we return to the initial question, “what kind of soil are you?”
By fact that we are here this morning in the presence of the Lord is some indication that we want to be good soil
We want to receive the word with joy and enthusiasm.
We want the word to receive a generous welcome in our hearts.
Want the word to transform us.

In other words, how do we become receptive to the power of God’s word so that it will bear fruit in our life?

I am going to suggest two ways.

The first way is daily prayer.
Prayer is that precious moment when we encounter God.
Prayer has been described as the lifting up of the heart and the mind to God or sometimes it’s described as a movement of the heart.
It’s in prayer that our hearts become Open and receptive to God’s plan for us.
His Plan for us is revealed in his word.
Don’t forget that prayer is not nearly the recitation of words. We can pray in our own words from our heart.
An essential part of prayer, however, is to sit quietly and listen to what God has to say to us.
If we truly want to be good soil, then we must commit ourselves on a daily basis to spend time with God in prayer.
It is there that we encounter him and that he speaks to us.

The other way is to make a daily examination of conscience at the end of the day. It’s really kind of simple to do.
As you lay there in bed, before you go to sleep review your day and asked the Lord to forgive you for the times that you failed to live up to your commitment as a disciple.
Examine your conscience in each of these three areas:

1. First, ask yourself how your relationship with God has gone throughout the day.
Have you thought about him?
Has he been a part of your day?
Has prayer been a part of your day?

2. Second examine your life in terms of your relationship with others.
Have you been patient with others?
Have you talked about others behind their back?
Have you lied?
Have you been deceitful?

3. Examine your conscience in terms of your relationship with yourself.
Ask yourself am I really trying to be the best version of myself that God calls me to be?
Have I been true to my values to my faith?

Today the gospel reminds us that God is most generous in the giving out of his word.
Isaiah uses the image of the sower and the seed.
Our challenge is to be good soil to be receptive to the word of God.
There is power in God’s word.
When that word finds a place in my heart, wonderful things will happen.
We will yield a rich harvest for the Lord, and change the face of the earth.