To live in Christ means to tell a story

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HOMILY FOR THE 15TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Readings:  Is. 55:10-11/Rom. 8:18-23

Psalm:  65:10-14

Gospel:  Mt. 13:1-23

 

How do you explain the faith to others?  When you are asked what you believe, do you just give them rules and regulations and try to act like you know what you are talking about?  And when there is a change in the way the faith is presented, are you frustrated that what was said was not the way you believed?  That feeling that everything you understood to be true was gone forever?  A sense that whatever power you thought you had that came from this belief is now gone; stolen away by someone else trying to take over?  These are some of the doubts that can creep up in our minds whenever we have doubts about our faith, especially if how it is expressed is different from our own.

How we are given the faith can tell a lot about how we give out the faith.  Some give the faith by having us do rote memorization.  Others will demonstrate their faithfulness and insist on others to do it exactly like them.  Still others will have those around them accomplish certain tasks to show their loyalty.  It is not so much that one way is better than another, but if we only understand one way of doing things, we do not allow ourselves to grow in our faith (as well as those in our care) in order to be the example God desires us to be.

In the readings for today, we see a glimpse in how the different generations struggled to understand how we as Children of God wish to understand the Good News.  The First Reading from the Book of Isaiah recalls a moment in Jewish history where those in exile were encouraged to return to Jerusalem.  The Babylonian exile was over, so now it was time for them to return: Not only to Jerusalem, but also to return to God, which can only take place there.  Isaiah pleads with them to return, for only they can restore the fruitfulness of Jerusalem.  Like the water and snow that come down from heaven to make the ground fertile, so will the Jews restore the fertileness of Jerusalem when they return to their home.  This reading is an example of a simile, by which one thing is compared to another to get a sense of what God is saying we need to do in order to bring us closer to Him.

When we use similes and give them greater depth in order to explain on how we need to behave, they fall into two categories:  Fables and Parables.  While fables are geared toward everyday issues, parables give us a glimpse into the Mind of God.  For example, in the Gospel proclaimed today, Jesus uses the image of a farmer sowing his field with grain.  The grain fell on four types of ground:  a road, on rock, among a patch of thorns and then finally a patch of good ground that is ripe for seeds to grow. Each toss of grain held the promise of growth, but where it landed determined how much those seeds would grow.

Each set of ground was a type of person that Jesus came across in his ministry.  Each one of the first three types of ground that Jesus mentions have, in one aspect or another, “look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.”  They have allowed something or someone to prevent them from accepting the fullness of God and, therefore, it is not received.  It was those who has heard and understood the mysteries of the kingdom that were considered the good soil in which the seeds produced good fruits.

While it seemed easy for them to understand, the disciples still wondered why Jesus had to use parables to make a point.  He tells them that for those who have yet to understand, the parable helps them begin to grasp the message that God has given to them.  Only after the resurrection did his followers grasp what he meant.  This was reflected in the Second Reading today in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans.  Paul talks about the sufferings that they are having at this moment in time.  Paul’s letter harkens back to the time of the exile Isaiah spoke about and that, once this age is over, the glory that will be revealed will be more than we can imagine.  He says, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory revealed for us.”  He goes on to liken the anticipation of our entry into paradise as a mother in labor.  And once born, we will be taken as God’s own, the first fruits of the Spirit.  Paul’s analogy of redemption as childbirth gives us a vision of God’s anticipation for our return to paradise.

The art of storytelling has been passed down for centuries.  Every civilization has told stories to one another that reflected their identity with themselves and with other cultures that they would meet during their lifetimes.  Stories are probably the most powerful way in which to tell the deepest truths so all could understand.  In Celtic mysticism, it was always understood that stories held “powerful properties to speak hidden truths.  For them, stories were sacred, capable of revealing God to us in new and surprising ways.”[1]  Our society is always looking for things to be exact and to the point.  And that sentiment goes with our faith.  Yet, as author Kenneth McIntosh puts it, in Celtic Mysticism, The Bible is “Far from being ‘God’s little instruction book’ it is ‘God’s enormous storybook.’  For the Celts this was not a drawback-quite the opposite.  Stories gave them power and pride; stories enabled them to overcome all manner of deadly foes.  Stories were the very blood that ran in Celtic veins, and they were filled with wonder and delight to have so many stories about the King of Mystery and his people.”[2]

When we read Sacred Scripture, let us try to understand them as stories, not sanctions; poetry and not prose.  If we can do that, then when we are asked about our faith, we can see it not as a problem, but as a possibility to tell each other the story of our lives.  To borrow from my favorite show, Doctor Who, “We are all stories in the end.  Just make it a good one, eh.”

MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK

 

Reflection Questions:

 

  1. What kind of “ground” do you think you are right now in your life? What sort things could   you do in order to become “good soil?”

 

  1. Jesus tells those that “Whoever has ears ought to hear.” If you heard this parable for the first time, would you have understood what you had heard?

 

  1. Some of the best lessons presented are from storytellers. If you were asked to tell this Gospel in your own words, how would you do it?

 

[1] McIntosh, Kenneth, ed.  The Winged Man:  The Good News According to Matthew.  Vestal, New York:  Anamchara

Books, 2017, p. 39.

[2] McIntosh, 38.

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