FIFTEENTH SUNDAY A: HOMILY by Fr. Matthias Lusembo

THEME: THE WORD OF GOD ACHIEVES ITS PURPOSE, BUT IT NEEDS GOOD SOIL

Objective: That we continue to accept God’s word, put it into practice and bear abundant fruit.

During this time of the Pandemic, when so many people fall sick and many of them die, when millions of people have lost their jobs, when so many people have left the Church, some people may ask: What happened to the word of God, by which He promised to protect us? Is he failing like human beings?

If you have that question in your mind, you are not the first one to have it. The Israelites exiled in Babylon had the same question. God, through Prophet Ezekiel (37), promised to liberate them from exile. But many years past without that liberation. so they asked: does god fail to keep His word like human beings do?

Prophet Isaiah (55:10-11) assured them that as rain and snow do not return to the heavens without watering the soil to make it bear fruit, also the word of God does not return to him without achieving its purpose.

Actually, afterwards the Israelites were liberated from exile and given the permission to go back to their homeland.

Saint Paul in Romans 8:18-23 consoles us that even we who are groaning now, waiting for our redemption, the sufferings we are experiencing are as nothing compared to the glory or eternal happiness we shall enjoy.

In the gospel text (Matthew 13:1-23), Jesus is about half-way his mission. He does not seem to be successful in establishing the Kingdom of God awaited by the Jews. He gives the parable of the sower to explain that situation. In the parable, Christ is both the sower and the seed, because John the Evangelist calls him the Word (Jn 1:1). His method is preaching/teaching, like a sower broadcasting sorghum or millet seeds.

As He sows the word, some people, like the Sadducees, refuse to listen to him because he speaks of the resurrection which they do not believe can happen. Others, like Judas Iscariot, welcome His teaching with enthusiasm, hoping that He is going to enrich them in an earthly empire. When He speaks of His death and giving them His flesh to eat, they abandon him.

Others are trying to follow him but are being prevented by their relatives and leaders. Yet others, like the Blessed Virgin Mary and the eleven apostles persevere in following Him and make the Church grow.

Some biblical theologians, like Fernando Armellini, assert that “the four types of soil are to be found, in greater or lesser manner, in each person. In each of us we can find thorns, stones, bad roads and good soil. It is important to be aware of this and to improve the field, that is our heart, so the Word of God may produce fruit.” (Celebrating the Word, Year A, p. 215).

When Jesus commands us, for example, to love our enemies and take no revenge, we may prove to be a bad road. When we make spiritual retreats we may come out fired up to act as holy people. But gradually we fall back. Primary graduates may love their faith, but when they join the high school or college, they may be despised and lose their faith. But still in the same people the word of God finds some good soil and grows gradually and bears fruit later. Consequently, we should not give up even on those who have fallen away from the Church. The seed sown in them grows slowly, despite the obstacles.

In any case we should try to be good soil for the Word of God, dedicated to reading and meditating on the Bible, practicing the gospel through prayer, agape love, generosity, forgiveness, missionary activity, and so on.

Around 1570, a group of Spanish Jesuits planted the seeds of Catholic faith near present-day Williamsburg but were soon killed by local inhabitants.

In the following centuries, the Church grew slowly amid religious and secular hostility, geographic isolation, economic deprivation, and a chronic lack of priests.

 

French, Irish, German, Lebanese (Maronites), Filipino, Hispanic, Vietnamese, Korean, and African Immigrants contributed to a gradual increase. Catholics gradually gained social acceptance by accommodating their religion to Protestant surroundings; by advancing professionally, helped by Catholic education; by fighting in their country’s wars; and by carrying out charitable works.

 

On July 11th, 1820, Pope Pius VII established the diocese of Richmond to unite the faithful. Thirteen bishops have governed the Church of Richmond over the course of its two-hundred-year history. Today, the diocese includes 200,000 Catholics (who make up five percent of the total population), 191 priests, 161 deacons, 139 parishes, and 30 schools and many other charitable organizations.

 

The bicentennial of this local Church is a testament to the perseverance of Catholics in Virginia. Despite adversity and failures, they have practiced their faith and helped to improve their society, proving to be good soil for the word of God. So, let us thank God who enabled our diocese to exist and to survive for 200 years.

 

The word of God is continuing to bear spiritual and corporal works of mercy all over the world. When God’s word takes time to solve our problems we should not get discouraged.

The Word of God is going to be sown in us in a special way, by eating the flesh of Christ. So, as St, Paul tells us in Rom 8:18-23, despite the suffering, we should never lose hope. Christ will fully redeem us. God’s Word will certainly achieve the purpose for which it was sown in us. It was sown in us to liberate us from our misery and bring us to eternal happiness, beginning here on earth. We should simply try to be good soil for God’s word and bear fruits of, patience, love, forgiveness and compassion.