A Sunday Homily (I Preached!)

Posted July 27th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

I was asked to help the pastor and give the homily at a local Catholic parish.  I spoke at all three Masses.  Here it is:

jesus“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.”  Mt 13:1-9

I’m going to need your help with this homily.   When I ask you, “Who’s the word of God?”  Would you reply, “JESUS!”

Let’s practice: “Who’s the word of God?”  “JESUS!”

What is this “seed” that Jesus is “scattering?”  It’s a relationship with God!  And it’s a relationship with God offered to EVERYONE, good, bad, and indifferent!  Remember this.  The “Word of God is not fundamentally a doctrine, a moral concept, rules and regulations, or even a book, but it is a person, Jesus the beloved Son of the Father.  Jesus risen and in our midst.

“Who’s the word of God?”  “JESUS!”

Back to the parable, I want to suggest to you that the various types of soil receiving the seed, describe us. We are all these kinds of soil all the time, at any given moment of our lives.  I am at once rocky soil, shallow soil, soil choked with thorns, and good soil.   Let me give you an example from my own life.

I was raised in the south during segregation.  Church for Whites, another one for “Colored.” Theater for Whites, a separate one for “Colored.”  Drinking fountain for Whites, another one for “Colored.” As a boy I could call a Colored man who was an adult by his first name because I was his equal.  And when I became an adult I would be his superior.  If I had called an adult who was White by his first name my momma would have smacked me for being disrespectful.

confederate flagI read the history of the war of “Northern Aggression,” and grew up with Robert E. Lee and other Confederates as my heroes.  My favorite college football team was not LSU, it was the Old Miss Rebels.  I hung a large Confederate flag in my bedroom at home; and I brought it to college where I hung it on my dorm wall at St. Joseph Seminary. My family did not think we were racist.  We didn’t wear white hoods, burn crosses, or use racial slurs.  We did regret that we had “lost” the civil war; but yes, glad that the country was united and slavery ended.  My culture taught me to believe that Whites are superior to people of color especially Blacks.

“Who’s the word of God?”  “JESUS!”

In this Southern culture, what kind of “soil” was I when I was 13, when I first began sensing the stirring of faith, and yet I flew a Confederate flag? Good soil?  Bad soil with rocks and sand, and choked with thorns?

During a marital crisis, my mom and dad had an experience of God’s love and power that transformed their lives from being Sunday Catholics to daily disciples of Jesus.  One day my father came into my room to share with me about his new relationship with Jesus.  He was “planting a seed” hoping that his story would open me up to a relationship with God; it did.  As I listened to him talk, I had a burning in my heart.  I wanted to know Jesus like he did.

I began to pray, go to daily Mass, read the Bible daily, and, I joined the Legion of Mary.  My apostolic work was visiting people in the local nursing home and the county jail.

Did this new relationship with Jesus in the Church challenge my Confederate identity? NO!  Not one bit.  That seed was planted in rocky soil and wasn’t ready to grow.  Where I did grow was to discipline my teenage sexual energy, treat girls with respect, and visit the elderly and imprisoned.

“Who’s the word of God?”  “JESUS!”

abbey_frgil_seminarians_4130 (1)My relationship with Jesus in the Church led me to St. Joseph Seminary and a friendship there with an African American monk.  Brother Aaron was my first friend who was Black.  He was from New Orleans and had a strong “Black Consciousness.”  One day he came into my dorm room and saw the Confederate flag hanging on the wall.  He asked me, “What’s that?”  I had no idea that it was offensive to him.  I said, “Cool, huh?”  Aaron could see that I was a “benign racist.”  He took me by the hand and taught me about racism in the Catholic Church.  He was planting a seed.  I went with him to Catholic worship at an African American parish and experienced firsthand the different cultural expressions between Black Catholics who were swaying to “Soon and very soon…” and White Catholics from my home parish who were singing “Come Holy Ghost.”

“Who’s the word of God?”  “JESUS!”

What kind of “soil” was I back in the seminary?  Fertile? Rocky? Shallow?  All of the above. Seminary helped me deepen my prayer life and continue my commitment to visit the elderly, and gave me a deep love for the liturgy and liturgical year.   The seed of the Gospel to break down racism in me was planted.  However, it would be another 10 years before I could fully admit that I carried racial prejudice within me, and that it was time to “lower the flag.”  The culture of my youth shaped me to believe that White people were superior to Black people.  My ignorance around that fact meant that I did nothing to change the vicious racial prejudice that my friend Brother Aaron and his family faced every day.  I was complicit in the sin of racism, and didn’t know it.

“Who’s the word of God?”  “JESUS!”

Once I became aware of this, I became that good soil that Jesus spoke about in the parable, the one that produced a 100 fold of good fruit, right? No!  I’m still a complex mixture of good and bad soil, rocky and fertile, who is in a relationship with Jesus in the Church.  I believe this is true for each of us.

flowersJesus, the Sower, sows the seeds of a relationship with God in whatever soil we offer him.  Jesus wants to meet us exactly where we are in our lives, but he is not going to leave us there.  He’s going to grow something good, beautiful, and life-giving even with the “rocky soil.”   In my counseling I sometimes hear a client say that he cannot pray or go to Church because he is ashamed of his life—of his sins and past mistakes.  I would say to all of us, please do not stay away from Jesus because you feel unworthy, because you feel like a hypocrite, because your spiritual soil is too shallow, or rocky, or choked with thorns. You are also “GOOD SOIL.”

Today at this gathering, at this Eucharist, don’t be afraid to bring to Jesus the whole you, the good and the not-so-good, the rocks and weeds of your life as well as the fertile soil.  Ask Jesus to grow something beautiful, good and life-giving in your personal life.  You know he will do it.  It may take time, as in my case, but he will do it.

“Who’s the word of God?”  “JESUS!”

 

 

 

 

4 Responses to “A Sunday Homily (I Preached!)”

  1. Donna DeFeo says:

    Thank you, Robert. It’s relieving to know mixed soil is still in the hands of Jesus. Even on the rough days.

  2. Danny Thibault says:

    Great message! I would vote to ordain you as minister. Time to change the rules! If you want a good book on the subject we all deal with, check out “America’s Original Sin” by Jim Wallis. It will deepen your “soil”.

  3. Daniel Garza says:

    I feel that Sunday is the most segregated day of week by ignorant choice don’t see it don’t hear it don’t speak about it
    .lord have mercy on us

  4. Michael Krainak says:

    Great homily. There is no substitute for sharing the personal experience of God in our lives. Isaiah 55:10-11, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”