Homily 15th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle A July 16, 2017

For the parable of the sower and the seed, Jesus uses four different types of earth conditions, four different types of ground, in the teaching of the story. He certainly could have used many more types of soil and earth, and attach them to the Kingdom of Heaven and its meaning. In Ireland alone he could have used 40 shades of green. But our Lord uses four examples that his listeners can personally relate to, because they happen to be from types of earth the people of Israel would know best.
In Ireland, they wouldn’t know much about dry, rocky soil. There’s never a drought in Ireland, on the land or in the pubs. In the desert of the southwestern United States, they wouldn’t know much about rich soil and fertile ground. They hardly see rain. But those listening to Jesus teach on that day long ago, they could visualize in their minds exactly what he was saying, because they trod these four various types of soil each day in Israel.
And, since man was formed from the dust of the earth – the words of Ash Wednesday… “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Since man was formed from the dust of the earth, it would be proper to say that Jesus is teaching in this parable four different types of people in relation to faith in God. It’s proper our Lord uses examples of the very land from which our creation began, to teach about four different types of that one creation, namely, the human person. And then how we’re either connected or disconnected to the Kingdom of Heaven by way of the instrument of faith.
First of all, we’re all connected to the ground. Our most natural place of existence is walking the ground from which we were first formed. This is why airplanes didn’t come on the scene until Orville and Wilbur Wright did their amazing deed at Kitty Hawk, N.C. early last century. Humans were not formed with wings. The way we’re trying to change the human body nowadays, from one gender to another, maybe one day the mad scientists will implant wings into our sides, putting all the airlines out of business. Until then, we are beings of the ground. We are most natural when our feet are planted on the earth. Which is why this parable of Jesus is so richly human as he uses the earth to teach the necessity of having lasting faith.
Faith is a grace from God, but faith works in concert with our will to choose it each day. Our faith in Christ is not something that is completely beyond our choosing, where God is kind enough to just dump it on us. The first step of having faith in Christ does come from outside us in the sense that our Lord makes faith possible through his gift of grace. But accepting faith, and practicing our Christian faith in our lives, that’s on us as individuals, choosing to make it our own.
The order Jesus teaches in this parable goes from worst to first. It’s the perfect order for any homily preached in his name. He puts the tough examples in the beginning and middle of the parable, but it ends on a high note. The high note of bearing good fruit 100, 60, or thirtyfold. This mirrors our life; tough times along the way, ending in resurrection, which has no end.
Any homily about Christ that ends on a negative note is the worst homily in the world. The symbolism is that our Lord is still in the grave, when he isn’t. It must end on a positive note, because he’s raised from the dead. Which is what Christ does in the parable of the sower and the seed.
It’s sad that we even have the first three examples of faith in this parable taught by the Master Teacher. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word, without understanding the word, and the Devil comes and steals what’s in their heart. I pray that your approach to safeguarding the word, the voice of God speaking to us in the Scriptures, is similar to mine; it’ll be a cold day in you know what before he ever leaves you know where and steals the pearl from my heart. Have a Christian determination to protect the word in your heart. And never allow this first sad example of man being formed from the soil happen to you. The Devil has no problem breaking the 7th commandment, stealing God’s word from our hearts, if we don’t safeguard against it.
Another sad example is the seed sown on rocky ground, hearing and receiving the word with joy, but its temporary. It’s fleeting, just for a moment. Here’s my negative, in the middle, preaching to you, the choir. This example of our Lord reminds me too much of what happens way too often after reception of the sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation. The sacrament is received, and then, … where did they go? Was there no root in the joy of learning and receiving the sacrament? We pray they return to their faith, because we still love them.
One more sad example of badly formed soil is the seed sown among thorns, where worldly anxieties and the lure of riches overpowers the seed. This is why I hope I never win Powerball. If I do, I’ll buy my own golf course, then get rid of the rest of it. God created a beautiful world for us who are formed from the soil of it. Lots of attractions out there, beginning with Disney World. The people of this 3rd example forget that all things are passing, except our faith, which leads us to seeing God face to face.
But it ends on a high note, this parable, and homily. Your heart is rich soil. It’s the soil God used when he created man and woman. Cultivate it with God’s word found in his Church. Hear it, understand it, trust it, and act on it. That’s the perfect person of faith, formed from the rich soil. With imperfections along the way, but always the perfection of choosing faith in the One who speaks the parable.