Mass of Fifteenth Sunday of Year
13 July 2014
St. Macartan’s Cathedral, 7.00pm
My dear friends,
The Gospels are littered with parables, allegories and stories. Story was one of the favourite methods of Jesus Christ to teach a message. The rabbis used story very frequently so when Jesus adopted this method it was a well tried tradition. When a famous rabbi, who loved to illustrate a truth by means of a story, was one day asked by his students why he adopted this approach, he replied that he would answer the question by means of a story. He said, “There was a time when Truth went around naked and unadorned. The people shied away from him, and gave him no welcome. So Truth wandered through the land rebuffed and unwanted. One day, very down in the mouth, he met Story strolling along happily, dressed in a multi-coloured robe. “Truth, why are you so sad?” asked Story. “I’m sad because I am so old and ugly that everyone avoids me,” Truth replied. “Nonsense,” laughed Story, “That is not why people avoid you. Here borrow my robe and see what happens.” So Faith donned Story’s multi-coloured robe and lo, everywhere he went he was made welcome. The rabbi explained “The fact is : people are often unable to face the naked truth; they much prefer the truth disguised. Sometimes, the truth can be so painful that we are not able to take it straight. We have to dress it up and adorn it. A story makes a bitter truth more palatable.”
A story has another great advantage. Just as a penny candle can help a searcher to find a gold coin or a priceless pearl, so a short parable can contain a great truth and enable us to penetrate to the heart of that truth.
Time and again Jesus builds his parables around the daily lives of his listeners. In a mixed economy of the pastoral and agricultural he moves easily between the two to bring home his teaching. The seed and the sower is a favourite image of his because it allows him to bring out the miraculous growth and transformation that the good news can achieve in and through us. He also builds his message on the very real way in which nature works, a pattern that will become the foundation for our understanding of sacramental life.
However, there are various ways in which we block the transmission of his word and prevent it taking root in our hearts and producing its fruits in the way we live. We can be too busy with other things, we can be too shallow and not able to deal with the challenges life throws at us. We can become too distracted by what the world offers us, its riches as well as its doubts and difficulties. What is asked of us is to have an open heart and then also to have the depth to understand what God is saying to us. We are both the ground that receives the seed and then the seed itself as we go about our lives in a way that is transformed by God’s word living and working through us.
Stories can be part of any time and place. The following piece appeared in the New York Times on 3 February 2014: On a cold evening in New York last winter, a commuter had just gotten off his train and was hurrying to walk the few blocks to his apartment. He was looking forward to the hot drink he was planning to make for himself as soon as he got home. When he rounded the corner to his own street he heard a young girl’s voice cry out, “Get your hot chocolate here; hot chocolate!” Just ahead of him was a table with a large thermos of hot cocoa, a can of whipped cream, miniature marshmallows and a stack of plastic cups. The commuter was impressed – a different take on the summer lemonade stand. As he approached the table, a delightful seven year old proprietor asked if he preferred whipped cream or marshmallows. After placing his order he took out his wallet and asked how much she was charging. “It’s free,” she laughed. The confused commuter looked at the girl’s mother who was standing nearby. “You’re giving it away?” “Yes, it’s free,” her Mum said with a smile. “My daughter got so many gifts for the holidays, we wanted her to learn to give back to the community, and we thought this might be a good way. So enjoy.”
Just like the parable of the sower this piece speaks especially to parents: that Mum and Dad’s own example of selflessness and humility are “seeds” that are planted in the mind and heart of their children that will mature one day into their own harvest of generosity and forgiveness. Christ calls us to model the sower of today’s Gospel within our own homes and households; to sow seeds of encouragement and reconciliation in the earth of our own “gardens” and doing the patient work of realising the harvest he has promised, to trust and believe that our simplest acts of kindness, our humblest offers of help and affirmation may be the “seeds” that re-creates and transforms our homes and hearts.
The smallest and unseen and most ordinary acts of generosity and kindness are seeds that we plant in the earth which we share that result in a harvest of hope we cannot imagine. Such “sowing” is done in a spirit of faith; planting small seeds that break open to realise the harvest within it that struggle to survive the most barren soil to provide hope, justice and mercy for every creature. Jesus challenges us in the parable of the sower to be both sower and seed; to sow seeds of encouragement and reconciliation regardless of the “ground” on which it is scattered, and to imitate the seed’s total giving of self that becomes the harvest of Gospel love and mercy.
+Liam S. MacDaid
13 July 201