Sunday, July 13, 2014
(Note: prior to Mass – challenge the congregation to focus on the parable in the Gospel… Where am I in that parable? Am I the sower? The Seed? Or something else?)
I ran across this journal in my office this week. An old friend of mine gave it to me as a present for my ordination. In it are a bunch of poems, prayers, scriptures, quotes – things that touched her heart and brought HER inspiration over the years. It’s more than just a book…she invested months of her free-time HAND-WRITING every page. It is a very personal gift which I recognize is a great honor and should be treasured.
See – my friend is a recovering alcoholic. She gave this to me when she was only like 18 months sober… and just a few weeks ago she reached the 10 year milestone. Seeing her commitment daily to overcome this addiction daily was an inspiration to me. What was even cooler was watching her share her experiences with others. She is an outspoken advocate for AA. She KNOWS what it’s like to fight with demons – and she knows that the battle could go either way on any given day if she doesn’t stick with the method that she knows works. She could have STAYED in her miserable condition – but she CHOSE to discipline herself and to seek God’s help to overcome the demons – and now SHE has become a healing tool in the hand of God.
I bring it up because, well, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I put this book aside and haven’t even noticed it on my shelf for several years. I’m ashamed because I know that this book represents a picture of her heart. It’s a testament to the pain and struggle she endured to get where she is today. This is her personal letter to me to inspire me to seek God all the more, and to be able to help inspire others as a Deacon…. But – I left it on the shelf. These words were idle for years.
Many of us have a book like this on our shelves at home. It sits on the shelf gathering dust, or maybe on the coffee table. Once in a while we notice that it is there, and it gives us a brief moment of comfort to know that the book is in our house… but if we were questioned about it… most of us haven’t read it. Of course, I’m talking about the word of God…. The Bible. This book is a personal letter that God wrote to you and me to inspire us! Unfortunately, for many of us, the word of God has sat idle on your shelf for years….just like my friend’s journal,
Which takes us to the last line of that first reading from Isaiah….
“My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”
In short – God’s word is not idle. His word has a specific purpose and according to this reading, that purpose WILL be fulfilled. God does not speak words which can be ignored.
What is the purpose of God’s word? Well, we sort-of get an answer in the last line of the Gospel:
To “bear fruit and yield a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold”
I say – that’s sort-of an answer, because, well – do YOU know what it means? I admit, it’s not immediately clear to me. I mean, I know we’re all supposed to bear fruit. I’ve talked about that a lot lately – how we are supposed to be the ones spreading the word of God. So, In a way, we could interpret this reading that we are the ones spreading the seed on the ground, …but that would miss the point. In fact, Jesus himself explained that wasn’t his point this time.
So – if we’re not the ones spreading the seed – what are we? Are we the seed? You might read it that way – in fact, I think that’s a valid interpretation, because Jesus plants each of us in a particular spot and tells us to bear fruit…”bloom where we’re planted”. Jesus needs us in a specific spot to bring HIS presence to that place. Is that the point of the Gospel? Maybe – but I don’t think so. So who ARE we in the Gospel?
We are dirt. Remember man that you are dirt and to dirt you shall return.
See – it makes sense that God is the one sowing the seed – and that seed is the seed of faith. He spreads it broadly so that every inch of soil is covered….which means every one of us has the seed of faith planted in our hearts – and this is where we take control. We are like dirt, BUT we have the ability to choose how much fertilizer we want – and how often we want to be hoed and pruned to remove the weeds and thorns.
How do we do that? How do we fertilize our soil? We feed it with the word of God.
What is the word of God? First – it represents Jesus – you know, Jesus is THE WORD of God. Remember the first chapter of John? “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word WAS God”…. That’s Jesus – the living Word of God. By coming here each week, we hear the words of Jesus – we hear the very words of God…. And we receive the Word of God – Jesus – in the Eucharist. Surely that is a powerful fertilizer!
Other ways we prepare our soil is to read the words of God for ourselves – take that book off the shelf – put it on your bedstand. Like Fr. Larry Richards says, “No Bible, no breakfast – No Bible, no bed”. Every morning and night, read some of it – doesn’t have to be a lot – just one chapter – or one page – or one paragraph – or even one LINE. Let it sink in. Ponder on it throughout the day and ask God how he is trying to fertilize us or prune us with that little piece of his word. How is He trying to fertilizer the seed of Faith He planted in our hearts?
I want to encourage you to consider setting a goal to read the WHOLE Bible…yes, I’m serious. But let me give you some pointers…I recommend you NOT start at the beginning! Start with Gospels and the NT. That’s the part we’re more familiar with – and you’ll find by reading it all, you’ll fill-in the gaps… because we don’t hear EVERYthing in our Sunday readings. If you get bogged down by the Book of Revelation, skip it. Likewise, once you’ve read the NT, you might try the OT. There are some GREAT stories in the Old Testament which make the New Testament make more sense. But don’t get bogged down by all the rules and regulations in Leviticus and Numbers… move on if you get to a section that doesn’t speak to you. The important thing is to read and become comfortable with the Bible, to give Christ the OPPORTUNITY to speak to you.
Now - you might think you don’t have time to do that – but I like the way Matthew Kelly put it. Imagine you die and go to heaven and you meet God the Father and he says – Welcome to Heaven! How are you doing? You say, “Fine, God – well, at least I think I’m fine…I’m dead…you tell me… how AM I doing?” God says, “Did you have a good life?” Oh, yeah, God – it was GREAT – I loved my life. Well, tell me what you did with the 80 years I gave you? Oh – all kinds of stuff, God – I mean – it was really GREAT. Then he asks – did you read any good books? Well yeah, God - several of them – lots of the best sellers. Then he drops the big question: ‘Did you read MY book.’ Silence - - - - - - That would be an awkward moment, wouldn’t it? How are we gonna tell the God of the universe we didn’t have time to read his book? I mean – he’s just got the one! Not like he puts out a new one each month ☺
The Bible is our family book – it was written by the Holy Spirit to inspire us and encourage us to fight our daily battle with our own addictions to sin and selfishness…and to help others too. That’s why God wrote this letter to us! God’s Word is not idle.