Homily on the Parable of the Sower

ProLifeCorner.com- For Sunday July 13 2014-   “A sower went out to sow.  But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirty fold.”

You descend 70 feet below ground through a corridor of concrete walls — and are confronted with an immense piece of twisted steel. You continue through several galleries that lead to a hall. One side of the hall is a massive sixty-foot-high concrete wall — on the other side is the Hudson River.

This is the National September 11 Memorial Museum, one of the most haunting places on earth, located on the site of where the World Trade Center Towers once stood. The 9/11 Museum is a de­pository of videos, audio recordings, photographs and thousands of objects to document, minute by minute, the events of that horrific Tuesday.

            Of the thousands of personal items on display is one that represents the worst and the best of 9/11: a red bandana, belonging to 24-year-old Welles Crowther. Welles was an equities trader who worked on the 104th floor of the South Tower. After the planes hit and smoke overwhelmed the building, Welles put his’ experience as a volunteer firefighter to work. He put his trade­mark red bandanna over his nose and mouth and found the stairs leading out of the tower, and then began helping hundreds of people make their way out of the doomed building. Welles himself never made it out.

Months later, in news accounts of the final minutes in the tower, survivors recounted the story of the young man with the red bandanna who led them to safety. His mother Alison knew immediately that it was her happy, generous son Welles — who had carried a red handkerchief with him since he was a boy.

The family gave his red handkerchief to the museum. And from this day forward, all who visit the 9/11 Museum will have a chance to know the sacrifice of a young man who — like so many that day — gave his life so others might live.

At the museum’s dedication ceremony, Alison took the stage to say that she and her husband “could not be more proud” of their son. “Welles believed that we are all connected as one hu­man family,” she said. “This is the true legacy of September 11.”

In today’s Gospel from St. Matthew, we hear the parable of the sower.  Jesus uses parables to explain certain features of the Kingdom of God, which He came to establish – its tiny, humble origins, its steady growth, its worldwide scope and its salvific force.  God calls everyone to salvation, but only those who receive and accept God’s call will attain it. Unfortunately, the good and bad are mixed together until the end of time.  The parable of the sower indicates that not all who hear the Word of God are willing or able to receive it. 

Nevertheless, Jesus demands that we must be willing to put our Faith into practice, so others may have the opportunity to overcome their hard-heartedness and be saved. 

Unfortunately, it’s tempting at times to tell people what they want to hear, regardless of whether or not it’s true. When you have a tough message to deliver, like the fact that being a disciple of Jesus might require forgoing worldly pleasure so that eternal happiness might be attained, you might be tempted to change the message or not deliver it at all.

Priests and deacons can be tempted in this way when preparing homilies. It is difficult at times to tell people that when they follow Jesus they might be rejected, just as Jesus was. We all want to be accepted. It would be much easier to tell you that when you follow Jesus everyone will love and respect you. But that would not be true, and telling you that would not be a very charitable thing to do.

Jesus speaks the truth in charity (there’s a certain charity in telling the Truth). We, His disciples, are called to proclaim His message of salvation authentically and charitably, even if we run the risk of offending someone’s feelings. When we do, we might be rejected. (This must be our starting point and we should prepare ourselves in advance for this.) At those times, though, the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth, will rush in as He always does when the truth is proclaimed, and our hearts will be open to His grace. Only the Holy Spirit can convert hearts, change lives and save souls – but He needs our cooperation. 

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is reported to have said that “God does not ask us to be successful, only faithful”. When Jesus is our cornerstone and we speak the truth in charity, then by God’s grace, we will produce the fruit of his Kingdom.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, we must continue to learn our faith (it’s not just a childhood experience that we graduate from at Confirmation) and continue to pray – especially the Rosary and the chaplet of Divine Mercy (before the Blessed Sacrament) for the grace to resist this specific temptation. The temptation to tell people what they don’t want, but need to hear, will require a little bit of tough love and courage. We must speak the truth in charity and therefore act like our cornerstone and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Welles Crowther’s red bandana is a fitting image for today’s Gos­pel: one young man’s act of courage saved many lives.  The practice of our Faith in both word and deed will help the Holy Spirit save many souls.  The selfless good we do — from the bravery of Welles Crowther and the many of the saints of 9/11 to the smallest, unseen and most ordinary acts of generosity and kindness, are all seeds that we plant in this earth which will result in a harvest of hope we cannot even begin to imagine in heaven. Such “sowing” begins with faith and courage: planting small seeds that break open to realize 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, mercy 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 justice and mercy.

Mary, Queen of Apostles and Queen of Prophets, pray for us!

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