16 July 2017

Homily - 16 July 2017 - The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)
Dear brothers and sisters,

How often do we, too, wish to ask Jesus, “Why do you speak to them in parables” (Matthew 13:10)? Moreover, how often do we wish to ask him, “Why do you speak to us in parables?” Why does he not speak plainly to us, but rather in riddles and intimations? Does he not want us to hear, understand, and receive his message in humble joy?

When we reflect on the parable proclaimed today, we usually focus on the various types of soil. Important as these are, it seems to me the primary focus of the parable is not so much on the ground, but on Jesus, the Divine Sower. It is the seed of his word that goes forth from his mouth to do his will (cf. Isaiah 55:11). This does not negate the certainty that the types of ground “represent different modes of receiving the Word, or different modes of listening: the Word of God is sown in every human being, and in each one it wants to bring forth a fruit full of life.”[1] It is always Jesus who sows and speaks, and so this parable is “autobiographical,” for it is he who has “visited the land and watered it” with his word; it is he who has “prepared the land: drenching its furrows, breaking up its clods, softening it with showers, blessing its yield” (Psalm 65:10, 11).[2] 

Indeed, this parable “reflects the very experience of Jesus, of his preaching,” even as it demonstrates the various ways in which we attend to his preaching.[3] Like every natural seed, the seed of the Word of God takes time to be implanted into the soil of our lives, to germinate and break out of its shell, to push through the soil, and, finally, to produce fruit. To put it perhaps more simply, “the interiorization of the Word needs appropriate, suitable spaces and times: it is not something that happens everywhere, in a moment.”[4] What is more, 

stony ground speaks of a journey that happens in a hurry (the adverb “at once” happens twice) and for this reason it cannot endure, it does not withstand long distances. Speaking of this inconstancy, the evangelist Matthew uses a particular adjective, which literally means “what is only of a moment” (proskairós): the man “of a moment” is one who is enthusiastic about everything, but does not love anything deeply; he lives very fragmented, and does not unify himself around a relationship; he knows no patience.[5] 

Does this not describe a great many of our contemporaries, perhaps even us, men and women of the moment, enthusiastic about everything but loving nothing deeply? It remains, then, for us who are dedicated to the study of the sacred liturgy to remind our neighbors that “without the sacraments of the Church, the Christian life is like the seed fallen on rocky ground which, when it sprouted, it withered for lack of moisture.”[6]
It is within the liturgy of the Church that the Divine Sower reveals the reason for his speaking in parables. Within the sacraments we come to realize that “God's true ‘Parable’ is Jesus himself, his Person who, in the sign of humanity, hides and at the same time reveals his divinity.”[7] Just as he hides himself behind and within his parables, so, too, here he hides himself in the appearance of bread and wine. “In this manner God does not force us to believe in him but attracts us to him with the truth and goodness of his incarnate Son: love, in fact, always respects freedom.”[8]

It remains for us to allow the Lord to drench the furrows of hearts, to break their clods, to soften them with the gentle and yet forceful showers of his love, so that his fruit may be produced in us. This happens not in a moment, but over time; we must be patient with him. May he bring this about continually in us and so allow us to help others interiorize the Word and see the beauty of his love precisely in his hiddenness so his fruit may be born in them. Amen.

[1] Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A, 15 July 2017.
[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, 10 July 2011.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A, 15 July 2017.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Robert Cardinal Sarah, Address tothe ConferenceSacra Liturgia Milan 2017),” “The Sacred Liturgy – Our Encounter with Almighty God: A Christological and Ecclesiological Perspective,” 11.
[7] Pope Benedict XVI, ibid.
[8] Ibid.

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