The Gospel on July 16, (Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time) was about a sower sowing seed, some on a pathway, some on rocky soil, some among thorns and some on rich soil. (Mt 13:1-23) There are actually three parts to the story, the first is the parable, the second Jesus explains why he uses parables, and the third Jesus explains the parable to his disciples.
Originally, Jesus probably only said the first part of the parable – the one without the explanations. The second and third part was added on at a later time when there were persecutions of Christians and many of the new converts were falling away. It was meant to give them encouragement and to reinforce perseverance. It must have been frustrating wondering if the word of God would ever take hold.
At the end of the first section of the parable there is an important phrase, “Whoever has ears ought to hear.” In other words, are we really listening to what is being said? Are we getting the meaning?
Have you ever been told you should do this or you need to do that. That brings up red flags for me and I put up my barriers. I tend not to listen and I close my ears.
Think of a child, or especially a teenager. If you tell them one thing, they are going to do the exact opposite of what you are telling them to do even though you know it is good advice. You may need to be a little more subtle and talk in parables. Instead of telling them what to do, you might ask them “What do you think is the best thing to do?” More often than not, they will come up with the solution you were going to suggest, but they are the ones that thought of it. They are more likely to follow their own advise than they are of a parent.
Or what about a spouse who is always telling you what you should do. I have a feeling that that can cause tension in a marriage. Instead of saying you need to do this, instead ask “What do you think we should do about that? That leads to dialogue and allows the two of you to come up with the solution together.
Or have you ever had someone talk to you about religion. I think about the Jehovah Witnesses. As soon as we see them walking up the driveway we close the curtains and lock the doors. In other words we close our ears before they have even said a word. If they do get in the door, we may politely accept their literature and then throw it in the thrash can as soon as they leave. Are we too insecure about our own faith that we are afraid to have a conversation with them about we believe? Maybe we need to learn and think about our own faith a little more. There is an excellent opportunity to learn more on Monday July 31, 2017.
Do you have a child that you are trying to get to go to church. Instead of telling them they should go because it is a sin, invite them when they are with you. Say, “Would you like to come to church with me today, I’d like that.” And if that doesn’t work, action speaks louder than words. Make sure you go yourself. Also, as the parable implies, be persistent. Don’t give up after one try. Maybe after the third or fourth attempt they will come.
But you also have to be careful about being overly pushy. At the Bible Study we have at the Falmouth Hospital, there is one person who is very persistent in trying to convince me to join an organization that he thinks our church needs and wants me to lead that group. After a while, I close my ears to whatever he is saying even though some of his ideas are good. He always signed his emails to me “Prayerfully Pushy”. Well, sometimes he is a little too pushy.
We don’t know when or where our seeds of faith that we plant will grow. Sometimes we have to look at ourselves. Are we ready to hear the words Jesus speaks to us and really listen and understand. Will we be the ones who hear his words but then are choke out by the thorns – his words being lost in the busyness of our world. Will we ignore his words because we have more important things to do. And more importantly, when will we act on his words.
You’ve heard it said that 20 percent of people do 80 percent of the work in an organization. In the Catholic Church that is not the case. Less than 7 percent are actively involved. 6.4 percent of registered parishioners contribute 80 percent of the volunteer hours in a parish. And 6.8 percent of the congregation donate 80 percent of the financial contributions.
We are blessed at Christ the King. We are very active and very involved. We are noted for being there for people when they need help. We have over three hundred members of our St. Vincent de Paul Society, all of which are doing tremendous work. And yet that is less than 6 percent of our parish that is involved in that organization. Think what we could do if that doubled to 12 percent.
Jesus chose flawed people as his disciples. But think of what those twelve disciples did and the number of Christians, the Catholics there are in the world today. Their seed fell on fertile soil and multiplied. Jesus calls each of us to spread the seed and to do the work. Just think if the 7 percent actively involved in the Church double to 14 percent Jesus’ message would definitely fall on fertile soil. Are you listening to Jesus? What can you do?
Deacon Greg Beckel