Father Valan Arockiaswamy

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HOMILIES

Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

Jul 16, 2017 Views 202 Listen 12 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (55:10-11)

Thus says the Lord: Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (65:10, 11, 12-13, 14)


(R) The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.

You have visited the land and watered it; greatly have you enriched it. God's watercourses are filled; you have prepared the grain. (R)

Thus have you prepared the land: drenching its furrows, breaking up its clods, softening it with showers, blessing its yield. (R)

You have crowned the year with your bounty, and your paths overflow with a rich harvest; the untilled meadows overflow with it, and rejoicing clothes the hills. (R)

The fields are garmented with flocks and the valleys blanketed with grain. They shout and sing for joy. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans (8:18-23)

Brothers and sisters: I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Gospel

A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew (13:1-23)

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: "A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on the rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some send seed fell among thorns, and the thons grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear."

The disciples approached him and said, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" He said to them in reply, "Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. Isaiah's prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:

You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people. They will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them.

But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Hear then the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold."

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily

An elderly woman walked into a packed church on a Sunday morning to attend Holy Mass. A friendly usher greeted her at the door and wanted to help her find a seat. "Where would you like to sit, ma'am?" he asked her politely. She replied, "The front row please." The usher asked her, "Do you really want to do that? The priest is really boring. You may find yourself nodding off during homily and, feel embarrassed about it if the priest and others take note of it." The woman asked him, "Do you know who I am?" "No ma'am," he replied. She said, "I am the priest's mother". "Oh! Do you know who I am?", he asked her. She replied "No." "That's good. Otherwise I'll be in trouble later," he said.

Sometimes we tend to judge a Holy Mass as good or bad just on the singing of the choir or the priest's homily or the external arrangements or even other attendees. These are important, and are never to be neglected but there are two things in the Mass far more important. The Mass is made up of two parts. The first part is the Liturgy of the Word in which we read or hear and respond to God's Word. The second part is the Liturgy of the Eucharist in which we recall Christ's sacrifice and receive His body and blood. Today we have an opportunity to look into ourselves and renew our attitude, not toward the choir, nor the homilies but rather toward God's Word.

In much of his public teaching, Jesus used parables and stories drawn from everyday life to motivate and encourage his listeners and, to help them understand his gospel message. All of these parables are found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. The Gospel of Matthew contains 23 parables of which seven are in Chapter 13. In today's gospel text, we read the first parable, known as the "The Parable of the Sower," or the "The Parable of the Four soils." It is a story any farmer easily understands.

In the story, a farmer scattered seed and, it fell on different kinds of soil. Some of the seed fell on the path or wayside. A path is a way or a track for walking, often made by continual treading on the same area. The seed which fell alongside the path were unable to take root due to the hardness of the ground and, instead they were snatched away by birds, as they laid exposed on the surface of the ground. Some seed fell onto rocky ground. They started to grow but quickly withered because the soil was not very deep and, they could not take root. Some other seed fell among thorns.

The seed and the thorns grew together, but the thorns grew faster and destroyed the good plants. But some seed fell on good soil and produced a crop 100, 60, or 30 times more than what was planted. The seed was the same in every place, but the condition of the ground or the soil was different. In the first three places, the plants barely grew at all and therefore, did not produce any fruits. But the good soil received the seed, allowed it to take root and produced manifold.

Impressed by this story and by the way Jesus told it, his disciples were curious as to why Jesus used parables. In other words, they wanted to know why Jesus did not speak to the people more directly. In answer to that question, Jesus pointed out to them that while they were blessed to "know and understand the mysteries of the kingdom" because of their attitude, obedience and faith, others could not understand them because of the hardness of their hearts. He said, "They look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand", Matthew (13:13). Here Jesus recalled the prophecy God gave through Isaiah, "You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people. They will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts, and be healed and converted", Isaiah (6:9-10).

The expressions denote people's hardness of heart and blindness of mind. They would hear the words of the prophet, but they would not understand him. Thus, God forewarned the people that they would be indifferent, stubborn and obstinate by refusing to hear and look at the truth. However, Jesus pointed out to his disciples that they were of a different category. He said, "Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, for they hear. Many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it", Matthew (13:16). In other words, unlike the blinded people of the past, the disciples were blessed because they had eyes that looked for light, and ears that were open to divine voice. Not only were they blessed but also specially favoured by God as the most honoured and righteous people who wished to see the times of the Messiah but had only glimpses of the things of the new kingdom.

Jesus then explained to the disciples what the parable meant. He compared God's Word to seed and the hearers of the Word to four different types of soil:

  • He compares the seed sown on a hard path to those who hear about God or God's Word but never understand it or meditate upon it, never allow it to enter into their life no matter how often they hear it. These hearers have no interest in knowing the truth. They shut their eyes and refuse to look, close their ears and do not want to hear. Since the Word does not take root in their heart, Satan, like a bird, swoops down and easily snatches it away.
  • He compares the seed sown on the rocky ground to those who hear the Word with great joy but do not let it take root. These hearers are happy to hear about Jesus and His great love, but do not let it sink into their hearts. On the outside, they express great enthusiasm, but inwardly, they do not carefully consider the value of it or take the trouble of understanding it. They quickly fall away from God or forget God's Word in times of misfortune, adversity and persecutions.
  • He compares the seed sown among thorns to those who hear God's Word and let it grow within them, but over time their hearts are given to cares, anxieties, riches and pleasures of the world. These hearers do not grow in their understanding, knowledge and experience of God. They get distracted by daily concerns and material things and become unfruitful. These hearers are typical of some church goers and are abundantly found in all parishes.
  • He compared the seed sown on good soil to those who hear God's Word joyfully, receive it humbly, understand it well, and accept it with trust and therefore, bear fruit abundantly.

What is the message for us?

Many of us have things in our lives that we would like to change. But there is only one thing that can help us truly to change our life for the better, and that is, the Word of God. The Word of God has the power to change our life. It never fails. As the Prophet Isaiah declares in today's first reading, "Just as the rain and snow come from above and are never wasted so too is the Word of God, which comes from above and accomplishes God's purposes", Isaiah (55:10-11). Yes, God's Word from above does what God intends - nourishing and feeding His people. It accomplishes what God pleases and, it never returns empty.

But how we receive this Word that never returns void and always accomplishes what it is sent to do, depends on us, the hearers of the Word. So, if we want to change our life, we have to take care of the disposition of our heart, or else no matter how many kinds or number of Word Jesus sows in us, it will never fully produce to its full capability.

We must honestly ask ourselves these questions today - What type of soil or ground do I represent? That's to say, what is the condition of my heart as I hear or read God's Word? Is my heart hard and unresponsive so the Word of God is unable get in? Or, is my heart shallow and impulsive so the Word of God seems good and desirable to me until some temptations, difficulties and persecutions arise? Or is my heart divided and worldly so the Word of God grows but is often completely choked by worries, riches and pleasures of this world? Or is my heart a soft and receptive heart so the Word God is able to take root, grow, and bear fruit in plenty?

For the Word of God to be alive and active, and be fruitful in our life, we must change our attitude and disposition toward it:

  • We must have a passionate desire for God's Word. The apostle Peter puts it in this way, "Like new born children, we must seek eagerly for the pure milk of the Word, so we can grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ", 1 Peter (2:2).
  • As the Prophet Isaiah says, "We must seek and read from the book of the Lord", Isaiah (34:16). We must develop the habit and discipline of reading and meditating on the Word everyday - even if it is just for a few minutes.
  • We must understand God's Word in the fullest sense. For that, before we read and study the Word, we should always pray first, asking God to give us the understanding of His Word.
  • Just as we value the reading of God's Word, we should also value "the listening of" Scripture being read aloud and explained to us by the preachers.
  • Like the psalmist, we must believe in God's Word. That is, first of all, we must believe that God's Word is true - it says what is true about me, true about people, true about the world, true about the future, true about the past, true about the good life, and true about God. Secondly, we must believe that God demands what is just, noble and righteous, and never wants what is impure, unloving, or unwise. Thirdly, we must believe that God's Word provides us with what is good - the way to happiness, the way to avoid shame, the way to safety and the way of good counsel, and gives us strength and hope, and provides wisdom, and shows us the way we should live.
  • As the apostle James says, we must "Become doers of the word, and not just hearers, deceiving ourselves", James (1:22).

Jesus had concluded the parable by saying, "...whoever has ears ought to hear", Matthew (13:9). Let us use the opportunity to humbly return to our Lord without delay, open our ears to His counsel, and listen to Him with all our heart, so our life can be one that is fruitful and brings glory to Him.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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