Deacon Steven M. Johnson – St. James, Belvidere, IL
Homily for Ordinary Time – 16th Week Thursday, 7-23-20, Year A – Optional Memorial of St. Bridget
Readings: 1st – Jer 2:1-3, 7-8, 12-13, Gospel – Mt 13:10-17
Theme: Hearing and Understanding
Which saying would motivate you more?
“Give no heed to God’s will, live according to your own designs and receive eternal damnation or learn God’s will, live it abundantly and receive eternal life.”
“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 rocky ground, where it has little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns, grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
Both these statements say the same thing. But the second, a parable, responds more with the people. It’s relatable to something they understand. Planting seeds and getting them to grow. It provokes questions in the mind of what type of soil each of us are. Are we shallow, being inspired at church but quickly reverting to our old ways outside of church, or are we rich soil, soaking up every word of God and living them to the best of our abilities, taking care of each other?
We love a story. We love to use our imaginations and follow along in anticipation of what is going to happen next. We long for a good ending or something that provokes our thoughts. Christ knew that if he wanted to get people’s attention and bring the meaning of His gospel more closely to the hearer, He would have to be creative. Parables do that.
But hearing the word and understanding it is only half the equation. The other half resides with us. We must act on what we’ve heard. As Jesus said, “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.” Matthew 13:12
Let’s hear these same words of Jesus’ put into a parable in today’s terms:
There were two workers in the Engineering Office. Both had the same job description and education. The first was diligent, listening to his manager who told him to make use of company resources, tools, and support to advance his knowledge and build upon his skills. So, he attended seminars, read books, asked questions of the senior staff and worked alongside those in the shop whose work he supported through his job. He grew and expanded his knowledge and skills and was eventually promoted to the next job level with more responsibility and more money.
The second worker also heard the manager’s talk on how to advance himself, but he elected to do nothing about it. He didn’t use company resources, stayed in his office doing the same thing day in and day out. He rarely went to the shop, and most times he showed up late and left early. Then came a time when the economy was not so great, and the company had to reduce staffing levels in order to weather the downturn. The second employee was first to be laid off and his duties were given to the first employee who then advanced and eventually became the vice president of his department. To those who have, more will be given, to those who have not, even what they have will be taken away.
Many of us will hear but not understand, look and never see. Jesus gives us the opportunity to see the gospel unfold through the parable into how we should live our lives. If we listen and see, we’ll understand that rich soil is the soil we want to be, being one who has grace and receives more.
St. Bridget understood hearing God’s word as a child and through her devotion to Jesus, grew rich in virtue. She was born in Sweden in 1303 and marrying into the royal family and having eight kids, truly a saint, she lived life for God. When her husband died, being the rich soil that she was, she bore much fruit by being a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis and founding her own religious order, The Most Holy Savior (Bridgettines). She journeyed to Rome where she bore the fruit of virtue and mystic experiences. One of the more known devotions passed on by St. Bridget is the “Devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Mary.” St. Bridget is the patroness of Sweden and Europe. She died in Rome in 1373.