15th Sunday in Ordinary Times
Isaiah 55:10-11; Rom. 8:18-23; Gospel of Matthew 13:1-23
Bitterness . . . Battle . . . Blessings in our Lives – Rich Harvest!

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of Good Shepherd, on 16th July 2017

For my homily on today’s Gospel of the Parable of the Sower, I would like us to ponder on the different types of lifestyles that illustrates the different soil that Jesus mentioned.  While I am describing them, it might perhaps, be good for each of us to search our hearts and asks ourselves, “How much of what is being described, articulates what you have been experiencing or am experiencing in your present life?” 

Let us ponder on the lifestyle of Jude (not real name) who is a good man.  Jude is attracted to the Truth of the Gospel, and the Teachings of the Church as he has been brought up in a good Catholic family.  Jude has a reasonably good job . . . He shares that twice a week, after work he and his, male and female colleagues and friends, about seven or eight of them would go for drinks and returns home around 2-3 am.  On the average, he says, he spends around $1,000 per month; sometimes more, on such social gatherings.

And when I asked him, what do you talk about?  Jude says, “Actually, we talk about everything, and nothing.”  In other words, Jude is saying that he and his friends are engaging in small talk . . . that has no real value . . . and often end up gossiping about people and laughing at the expense of people’s reputation.  After some years, this pattern of life was taking a toll on Jude’s life.  The quality of his work and his family relationships suffered. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, the type of friends and our lifestyles affect the quality and the way we live our faith.  Actually, Jude added, “I began to realise that my lifestyle was meaningless and empty; and my late nights that created the lack of energy for the work that I used to enjoy and find challenging; my relationships with family and the people I used to love began to be distant and cold.  In fact, I was on the verge of losing my faith.  I believe it was my parents who was praying for me, as they were deeply concerned for me and my very secular lifestyle.  It became clearer to me gradually that I was actually, destroying my career, my family, and myself.  So, I plucked up the courage and stopped joining the group.  

My brothers and sisters in Christ, if Jude had not cut himself off from the lifestyle that he was leading, he would have fallen into the first category of the “seeds that fall on the edge of the path;” where Jesus explains are those who “hear the Word of the Kingdom without understanding; the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart.”  Does the lifestyle of Jude, in some ways, remind us of what may be happening to us in our daily living?

Over the past year alone, as a priest, I have heard of many horror stories of single parents sharing with me the great trials of their married life.  One of them shared, “Father, I discovered that my husband has been cheating on me over the past eight years of our marriage; and when I confronted him about the woman he is seeing, he got angry with me for checking his hand phone messages, (which I actually only happen to come across accidently).  He then started to blame me for the shocking things, that I didn’t even realised was happening in our relationship, and accused me of causing the broken marriage.

Another person shared, “My wife has fallen for someone who is wealthy and has filed for divorce.  Money, the luxurious lifestyle of living beyond our means and social status was something that my wife was constantly seeking for but, I could not afford, and this frustrated her very much.  Actually, even as we had many quarrels in our ten years of marriage, I can’t understand how she has fallen for this guy who is so arrogant and disgusting in his behaviour. 

Yet, another spouse shared that when I fell seriously ill, and had to be cared for, my spouse could not see how she could care for me, as I needed constant nursing care.  She then left me and returned to live with her parents, and I am left to fend for myself. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, we can add more tragic stories to illustrate the parable of the Sower that Jesus explained.  However, let us be reminded that, the scenarios of these real stories are very real and they can happen to any of us, regardless of whether we are in the married, or priesthood or religious vocation.  If we are not vigilant in the way we live our lives and relate to God in our faith, and are complaining all the time that things are not working out the way we want them to, instead of seeing the blessings of God, then we are clearly undermining our vocation, and we may lose it one day.  The relationships that we just heard all broke up because they were not building their relationships on the foundation of their commitment to God, but were perhaps built on some physical and emotional attractions that they had for one another.

And so, when the challenges of their relationships and vocations surfaced in their married life, their love for one another was not strong enough to see them through the trials and tribulations that they encountered.  Indeed, the initial glow and the fantasy they painted for themselves vanished as soon as their physical and emotional attraction for each other wore off, and as such, the demands of the sacrifice and commitment that was needed to build and strengthen their marital bond became impossible for them to cope, let alone nurture.  Most importantly, as God was not at the centre of their marital commitment, they chose the least painful way out, and that was to go their separate ways, and call it “irreconcilable differences”.  In short, as Jesus explained and cautioned, their relationships broke down because the seeds of their relationships had no deep roots, and “as soon as trials or some persecution come . . . the fall away at once.” 

Let us next imagine: would happen if an angel would appear in your dreams tonight and ask you, “George, do you wish to own a private airplane, a bungalow of 30,000 sq feet in different parts of the world of your choice for your vacation, and have $5 billion worth of wealth, and have your portrait flashed in the front pages of glossy magazines and listed amongst the names of the rich and famous?  How many of us here would not be tempted to say, “Yes” I would like to have all these riches for me and my family?”

However, what if the angel were to add, George, you are a simple and happy man . . . you love your wife, and have lovely children who come to church and still practice the faith.  Please remember that if you are to have your wish granted, I am not too sure that you will still remain as the simple, humble and loving person that you are now for your wife and family.  Are you sure you still want the wish?

My brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus in the third type of soil cautioned that the “worries and lures of the riches choke the Word and the soil produces nothing.”  As this is the reality of the temptations of life, “Are we then going to listen to the advice of Jesus or are we going to deceive ourselves into thinking, “No, I will be strong enough . . . and even as I am given all these riches, I will love my spouse and family even more, and I would be so grateful to God that I will love Him more deeply and become a man of great holiness?!” 

My sisters and brothers in Christ, to conclude, I would like us to take note that in the reality of the many temptations in our daily living.  This is because there seems to be a basic interior battle that is fighting within each of us daily.  For some of us this battle is a fierce battle that is all out to destroy our family and relationships that we value.  For others, we may be experiencing a conflict that is mild and measured.  And this battle is the battle of the temptations between our “Pride” and our “Humility.” 

We could see that essentially, the seeds that fell on the first three types of soil are different degrees and dimensions of temptations to our pride; the first being the seed that is sown on edge of the path that tries to win our hearts through tempting us to live a superficial life, that Jude in out true story almost fell for.  The second seed that falls on soil that are no more than patches of rock are temptations that essentially rob us of our authenticity and depth of commitment in life as in the true horror stories of infidelity in relationships that we just illustrated.  Thirdly for the seeds that fell on thorns the temptations that lure us into the riches, glamour and glory of this world can be so attractive that we can easily become intoxicated by them, at the expense of living a meaningful and fulfilling life.  All these temptations are undoubtedly attractive, but the basic problem is that such choices in life that feed the “Pride” of our heart does not bear fruit; they can only destroy our families and relationships, and most importantly our faith and relationship with God. 

However, the rich soil that produces a rich harvest of a hundred fold, or sixty or thirty fold that Jesus proclaimed in the Parable, is the path of “Humility” of choosing to be more like Jesus in our daily living.  This path of Humility is a path of developing a personal relationship with Jesus and getting to know Him more intimately through the good that we do to others, the love and compassion that we show to those who are in need, and the commitment and sacrifices that we are called to make, and the crosses we are called to carry, in following Jesus daily.

We can do this, with God’s Strength . . . and indeed yield a rich harvest of a hundred fold, sixty or thirty . . . with God’s help, for nothing is impossible.  This is the path of humility of Jesus, that we are called to imitate, the Path of the Cross, the Path that offers Eternal Salvation to us and the whole world that Jesus came to save . . . Which path do we wish to choose?

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

1,938 visitors since 17 July 2017