16th Sunday In Ordinary Time Year A - Matthew 13:24-43
According to Jesus’ parable, a sower sowed good seed in a field, but an enemy came and sowed weeds. The text tells us that the enemy, Satan, came and sowed the weeds while everyone was sound asleep. It was a common practice in ancient warfare to destroy your enemy’s crops. If you could destroy his agricultural base, then his military power would soon follow suit. Soldiers who can’t eat can’t fight. So step number one is to be perceptive. We must be aware of what Satan is up to. We can ill afford to fall asleep on the job. That is why the scriptures are filled with admonitions to be alert. Ephesians 6:18 says, “Be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” And 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Later Jesus explained that the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom, and the weeds stand for all who do evil. “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age,” he said. “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Then he added, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
Every gardener knows the importance of getting rid of the weeds. If you don’t, the weeds will choke out the good plants you want to grow. God also knows the importance of getting rid of the weeds. Many of us are uncomfortable with the idea of a God of Judgment, but sooner or later we have to answer the question: What about the weeds?
Human evil continues
We see it on every continent. We recoil at the idea of the judgment of God, but what about the weeds? What about the evil within the hearts of men and women--the hatred, bigotry, envy, bitterness, lust, anger, greed, etc.
A young woman in one of our public schools was asked to write an essay on Evolution. She wrote, “According to this theory man descended from the apes and has been descending ever since.” There is some truth in that little piece of humor. In our appetite for evil, human beings are still descending. Apes are not capable of the extraordinary evil to which humans will resort. What about the weeds? We see war, violence, displacement, extortion etc.
Our concern today is not about the final judgment that Jesus describes--when the wheat and the weeds will be separated. For most of us that matter has already been settled. By faith we have been saved. We will leave to God the determination of what happens to the truly depraved.
We aren’t responsible for what others do with their lives. But we are responsible for our own lives. What about the weeds in our lives? How do we deal with those weeds--those pesky personality defects, those murky moral letdowns, those tawdry times of ethical failure that keep us from being all that God intends us to be? For, you see, God has created us to be like a beautiful garden--bearing fruit whose taste is sweet and pleasing to the taste buds and bursting forth in blossoms whose beauty is pleasing to the eye. How do we get rid of the weeds from our own hearts and become the beautiful garden Christ intends us to be?
Recognize how weeds grow
They grow without any effort on our part. No one goes out and plants a weed. No one cultivates it, waters it, sees that it gets enough sunshine. Weeds require no labor.
Weeds remind me of that mindless bit of philosophy still so popular in our society today: “If it feels good, do it.” That is a certain recipe for failure. If we did only what felt good to us we would be physical, mental, moral and spiritual wrecks. The things worth having in life require effort, and sometimes, pain.
One of the most dangerous heresies of this sort is the idea that love is something that comes naturally. In this view of life, love is a mushy feeling. Mature people, however, understand that love is not simply a feeling; it is a commitment. Real love takes work. It involves the willingness to be there in good times or bad, for better or for worse.
Example of Weeds
That’s especially true of parenting. There was once a certain man who wouldn’t let his children attend church. His rationale? He wanted them to wait until they were old enough to decide for themselves. His pastor came by one day and said he wanted to take the man to his own home to see his garden. When they walked into the garden, it was full of weeds, which were choking out his squash, beans and okra. The man said: “This is a pitiful excuse for a garden!” To which the pastor replied: “I just wanted to wait until the vegetables had a chance to decide for themselves what they wanted to do!” Looking after a garden takes work. So does looking after a marriage or being a responsible parent.
Beware of anything in life that requires no commitment on your part, no effort, no inconvenience. You are probably dealing with a weed. That is the sinister danger, for example, behind gambling--the illusion that great riches can be yours with little effort. It is also part of the psychology of drugs. Why face your problems? You can escape from them with an artificial euphoria by simply taking a tiny pill. How do you get rid of the weeds? You begin by recognizing how weeds grow. They grow without effort.
You get rid of weeds, in the second place, by recognizing what it takes to grow a beautiful garden-you begin with a mental idea of what you hope to achieve. You map it out in your mind’s eye. You visualize the finished product--the roses and the begonias, the dogwoods and the maples, the hedges and the walkways.
Do you have that same clear-cut vision concerning your life? There are some people who take better care of their lawns than they do their lives. Successful people almost always have a vision of what they hope to achieve in life.
The story’s told of a skinny, scrawny African-American youngster who one day heard a coach say, “You can be what you make up your mind to be. God will help you.” Later this youngster told the coach, “I’ve decided what I want to be--the fastest man in the world.” The coach said, “Son, that’s a great dream but there is one problem. Dreams have a way of floating high in the sky and drifting around like clouds. A dream never becomes a reality unless you have the courage to build a ladder to your dream.” He explained that his dream would take determination, dedication and discipline.
Young Jesse Owens listened to the words of that coach and at the 1936 Olympics in Germany he established himself as the fastest man in the world. A beautiful garden begins with a vision, a dream, an inner picture of what you can accomplish with God’s help.
A beautiful garden also requires a plan
You have heard it before because it is true: Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Jesus talked about the foolishness of those who build towers without first sitting down and figuring the cost. Successful living requires that we give some thought to the future. We have a vision of the beautiful garden we hope to be. Now we sit down and make a plan. What would I have to do to make my dream a reality?
Of course, a meaningful plan for our lives will include all of eternity.
A beautiful garden requires a vision, a plan and a commitment to cultivate it as long as necessary
Isn’t that a great statement? Cultivating a garden requires those daily little tasks that are a pain, perhaps. But you do them because you can envision the beauty and the bounty that awaits you. That, of course, is what disciplined living is all about. We talked about discipline a couple of weeks ago. Some people do not understand the nature of discipline. They think of it as mindless devotion to meaningless activity.
Disciplined living is not following a mindless routine. To the man or the woman who has caught a vision of life’s boundless possibilities, it is the application of a plan.
Isn’t it time you got rid of the weeds in your life? Weeds are the enemy of a beautiful garden--whether that garden is a good marriage, or the sanctity of your body, or your relationship with your children, or your progress in your profession, or your relationship with God. Weeds require no effort, but they can choke out the work of a lifetime. A beautiful garden, on the other hand, requires vision, planning and discipline. But the prize is worth the price!
So heed Jesus’ warnings about weeds. Keep the weeds out of your life.
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Vancouver - Canada
Is 55:10-11; Rm 8:8-23; Matthew 13:1-23
Jesus tells us that the seed in this parable is the Word of God and you and our hearts are the soil. In this parable, Jesus identifies 4 types of hearts. That's what I want to look at today in this passage. The Shallow Heart, The Stony Heart, The Strangled Heart and The Surrendered Heart.
The seed that fell on the path, and the birds of the air scooped them up. Birds of the air, well there are different meanings attributed to this expression. There is The Shallow Heart. This is the heart which is constantly distracted. It has too many interests. There is no focus and a lack of vision. This is the heart that has enthusiasm without commitment. This is the heart that is pleasantly pleased with the prospect which the seed brings but makes no promise.
That's what Jesus meant by The Shallow Heart. It's the soil of the soul and of the heart that is so shallow the seed really doesn't take root but is immediately eaten by the birds of the air in the light of every day living and the regular trials and tribulations of being faith. It's hijacked and gone so quickly.
Secondly there is The Stony Heart. This is the hardened heart. It can be packed and hardened by any number of things. Broken relationship, old wounds, dried out spirit or flagrant rebellion, one that has said no to God. No one or nothing is getting in. This is the wounded, bitter heart, totally surrendered to the world and anything NOT of God. In the Stony Heart, the seed of God's Word gets gobbled up by the desires of world before it even has a chance to even settle.
III. The Strangled Heart
And that brings us to The Strangled Heart. This is the heart that is filled with faith. It springs up and grows and even has deep roots. Unfortunately it is trying to grow where it always grew and it's distracted and subdued and defeated by the stuff and worries of the world. And there is a lot to be distracted by.
We have more choices in our lives than at any other time in history. And instead of down sizing, the list just keeps getting bigger and bigger. A trip to the grocery store and there's about 100 breakfast cereals to choose from, 200 kinds of soup, 50 to 100 blends of coffee, you get the idea.
Here, where we are blessed with so much, those choices often become a major distraction. There are so many things we want to do or see or try or experience. We want to enjoy life a little more before we make a serious commitment. And the minute that thought pops into our head, the thorns and weeds start to choke and take over.
That's The Strangled Heart.
But then there's The Surrendered Heart. This is the Hopeful and Joyful heart. This is the heart that is most like the heart of God. You see, the sower in this passage is rather scandalous. When I was farming, you were careful with your seed. It was expensive. You only used the best and you only planted it in the best soil. You didn't just go throwing seed everywhere like this guy did. How wasteful. And maybe that's part of the point.
Sure this passage is about the soil of our hearts and the timber of our souls. But it's also about an extravagant God who blesses us beyond measure. An extravagant God who continues to scatter the best seed, His Word, to a world where there are still Stony Hearts, Shallow Hearts and Strangled Hearts. It was a shock and a scandal and still is, to those who think they have the inside track to heaven. Our God is truly and extravagant God who blesses us beyond all measure despite the fact that we don't deserve any of those blessings.
But we rejoice in the fact that we have and extravagant God who sows the seed of his love in places that may not, and probably won't ever take root and produce fruit. But remember, we believe in a God of miracles and sometimes that's exactly what happens. The seed does take root. It isn't gobbled up, dried out or strangled.
Instead, it takes root, blooms and prospers. And when that happens, God rejoices and uses that seed as an example of just how extravagant God's grace truly is. God's grace, can change the stony, shallow, strangled heart into the Surrendered Heart. This is the heart that makes a difference.
He closed the letter, "Love and Peace" and signed his name. He then neatly folded the note, put it into an empty bottle, and threw it into an inland lake near his home. Several days later, the bottle and note were retrieved on a nearby beach. A story about the note appeared in a local newspaper and the media picked it up nationwide. A group of people from New Hampshire who were taking children to the Soviet Union as ambassadors of peace, read the article, contacted the boy and his family. They invited them to accompany the group to Russia. So, the little boy and his father traveled to Russia as peacemakers.
One little boy made a difference. He planted his seed and it bore much fruit.
And it doesn't take much if the soil is the soil of The Surrendered Heart.
We serve an extravagant God. The Son of God is the, the seed is not only the Word of God, but His grace and the offer of forgiveness which is given to each of us. The Sower continues to sow. The question for us is: How does your garden grow? Which heart do you possess. The Stony Heart, The Shallow Heart, The Strangled Heart or the Surrendered Heart?
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza
Guardian Angels Church
II Kings 4:8-11.14-16; Romans 6:3-4; 8-11; Matthew 10.37-42
When I was a kid, my Mom used to remind me that the first thing that I have to do as soon I rise in the morning is to “Pray” and thank “God” for all things he provides. This has been deeply rooted in my mind and heart that I never ever skip this short exercise I learnt from my Mom. Now I continue to do this exercise, but not as exercise but with a deep sense of gratitude to God I realize that everything that I have and I am is because of the Mighty work of God in my life.
The readings in today’s Mass are about what’s first in our lives, or what should be first, namely our relationship with God. Our relationship with God is the most important relationship we can have in our lives. Our relationship with God is the most important thing we can lose in our lives. God offers Himself to us, we respond. If we don’t respond, we’re telling God that His offer has no value for us and that His offer doesn’t mean anything to us. Whether or not our immortal souls live in eternal life in heaven depends on our relationship with God here on earth.
Our lives are filled with “busy-ness”; there are so many things we need to do and so many things we consider to be important; but what about God? Where is He in our lives? What sort of attention do we give to God? We need to ask that question from time to time and today’s readings challenge us to do just that not only today, or on Sundays, but each and every day of our lives.
There are two big points to draw from today’s readings; the first being the question of how important God is to us in our lives. The second has to do with God’s messengers.
God uses messengers, intermediaries, to relate to us. How important are they to us?
We live in a sort of “do it yourself” world. We like to take care of things all by ourselves. But we really can’t live that way, can we? We all need to depend on others in one way or another.
That’s true when it comes to the way God reaches us. The woman in the first reading paid a lot of attention to God’s messenger Elisha. As a result, God reached her and changed her life. Are we open to God’s messengers in our lives? God cares for you, He loves you, and He wants your attention and love. We all need to make more room for Him in our lives, our hearts, and our thoughts. If we don’t, our souls are in peril.
Summertime is upon us, a time when our busy-ness is not so demanding. It’s a time of recreation and a time during which we can be reflective. What about reading some good books, especially books and things to read that turn our thoughts toward God. What about some quiet time spent in reflection about God’s presence in our lives?
Pick up some spiritual reading now so you can have it over your summertime. Spend some thoughtful, quiet, and reflective time during which you can pay attention to God and what He has to say to you. Spend some time asking yourself what’s important in your life and how important God is to you in your life. After all, He made you to know Him, love Him and serve Him, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.
What, after all, is your life really all about?
Jesus’ precious words must resound in our ears today as he says, if you love your father, mother more than me, you are not worthy of me; if you love son or daughter more than me you are not worthy of me, if you do not carry your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of me; if you save your life you will lose it; and if you lose your life for my sake you will find it.
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Vancouver - Canada
Jer 20.7, 10-13; Rm 5.12-15; Mt 10.26-33
There was this museum laid with beautiful marble tiles, with a huge marble statue displayed in the middle of the lobby. Many people came from all over the world just to admire this beautiful marble statue.
One night, the marble tiles started talking to the marble statue.
Marble tile. "Marble statue, it's just not fair, it's just not fair! Why does everybody from all over the world come all the way here just to step on me while admiring you? Not fair!"
Marble statue. "My dear friend, marble tile. Do you still remember that we were actually from the same cave?"
Marble tile. "Yeah! That's why I feel it is even more unfair. We were born from the same cave and yet we receive different treatment now. Not fair!" he cried again.
Marble statue. "Then, do you still remember the day when the designer tried to work on you, but you resisted the tools?"
Marble tile. "Yes, of course I remember. I hate that guy! How could he use those tools on me, it hurt so badly."
Marble statue. "That's right! He couldn't work on you at all as you resisted being worked on."
Marble tile. "So???"
Marble statue. "When he decided to give up on you and start working on me instead, I knew at once that I would be something different after his efforts. I did not resist his tools, instead I bore all the painful tools he used on me.."
Marble tile. "Mmmmmm......."
Marble statue. "My friend, there is a price to everything in life. Since you decided to give up half way, you can't blame anybody who steps on you now."
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If we were to go through our life without any obstacles, we would be crippled. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. Give every opportunity a chance, leave no room for regrets, and don't forget the power in the struggle.
Suffering and pain is a part of life. No one can evade or escape such things in life. Jesus instructs his disciples that they should be ready for any eventuality.
Jesus says, "Do not fear those who kill the body; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Mt. 10.28) This is a very powerful passage of the Holy Bible. In simple English, it means, "Bear your crosses and at the end, you shall be rewarded." Those who deny their crosses, they shall be disowned by the Lord.
While reading Viktor E. Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” I was impressed by his insight into the mental suffering of human beings. After having himself suffered through some of the most torturous conditions known to mankind, he not only survived, but shared his newfound knowledge with the rest of the world. His greatest legacy is his impressive understanding of human nature and the valuable lessons he passed on.
While people often recommend this book, they rarely put into words what it is that so impressed them. I’d like to share some of what gave me those “Aha!” moments, where the light bulb went off in my head and I recognized the value of the lesson. One particular passage was related to the transitory nature of life and how his therapy “logotherapy,” is an active technique, rather than reactive. What struck me however, was how he points out a fundamentally sound view of old age that I believe is one we would all wish to emulate.
What a joyous and wonderful way to live! To live fully each day, so that you can end your days without regret, envy or loss. In his book, he repeatedly speaks of finding the meaning of life and meaning in suffering. The two are irrevocably intertwined. Suffering occurs in every human life. The ability to transform tragedy into a personal triumph is as unique to each person as it is necessary. Here is a great example from his book.
“Once, an elderly general practitioner consulted me because of severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else. Now, how could I help him? What should I tell him? Well, I refrained from telling him anything but instead confronted him with the question, “What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive you?”
“Oh,” he said, “for her this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!” Whereupon I replied, “You see, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared her, and it was you who have spared her this suffering - to be sure, at the price that now you have to mourn her.” He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left my office. In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of sacrifice.”
Of course, Frankl himself found such meaning with memories of his wife’s love while enduring the torments of the Nazi camps in hopes of eventually reuniting with her. Since we cannot always avoid suffering in life, the idea of finding a meaning in it is immensely sound. Although I thoroughly support and believe in happiness and an optimistic view, I find great healing in the idea that if we suffer, we suffer for a reason.
I’ve known friends and family members who suffer in harsh, chaotic home situations, or work jobs they dislike. Far from wanting unhappiness, many of them simply suffer these problems for a greater good, or a greater meaning. They may be trying to pay for their children’s college funds, or they are working to heal an addicted person in their family.
Finding the meaning in our suffering helps us endure our pain with dignity and grace. It is the gives us endurance far beyond our usual capacity and fills us with hope and love. It is an inner freedom that not even the worst circumstances can remove from us. May we all be blessed to know the meaning that gives purpose to our lives. Therefore Jesus says, Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Vancouver - Canada