Sunday, 16 July 2017 : Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, all of us gather together listening to the words of the Scriptures, which are indeed the Word of God, which in accordance with what we heard from the first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah. The Word of God has come into the world, and the Word had been sent from God to dwell among us, He Who is none other than Christ, Son of God and Word of God incarnate in flesh of Man.

The entire theme of this Sunday’s readings is about the growth of seeds and plants, in which the Word of God is likened to seeds that God planted in each and every one of us. In the Psalm, we sing to the glory of God, remembering how He nurtures the earth and cares for it. In the same manner, He nurtured us all and allow us to flourish in this world. But how about that seed, the Word of God which He planted inside each one of us?

In the Gospel passage today, we heard the well-known parable of the sower, in which Jesus our Lord spoke to His disciples about how the sower of the seeds sowed his seeds in various places, only for the seeds to end up in various end results. Some of the seeds ended up on the roadside, eaten up by the birds, while some others fell on a rocky soil, unable to grow because they were unable to establish their roots, and while some others fell among thistles and brambles, which choke the life out of the newly grown plants, and last of all, some fell on rich soil, where the seeds grew and bore in multiples of what had been planted.

The Lord Himself has explained the meaning of each of the segments of this parable, explaining to His disciples what they all need to do in order to blossom in their faith, allowing the Word of God to grow in them and to encompass them completely. However, it is also important for us all that we must heed its message, so that each and every one of us know how we ourselves should live in accordance with God’s will, and be able to flourish best in our faith.

First of all, we heard of the case where the seeds fell on the roadside and were eaten up by the birds of the sky. The Lord Jesus explained that this is the case when the devil came by and took the Word away from the people, who therefore did not believe because of that. It is a clear reminder for every one of us that we have a great adversary in the devil, the one who is always active, prowling about seeking to drag our souls into damnation. He is always active and continue to plot for the downfall of all mankind, God’s beloved creation.

We must be careful lest the devil comes to us and snatches from us the Word of God, because of all his lies and all the things that he tempted us with, pulling us away from the path to salvation and leading us into the path of ruin. He is always ever active seeking for those whose faith in the Lord are weak, and all those who do not have a good relationship with God, whose faith is superficial and lacking in strength.

How should we strengthen our faith in God then? It is by deepening our relationship with Him, through prayer and time which we spend with Him. We should not be too busy with ourselves and whatever it is that we are doing in life. It is often that we leave the Lord to the last priority in our lives, and as a result, we open ourselves to the devil to come into our hearts and snatch whatever it is that God had placed in us. We end up falling into sin and evil, because of our inability to strengthen that relationship we ought to have with God, and God is not at the centre of our lives.

This is related with what we then heard about the seeds that fell on the rocky ground, where they were able to grow quickly and yet, they were unable to form proper roots due to the rocky soil, and they ended up being scorched and destroyed from the lack of water and the intense heat. This is what happened when all of us are closing up ourselves to the Lord, because of what I had just mentioned, when we ended up being so busy with ourselves and our daily business, that we end up shoving God away from the centre of our lives.

Let us ask ourselves, how many of us find going to the Holy Mass to be tedious and as a chore? How many of us are always looking at our watches, wondering when the celebrant of the Mass will finish his long homily or when we will be able to leave the Mass to continue with our daily proceedings and business? How many of us grumble because we have to go to the church on Sundays and on certain Holy Days of Obligation?

If we do not prioritise God in our lives, and if we find serving and worshipping the Lord as a chore, that is exactly when we have the seeds spread by God landing on a rocky soil, on our souls, hearts and minds that are filled with so many distractions and other preoccupations that we do not allow the Word of God to take roots and grow deep inside each one of us. That is when we start to wander off, away from God’s salvation and into damnation, since the Word of God has no place in us and thus we also will have no place in God’s kingdom

Then, for the case when the seeds fell among the thistles and brambles, as the Lord Jesus explained to His disciples, were those who have accepted the word of God, and yet when challenges and troubles come, when the concerns of this world come, they ended up losing the faith and the Word of God was cast out from them, as they abandon God when they were unable to commit to Him wholeheartedly as they should have.

This is quite clear cut for us, as it is often that as Christians, we will encounter difficulties and challenges, when those who are around us, even from our friends and families, who do not agree with us and with what we believe in our faith in God. There will be difficulties, obstacles and even rejection, and there will be moments when we will stumble and be tempted to give up, to compromise our faith and to appease those who demand that we change our ways and abandon our faith.

It is our human nature for us all to think about ourselves first, and to preserve ourselves. And it is also our human nature for us to want to feel accepted by others, and that is why, many of us will be tempted to make compromises and to abandon tenets of our faith. That is when we falter, and when we fail in our faith. If we do not have the courage to stand up for our faith and continue to walk righteously before God, how then will God find us worthy of Him, if we are not capable of committing ourselves to Him?

There will be plenty of temptations awaiting us the faithful people of God, from the temptation of physical goods such as money, wealth and possession, that had indeed kept many of us occupied, in how we spent so much time in our career, trying to accumulate for ourselves all these worldly goods, or in order to achieve acclaim and worldly fame and glory. These are some of the common temptations that had caused so many among us to stumble in our way.

Rather, all of us as Christians are called to be like the case where the seeds fell onto rich soil, grew healthily and produce tremendous amounts of returns in the form of products, in many multiples, thirtyfold, sixtyfold, hundredfold or even more than these. This is when all of us do not just receive the Word of God and remain passive, ignorant or lukewarm in our faith, but instead, we must embody what we believe in and be genuine with our faith.

This is how we provide a good soil for the Word of God to grow and blossom, by providing an environment filled with faith, hope and love. All of us are called to be true and living disciples of the Lord, filled with compassion and love for others, with mercy and forgiveness for our brethren who have caused us pain and suffering, those who have hurt us or hated us, and then also for us to be truly just and righteous in all of our ways and actions.

Just as farmers need to toil the soil, to provide ample amount of air in the soil, and as they also need to place animal droppings or chemical fertilisers on the soil in order to keep the plant healthy, in the same manner, our faith and the Word of God within us, the seeds of faith God has planted in us require us to commit ourselves to action that accentuates our faith and make what we believe no longer just mere words but also a reality.

That is how we make ourselves to be fruitful in the sight of the Lord, by devoting ourselves to do what He wants us to do, to walk in His path and to do what His will is for us. It is how we take what God had given to us, and then make it into a rich harvest, which the Lord will reap at the end, and seeing our great and bountiful faith, He shall bless us all with everlasting life and eternal glory.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He empower us all to live in accordance with His will, filled with joy knowing that because all that we have done, all the hard work and toiling we have given for the sake of the Lord, all of these are meant for the glorification of God, as what St. Paul in his Epistle in our second reading today mentioned. We await for the coming of the Lord, Who will come in His glory and reward all those who are faithful to Him. May He look favourably on our faith in Him, and bless all of our works. Amen.

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