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Bishop's Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Our mission is to work with Jesus in sowing the seeds of his Kingdom.

By Bishop Larry Silva
July 12, 2020

[St. Mary Church, Hana; Maria Lanakila Church, Lahaina; Holy Rosary Church, Paia (Pastor Installations)]

As I drive around Maui I notice it is significantly different than it was several years ago.  Back then you would see sugar cane growing everywhere.  Now, however, not only is the sugar cane gone, but most of the land seems to be unused for any other kind of crop.  No one has sown any seed, and so it is quite barren.

This reminds me of the situation of our Catholic Church, which a few decades ago was full of vitality and growth, and now seems to have declined significantly.  There are many reasons for this decline, but one of the main reasons, I believe, is that we who are disciples of Jesus and members of his Body have not taken seriously our mission to plant the seeds to the Gospel in others.  We Catholics have many wonderful things going on in our parishes, but if one does not go to the parish, we do not seem to be concerned.

We are here because it is our mission as followers of Jesus to work with him in sowing the seeds of his Kingdom, a kingdom where his will is done on earth just as it is in heaven.  We want the seeds we sow to fall on good and fertile ground and bear good fruit.  So we come here to be trained in the craft the Lord has entrusted to us.

The first thing it is important for us to remember is that we are not just here for our own spiritual benefit.  Yes, God wants to plant his seed in our hearts, and he scatters it widely so that many may be touched by his Word of Truth, Jesus Christ himself.  But we will yield little fruit if we only keep the Word to ourselves.  It is like the birds who ate the seed.  Surely God provides for the birds, and must have been pleased to a certain extent that they had their daily bread, but the seed was sown for other purposes.  When we only think it is for each one of us, we thwart God’s purpose of letting the seed of his love spread far and wide.  Yes, God wants to feed us, but by feeding us, he wants to feed many others, including the members of our families and our friends and neighbors who do not yet know Jesus as a living person who loves them.  The seed of the Word will only be sown in their hearts if someone actually makes the effort to sow it.

We might be hesitant to sow the Word of God in others we meet because we know it will fall on rocky ground.  Perhaps it is so rocky that they will criticize and attack us for attempting to share the Word that is Jesus with them.  In these instances, St. Paul reminds us that the suffering of the present is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed, if we are faithful to our calling.  But another perspective is, not just to walk away from this rocky ground, but to break it up and soften it so that these particularly hardened hearts can receive the Word and bear fruit in the Word.  We can soften it with our prayers, eroding it secretly and silently so that the seed of the Word can take root.  Or we break up this hardness with our kindness and love, which very often melt the frozen and soften what is petrified against the Word.

We may hold back from sowing the Word of God in certain people’s lives and building the Kingdom of God among them because we know they are so choked with the ways of the world, with the pursuit of sex, wealth, and power.  And, of course, we may be hesitant to sow the seed here ourselves because we know that we can often have the Word choked off by lust, greed, and control over others in our own lives.  The best way to prepare this soil is, of course, to clear out the brambles of sin in our own lives by prayer, the sacrament of Penance, and frequent reception of the Eucharist.  And if we know that it is our essential mission to effectively build the Kingdom, then we will be better motivated to make sure the builder is more capable of fulfilling the mission.  When people see that we are willing to weed out our own sinfulness, they may be more motivated to follow our example and to change their lives as well.

And then there is the good ground that yields a rich harvest, which we must also cultivate by love and thanksgiving.  It will become more fertile if we come here every Sunday for this sacrifice of thanksgiving we call the Eucharist, so that the seed of the Word can grow in us and we can become better sowers of the Word.  Our study of the faith, our prayer, and our shared joy are elements that will make us more effective in bearing fruit for the Lord and firmly establishing his Kingdom in our world.

It is your pastor’s responsibility and joy to remind you of your mission, to encourage you in it, to equip you for it, and to go with you on the great adventure of sowing the Word of God on rich soil so that it may bear abundant fruit for the glory of God and the good of all the world.