Click to hear Audio Homily
When you look back over this past week, is there something that happened that brings a smile to your face? This past Tuesday was the last session of the summer program that that our parishioners and student volunteers put on for the children living in the homes run by Donaldsonville Housing Authority. Each Tuesday, the children came to enjoy reading, exercising, singing, and making art projects. One of the adult volunteers sent me a video from Tuesday’s session of all of us doing aerobic exercise to the animated music of the movie Lion King. I just had to laugh when I saw the video -- two grown men (Seminarian Ryan and myself) dancing and prancing with animal hats on our heads. The parents of the children also enjoyed the strange sight too; I heard chuckling from the parents in the video. (FYI, I will not post the video on the website in fear that it would go viral). Seeing the video reminded me of what St. Paul said to the Corinthians, “We are fools for Christ...we toil, working with our own hands. When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently. We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment.” (1 Cor 4:8-13)
Most of the volunteers agreed that we received far more from the program than what we put into it. The children soaked up all the love and attention that we gave them; their hearts were like parched soil craving for the water of love and affection. When the volunteers planted the seeds of hope in their hearts by being present to them, the children responded and bloomed.
Jesus reminds us today in the Gospel, that he is constantly planting seeds in our hearts. Our hearts are like soil that is ready to be planted with his seeds of joy. How Jesus longs for us to be people of joy! We know through our experience that we don’t always welcome Jesus wholeheartedly, and when we don’t welcome Jesus, we are less inclined to obey his prompting. We also have to be mindful that the evil one is real and his preoccupation is to snatch away any joy and grace we receive from Jesus. Recently Pope Francis talked about this in a homily. He said, “We too are tempted, we too are the target of attacks by the devil because the spirit of Evil does not want our holiness, he does not want our Christian witness, he does not want us to be disciples of Christ.”
We also know through our experience that our own preoccupations choke the joy we received from Jesus. Take for example not keeping custody of our eyes when watching TV or on using the Internet. The degrading images of a human person on the screen also degrades the purity of our heart -- and when that happens, our heart is hardened with guilt. A good analogy would be our inordinate desire for unhealthy, yet delicious food such as a donut. It tastes sweet in the mouth, but once in the stomach, the greasy trans fats begin to clog the arteries. Our seminarian Ryan also gave a great example from one of his classes he taught at a Catholic high school. He asked his students, “Should we listen to music that degrades the dignity and beauty of women?” Everyone replied, “No.” Then he asked, “Do you have music on your iPod or iPhone which is degrading to women?” Most of the hands went up.
Another preoccupation that chokes the joy we receive from Jesus is our preoccupation with money. The lure of riches affect those of us who make little or those of us who make a lot. When we lack the gratitude to God for what we already have, the evil one sneaks in with the temptation of greed. The evil one plays on our fear of the future, and we jump on a ‘hamster wheel’ expending all of our energy and time preoccupied with acquiring more. As Jesus puts it, “The seed sown among the thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.”
What is the condition of your heart? Is it ready to welcome Jesus and his word or is it distracted and choked by attachments to world? Jesus desires our hearts to be fertile soil that welcomes him, understands his wishes, and carries them out with great joy. How can we develop a heart that is fertile for God's words to take root? First, we must cultivate a habit of making scripture as much a part of our daily routine as taking a cup of coffee for breakfast. With the availability of smartphones, it's now so easy to listen to the daily mass readings in the car.
Second, we need to cultivate a welcoming attitude the beginning of each day. Those of us who work in retail know the common phrase we often repeat to our customers, "How may I help you?" Likewise, we should turn to God with a humble openness and say, "Speak Lord, your servant is listening. I have come to do your will." Lastly, we need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude that God desires to use us as instruments. As kids we may recall that when playing sports in our neighborhood, we often cried out, "Pick me! Pick me!" God has picked us already, despite our weaknesses, and He waits for our response. We should thank God that He chooses us time and time again to accomplish His mission.