ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, ARMAGH
HOMILY GIVEN BY
CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY
SUNDAY 13 JULY 2008
A priest-friend sent me a postcard recently. It showed a farmer scattering the oats by hand in a valley in Cumbria in1952. He carried a large sort of basket full of oats as he strode up and down the ploughed field. It reminded me of my father sowing oats or grass seeds about the same time – about fifty years ago.
A gardener friend said to me recently “A dry May and a little rain in June keeps the farmer in good tune”.
Of the course the farmer is in good tune when the crops are growing. In today’s Gospel, Jesus obviously is describing a scene that was well known to him. He talks about the sower gong out to sow his seed. He knew well that for the growth to happen, four elements are needed,
some rain –
and then this marvellous miracle called growth takes place.
I have another friend who, every time we say grace before meals and bless the food and thank the Lord for food, this friend reminds us not to forget to thank Mother Earth who, year in and year out, produces the food and drink, the light and heat, the clothes and shoes and shelter that makes life bearable.
Too easily we forget the fact that Mother Earth works her great miracle each and every year by producing the crops even if we, who benefit from them, are so often quite indifferent and quite unthankful.
Today’s liturgy is mindful of these great miracles of nature which so enrich our lives. They bring us food and flowers and fruit and fish of every kind. Just listen again to the Responsorial Psalm and let us fill our lungs with praise of a great a generous God.
You care for the earth, give it water
You fill it with riches
Your river in Heaven brims over to provide its grain
You crown the year with your goodness
Abundance flows in your step
The hills are girded with joy;
The meadows covered with flocks
The valleys are decked with wheat
They shout for joy, yes they shout.
But the Reading then moves on think of another great sowing which takes place all the time. It involves all of us, without exception. There, the sower is none other than God himself. The soil is the human heart, the heart of each one of us and the seed is the Word of God.
The First Reading tells us that the Word of God is effective. It does the job. It achieves its results. Just as surely as the rain and the snow come down, and most certainly water the earth, and make it fruitful, producing seed for the sower and bread for the eating, in the same way the Word that goes forth from the mouth of God does not return to God empty handed. Yes, some people may harden their hearts. Some may refuse to listen. Ultimately that is the road to disaster. For anyone who does that cannot have life. The fact is that where the Word of God fall and is welcomed there, and only there, in that human heart does the seed of life grow and bear fruit.
The prophet Isaiah was talking to people who lived in the desert. They knew how barren it was. They experienced, in their own lives, the struggle to eke out a living. He was talking to people for whom rain was synonymous with life.
The Word of God is alive and active, sharper than any two edged sword we are told. The question is: How is the Word of God alive and active in my life; in your life?
Today’s Gospel takes the argument a bit further. Yes, the Word of God is always effective in itself but we can put obstacles in its way. We can offer resistance instead of co-operation. Even the rain can be fruitless, useless if it falls on rocks. Yes, God is all-powerful but we are free to accept God’s help or to reject that help.
There is one sun in the skies which gives light to the world. It is the same light for all. But it gives different colours to different things: green grass, red apples, orange jerseys, black hair, brown eyes, blue berries. It all depends on the type of body on which the light falls. In the same way the Word of God is always alive and active. It can judge the desires and thoughts of your heart and mine. But the Word of God produces different fruits in different hearts.
Jesus presents us with different examples. There is the superficial heart – those who hear the message of God but don’t make any effort or pay much attention to it. The result is that they don’t understand the Word. They really are not very interested because they are not paying much attention to anything that doesn’t touch themselves in some way.
Then there are hearts that are hard and rocky. Yes they hear the message, and to be fair to them, they receive it gladly, but it doesn’t sink in deeply. They don’t last long especially when trouble comes along, they give up at once.
And then there are the seeds that fall among bushes, thorns. These are the people that let the worries about life and the desire for riches choke the message. They don’t bear fruit.
Then, of course, there is the good soil – those who hear the message and make it their own business to understand it and persist in their sincere efforts to follow that Word in life. And so, the 64,000 dollar question is: What division am I in? This much is sure – whether we are young or old, fit or feeble, we are in one of those divisions –
The Premiership – the First, Second or Third. Are we the kind of people who hear the message but quickly forget about it – get distracted?