15th Sun [A] 2005

Fr. Charles Irvin

Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23

When it comes to facing failures in life, the farmer in today’s Gospel parable sounds a lot like many of us. We work hard, and only sometimes succeed. Most of the best things that we give to others are not by them well received. Most of what we want to plant in the lives of those around us doesn’t “take”; it doesn’t become rooted and permanently planted in their lives.

All of us have to deal with failure, those areas where the best we’ve given to others comes up lacking, falling short of our hopes, our dreams, and our great expectations.

There are some biblical commentators who suggest that the parable of Jesus we’ve just heard was autobiographical. That may well be true. Jesus certainly had to face a whole lot of apparent failure. He knew fill well the pain of failure:

-         He was born and raised in Nazareth, and his own hometown folks rejected Him.

-         His own Hebrew countrymen rejected His message.

-         His handpicked twelve apostles? Well, one of them sold Him out for thirty pieces of silver and the others fled when He was crucified.

-         Peter wasn’t too swift to take His message to heart, Thomas was the doubter, and the others weren’t much better, either.

Elijah, long before Christ, along with Jeremiah and other prophets as well, were notable failures, most of them being taken outside the walls of Jerusalem and then stoned to death.

Up to this point my remarks all sound terribly dismal and discouraging. But my point today is that we need to remember that Jesus did not let apparent failure stop Him. In His parable, Jesus went on to speak about a crop that yielded a harvest in successful amounts, some yields bringing spectacular success. Today’s Gospel parable is not a dirge – it is a celebration; it is a story of hope, not of despair.

Crisis is made up of both danger and opportunity. True there are evils that surround us, but many of those evils are slowly being overcome. God is at work among us bringing good out of evil. We must remember that in the hands of God the slightest good can be multiplied to feed thousands if we but hand our efforts into His care and providence.

You and I, like all good farmers who continually face floods and disasters of every sort, need to seriously engage ourselves in the enterprise of faith and hope, planting what we have, planting the best of what we have, and then letting God’s sun, wind, and gentle rains do the rest. God’s only-begotten Son, along with the gentle breath of His Holy Spirit, provide waters of grace to nourish and sustain what He has planted in the lives of those we love. The best years of our lives, and the best that we have given to others in them, or are giving right now, or will give in the future, will not be fruitless.

Many times I am called upon to console distraught parents who poured out all of their love and faith into their children, taught them the Catholic faith, sent them to religious education classes, or to Catholic schools, only to have them, as adults, leave our Church and go elsewhere, many times to a type of religion that requires little if any faith but which gives good feelings. We must remember in such cases that the love and the faith that we’ve planted in the hearts of those around us, particularly in the hearts and souls of our children, will eventually blossom. The hopes and dreams that we’ve planted in others, even whey they seem to be buried under too much dirt, will germinate, grow, and yield a harvest of some extent, even if our efforts do not now appear to be unqualified successes.

But that is life – and Jesus knew it. His parable could well have been autobiographical for it is truly a vignette of His life.

Sure, our world is a mess now, but it always has been. We need to see that there is also an amazing amount of goodness in it. The greatest miracle of all isn’t found at Lourdes, or Fatima, or Medugorie, it’s found in those around us, in those who are, in spite of terrible odds, yielding up love, kindness, caring, and sensitivity thirty, sixty and a hundred fold. We have our modern day heroes among us who are leading us as never before in efforts to rid our world of oppression, racism, and injustice.

And so, O Christian, keep on planting God’s good seeds in the lives of those near to you. For God Himself has said through His prophet Isaiah that His Word shall go forth from His mouth “… and it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

Faith and hope are what should be in our hearts, not defeat and despair.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”