Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Sermon

July 31, 2011

The Sixth Sunday after Trinity

When we find ourselves shrinking, shirking, shivering and sniveling in fear and doubt, God breaks through to say: "Hello! I’m here!" In fact, have you ever wondered what God thinks about us sometimes when we do or say quirky things? Let me give you just a tiny bit of what I mean.
A survey commissioned by United Airlines found that 38 percent of passengers never use the lavatory during a flight, 60 percent do, and another 2 percent aren't sure. I'm fascinated by that 2 percent. But I sure hope I never sit next to one of them on a flight!

Julee Sharik, from Orem, Utah gave birth to a 7-pound, 5-ounce son, and just 12 hours after learning she was pregnant. She explained: "Looking back, I remember times when he was moving around a lot, but I thought it was just gas."

A prison inmate escaped on the 89th day of a 90-day sentence; he was captured and had to then serve 1-1/2 more years.

A robber allowed a store clerk to make one call during the robbery--and was flabbergasted when the police arrived on the scene.
A brick-throwing, smash-and-grab thief knocked himself out, thus discovering that the shop owner had installed Plexiglas windows.
All true stories related in the news. Sometimes we need to laugh at life a little, but sometimes we simply want to cry. Sometimes we let our worries take complete control of our lives. I’m not in denial – I do it as well. Blessed Mother Teresa had what is referred to as “Dark Nights of the Soul. Yet, God is standing at the door and knocking, waiting and hoping we will simply let Him into our lives. He is always there. He’s answering us always, but sometime with the answer we don’t want, so we feel that He hasn’t answered when He has.
Paul's words of comfort in today's Romans text should cause all of us to sit up and take notice. They call out a big "Hello!" to every shrinking, shirking, shivering, sniveling one of us who lets doubt overcome conviction and fears overwhelm our faith.

If we are worried about a client, the security of your job, or the state of your finances, St. Paul calms these worries by asserting, "All things work together for good for those who love God ...." Paul offers more than the assurance of simple love. He asserts that we are considered no less than brothers and sisters of Christ and that God's sovereign will has predestined faithful men and women to become members of the divine household.

If our individual wimpy-ness before the divine love and miracle of Christ's sacrifice is embarrassing, consider the track record of the Church--the body of Christ. Armed with Paul's words that nothing is able to "separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus", the church chooses to panic over-- the loss of "status" as an institution before our government and its policies; the distance between "conservative" and "liberal" church attitudes; even little things like which translation of the Bible is best. . . .

To which, God says, "Hello!"

The problem is that Christians have let their god become too small. They have allowed their salvation to be microchip miniaturized. We are eager to pray that our checking account has enough funds in it for the transaction you are about to proceed with -- but we are hesitant to ask God to deliver the many factions around the world (and even in our own cities) from the simmering pot of hatred that keeps them locked together as bloody adversaries.

It is the transformative power of God, embodied by the once-for-all-time sacrifice of Christ, which refuses to let our lives fall prey to the clutches of evil and despair. Paul's message is not some popeyed Pollyanna optimism. The apostle is not promising that nothing bad will ever happen to us. We will experience the full forces of evil--loss, hardship, heartache--over the course of our lives.

But the promise God has made to us, through Christ's revelation of God's heart on the cross, pledges to us that such events will not overpower God's presence beside us, within us, alongside us, everyday. Our lives are forever trained toward the Light of Christ--and nothing can pull us off or away from that course. In the words of Brendan Manning, "
The Lord reveals himself to each of us in myriad ways. For me, the human face of God is the strangling Jesus stretched against a darkening sky. In a letter from prison, Bonhoeffer wrote, “'This is the only God who counts.' Christ on the cross is not a mere theological precondition for salvation. He is God's enduring Word to the world saying, 'See how much I love you. See how you must love one another.'"
God is with us, wherever we are and whatever we face.

Does our faith falter when it contemplates the challenges that surround every human life? What is on our minds right now? These are exactly the circumstances that enable Christians to live Paul's creed with confidence.

I don’t mean to stand here today and make it seem that we should not have any worries. We all do, and we all will. Some will over power us and others will fester for some time and others come back for continuous rehearsal of emotional drama. As we read in Romans last week, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” When you think about it, those words are a joyous conclusion to the argument that St. Paul has carefully unfolded in the preceding chapters of his letter to the Romans. The opposition of unbelievers and Satan will never succeed, since God is for us.
Those who have come to faith in Christ will never be found guilty, for God declares them to be right before the entire world at the divine tribunal. So Paul repeats the question, “Who then is to condemn?” As Christians we may rejoice with the certainty that we will never be condemned; for Christ died for us and paid the full penalty for our sins. He was raised, which showed that his death was effective. He is now seated triumphantly at God's right hand. He intercedes for his people on the basis of his shed blood. For interceding signifies intervention.
Paul is not saying that difficulties will not strike Christians; they are not exempted from suffering or even from being killed. Christians are more than conquerors, because God turns everything, including suffering and death, into good. Paul answers his own question with absolute certainty that nothing can ever sever God's people from his love in Christ.
Sometimes when people come to me with different problems that they want help with. And if I happen to know the person reasonably well, I will sometimes use my jovial style of sarcasm, which they are probably used to, to answer their questions and concerns. As an example. Some people know that I like to bake and make sweets. So I have the sarcastic analogy I will sometimes use. In reality I didn't develop this particular analogy; I simply have adapted it to my use. So when someone comes to me and says, something to the effect of, “My husband just got laid off; I had a pet who has just died; the son is rebellious; and I've just learned I had cancer” They want to know why and how God can allow all this to happen to them in such a short time. I will respond in this way: “You like the cakes I make, right?” “So how about some flour; would you like a spoonful of that? How about this vegetable oil? Would you like a spoonful of that? And how about baking powder? A teaspoon of that maybe?” And of course everyone will always say no make faces to each question thinking I am making light of their situation. At which point I will simply tell them that they like my cake, but make faces at the ingredients! All those ingredients go together into the batter to make the cake that you like, but you do not like the ingredients! Sometimes life is like that.
The sad truth of it is that life is much like a cake. All the good and the bad have to be put together to make the whole. Without all those things added to the batter that we do not like individually, the cake would not come out right. Life is no different really. We struggle with that sometimes - we even fear it. But God doesn't want us to fear it. He wants us to trust in him. St. Paul is telling us from his first-hand experience that we can trust in God and be assured that all will be well. It may not seem that way at that moment, sometimes, but all will be well.

In the face of death ...
there is the Resurrection.
In the face of illness ...
there is eternal healing.
In the face of danger ...
there is the right arm of God.
In the face of adversity ...
there is "blessed assurance."
In the face of confrontation ...
there is confidence.
In the face of the Serpent ...
there is the gift of the Cross.
In the face of greed ...
there is the abundant life.
In the face of pollution ...
there is God's redemption of
all creation.
In the face of hunger ...
there is a legacy of loaves and
In the face of homelessness ...
there is compassion.
In the face of hardship ...
there is the promise of goodness.
(Author: unknown.)
God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sunday Sermon

July 24, 2011

The Fifth Sunday after Trinity

I've discovered some interesting ideas about treasure in our culture. We live in a recyclable era, and we have names for what we throw away and recycle. On one level we call it junk and garbage, on another level we call it second-hand furniture, and on the highest level we call it antiques. At different phases in the life of the same thing, as it is recycled, it may be perceived as garbage, as second-hand or as a priceless antique.
“One person's junk is another person's treasure”, we have all heard. Oh, and how true it is. Often treasures come to us, garbed in some other vesture that allows us to see them for what they really are. All things have a value when they are prized; the game that elevates some things from junk to second-hand to antiques is a game that is played in a lot of fields. One week’s hero in the art world is next year's wash up.
The Lord knows you can get to feel that way about yourself. You can begin to think that you have no value because you're not popular or not as successful as the next person. Value seems to be so relative that you end up judging yourself in relation to others, and of course you always come up lacking.
The Epistle and Gospel speak as one to this point. The Epistle is Paul’s testimony to the process whereby he was declared valuable in the eyes of God. He was chosen, predestined, called into this life together with God in Christ, in order to be glorified; he will know the weight of glory, because the presence of God will penetrate, sustain and support his life completely from past to present. As I was performing a baptism yesterday on a wonderful infant girl, I was reminded that we are all conformed to the image of Christ by baptism, we all passed through the process which God has in mind for us; we are transformed by the renewal of our minds in Christ. Our value is given us before we begin to search for it; we have been declared valuable and thus we need no longer compare ourselves to others in order to determine our value. The greatest point of comparison has been given to us and that is our relationship to God in the light of which nothing and no one is without value.
If we compare ourselves to others, some of us will need to be recycled. The rest of us will wind up either as junk, or as second-hand, or as antiques. But we are determined that the value will have been our own, and we will go on to market ourselves or to manipulate others into seeing our value or to write advertisements for ourselves. This, however, is the path of delusion.
The Gospel bids us to seek for that Pearl of great price which is called the dominion of God, a mysterious reality which sounds alive and true and full of hope. We are bothered deep within by the prospect of a life in which we must always be on our toes, comparing ourselves to others in order to discover our value. Yet our only hope is to relinquish this comparison. The dominion of God exists, we know, wherever Christ has created the space for each of us to be most truly ourselves, where our value is underwritten by the love and the creative energy of God, and where we can find our Sabbath rest.
The search for the dominion of God is valuable because in the search itself we may find our value. In seeking we find. The object of our search is found on the road. We are tempted to look constantly beyond ourselves, and so we never realize that the search, once undertaken, is the fulfillment and the joy which is promised to us. If we are to pray, then we begin by saying Our Father. If we are to enter the dominion of God, then we begin by entering the dominion of God. Seems so simple when said, yet it seems so hard when we attempt to carry it out.
The invitation to enter the dominion of God is perennial and eternal. Christ invites us from a place beyond place and a time beyond time. His invitation comes to us here and now. But the dominion of God comes garbed in some vesture that hides it from us so that we need to search to see it. The Holy Spirit says, come, let us look. Just as God hid Himself in the burning bush to Moses, so He presents Himself to us today garbed in a vesture for us to see.
In the dominion of God, we are all of value. We are all blessed by God to be citizens of this dominion; but since the dominion of God cannot be seen, we have to hear of it in ways that will make us see it even when we cannot see it. We must be invited into the deepest reality which cannot be seen. And so Jesus used parables to invite us; the dominion of God comes garbed in a vesture that hides it from us so that we can see it.
Here today is bread and wine. Shortly we shall pick up the bread and the wine, and we shall taste it and take it into ourselves. We shall do this after having been cautioned, that this bread and wine is something more than bread and wine. Something is hidden in, with and under the bread and wine. It is also the Body of Christ, and it is also the Blood of Christ poured out for us. Christ comes to us in garbed in a vesture that hides His presence from us so that we can see it.
Someone's true values can easily be discovered, especially by simply observing what is around the home. If every corner is filled with things, the person values inanimate objects. If the walls shine forth with pictures of family and friends, the person values relationships. If there are healthy green plants about and perhaps fresh flowers, the person values growth in life. If the space is uncluttered, the person values simplicity and silence. This Sunday's Gospel speaks to the value of the kingdom of heaven; the dominion of God. How might this be captured in one's home? Maybe by a crucifix on the wall or a piece of religious art or a statue. But more important, we know the kingdom of heaven is present when God is present, and this is manifested by the “treasures” of God. These treasures are simply hospitality and kindness, joy and love, wisdom and understanding. These expressions of divine presence are no less real than the furniture, decorations or dishes about the house.
The three comparisons in the Gospel point to the incomparable value of the dominion of God. But God's kingdom is not fully revealed by images such as earthly treasure, priceless gems, an abundance of sumptuous food, or the things we might have in our house. The dominion of God is fully revealed in those people with hearts so wise and understanding that they know what is right and judge justly. Discipleship means searching for this treasure of incomparable value in giving all we have to become part of it. We disciples seek continually for that which we want more than anything else.
The treasure we go out to seek isn't some thing or in some place; it is nothing less than the very presence of God that is breaking in upon us now but is only fully realized in the future. As the Gospel tells us, the dominion of God isn't some object or realm that we can identify physically; instead it is the gift of divine presence God gives us. God's presence to us is a free, unexpected, and invaluable gift.
This gift does have its cost. We must actively search for it, recognize it when we find it, and sort out all the distractions that keep us from recognizing it. In the Gospel the seekers go out in obvious places to find treasure. For us, the discovery of the dominion of God is most often in our everyday circumstances when we experience overwhelmingly the in-breaking of God's presence. This may be something so simple as the smile of a person's grateful thanks or the sense of righteousness that comes with fidelity to daily prayer. It may be something more challenging, as admitting that we've hurt another. It may be demanding, such as committing time to help those in need. The issue is to recognize that God chooses to be present to us and wants us to seek that presence with all our hearts.
It's a kind of trick to keep you from falling into a place we can only value yourself in comparison to other people. You have to stay focused on the road and not on yourself. The Christian community is an odd one, in that its focus is not upon itself, certainly not on self-improvement so much per se’, but on the praise of God who has come to us in Christ to free us from the pain of creating our own value, who has surprised us with the presence of the One who valued us before we were born. God comes to us garbed in a vesture that hides God's presence from us so we can see it.
Now look once more at the bread and wine and remember, here Christ and the dominion of God come to you garbed in a vesture which hides them so that you can see them. And, finally, if the truth were to be known, we come to this meal garbed in a vesture, the white robe of baptism, which hides us from ourselves in order that we might know who we truly are. And that may be the deepest mystery of them all.
God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sunday Sermon

July 17, 2011

The Fourth Sunday after Trinity

Charlie Bucket and Veruca Salt. A good seed and a bad weed. Charlie’s honest, kind, brave and true. Veruca is a spoiled-rotten brat.

Both get a chance to enter the mysterious chocolate factory of Willy Wonka, a place that has been sealed up tight and closed to the public for a decade. Charlie and Veruca have found Golden Tickets in their Wonka chocolate bars. Charlie’s ticket was in a Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight, to be exact; and because of this they get to go on a tour of the chocolate factory, along with three other lucky children.

Their tour guide is none other than the reclusive and eccentric Willy Wonka himself, a part played by Johnny Depp in the movie
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. When the children walk through the factory doors, they enter an amazing world known only to Willy and his staff of Oompa-Loompas.

The tour is a dream come true for Charlie, a child born into poverty, but it turns into a nightmare for the other members of the group. Willy Wonka is beset with problems: There’s Augustus Gloop, whose hobby is eating; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum chewer; and Mike Teavee, a gangster-wannabe who is obsessed with television.

As for Veruca Salt, let’s just say that Willy is not amused when she demands of her father, “Daddy, I want a boat like this! ... And I want lots of Oompa-Loompas to row me about, and I want a chocolate river and I want ... I want ...”

Now it wouldn’t be right to give away the secrets of the chocolate factory, but suffice it to say that a number of the children get in trouble when they disobey Willy’s orders.
One by one, the nasty are punished and the good are rewarded, in some spectacular and disturbing ways.

That’s what we love about this flick: The good kids get rewarded, and the bad kids get what’s coming to them. It’s a replay of primal, dualistic, good vs. evil, light vs. dark, and in the end goodness and light triumph.

And we love this because in real life, it doesn’t always work this way. The psalmist paints a far more accurate picture when he complains about the wicked prospering while the righteous suffer. For the Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk, it was a faith-threatening reality: “The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (Habakkuk 1:4).

So we love it when the wicked are punished, when the unrighteous are mowed down, when the weeds are uprooted in the garden. It may not seem like a very Christian sort of thought, but let’s be honest, as humans we think these thoughts, even if we aren’t suppose to.

This is the subject of the text. Here Jesus seems to be acting an awful lot like Willy Wonka. He tells the parable of the weeds and the wheat, and concludes his story with the command to “collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn”.

But there is more to this parable than its crisp and clear conclusion about judgment day, when the evildoers of this world will burn and the righteous will “shine like the sun”. While we certainly have to take seriously this prediction of God’s final judgment, we also need to listen to what Jesus says about the danger of making judgments of our own
along the way.

Here’s the point:
Leave the weeds to me, says Jesus. You just worry about growing up as wheat.

This is counter intuitive but important advice because we live in a gnashing-of-teeth culture of shouting and name-calling. One person’s weed is another person’s flower.

And it’s not just in the world. The church has caught this infection as well. Christians, right and left, are strutting around these days in the garments of self-righteousness suggesting that those who disagree with them are the weeds in the garden of life, while they themselves are the beauty and flower of the garden.

It’s a rush-to-judgment world we live in. Some are judged harshly for being too radical, others for not being radical enough. Some are judged for embracing doctrinal errors, others for appearing not to have any doctrine at all. Some are condemned for not caring for the poor, others for caring only for the poor. And so it goes.

No wonder, then, that Jesus counsels us to hold off on the weed-pulling “for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them”.

The parable goes like this: a householder sows good seed in his field, and then an enemy comes and sows weeds among the wheat. It’s a nasty little case of agricultural terrorism.

When the plants come up and bear grain, the weeds appear as well. And the slaves of the householder come to him and say, “Master, we’ve got a problem. Weeds among the wheat. Do you want us to go out and pull up the weeds?”

This seems like a logical response, but the householder gives them a very different command. “No,” he says; “for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest”. The master senses that a full-scale attack on the weeds would disturb and possibly even destroy the good wheat, so he instructs his slaves to do nothing about the bad seeds now. At harvest time the householder plans to tell the reapers, “Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn”.

Jesus takes a totally non-Wonkish approach to rooting out evil. Whereas Willy doesn’t bat an eye as Augustus plunges into a chocolate river, Violet turns into a blueberry, Mike disappears into a transporter beam, and Veruca slides down a garbage chute into a furnace, Jesus is committed to preserving the weeds until the wheat is fully developed. He doesn’t have any desire to rush to judgment, preferring instead for nature to take its course.

The point of this parable is
not that Jesus is going to go easy on the weeds. No, he fully intends to put evildoers into the furnace of fire, as it were, “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.

What Jesus is trying to teach us is to leave the judgments to him. He knows that we are consistently off the mark when we try to make an accurate assessment of the moral character of a friend or a neighbor, and so he orders us to put our energy elsewhere.

Here’s an example: A seminar leader recently showed a class of government workers a series of pictures. The pictures began with a view of a person’s face, and then broadened the view to reveal the person’s entire body. It was only when the entire picture was seen that the class could make anything approaching an accurate judgment.

The first picture showed the face of a grizzled man, scowling and straining. He looked to be a member of a motorcycle gang, perhaps gripping the handlebar of a chopper. But when the entire picture was revealed, it became clear that he was a maker of customized wheelchairs for the handicapped, and he was pushing one of his creations.

Picture two showed the face of a lovely woman with a beautiful smile. She appeared to be a flight attendant or a hostess at an upscale restaurant. But when the view was expanded, what the class saw was an exotic dancer, ready to do a pole dance.

We don’t have the whole picture, says Jesus. We too often judge the book by the cover. We should be honest; we all fall into this trap now and again.

The challenge for us is to put our energy into being good wheat, instead of trashing the weeds around us. Rather than erecting walls, building boundaries and trying to purify our community of faith, our job is to grow up healthy and strong, and leave the judging to Jesus. The problem with trying to pull up weeds is that we might grab some wheat by mistake, and hurt ourselves and others who are part of the good-seed set.

Forty years ago some Christians condemned Martin Luther King as a rabble-rouser and a troublemaker. Some Christians denounced Dorothy Day because she did some writing for a socialist newspaper, and missed her great Christian work on behalf of the poor. Some call U2 singer, Bono, an airheaded, irreverent rock star, and he may be for all I know, but we would do well to not fail to heed his call to respond to the AIDS emergency in Africa.

Don’t rush to judgment, says Jesus. Let the weeds grow up with the wheat. It will get sorted out in the end.

The best news is that growth and maturity are probably the most effective forms of weed control. If you are responsible for taking care of a lawn, you know that healthy grass is extremely competitive and will crowd out most weeds all by itself. If your lawn is healthy, you shouldn’t have to dig out many weeds at all; in fact, the presence of weeds is a sign that your grass is weaker than it should be. If you find yourself dealing with weeds, one of the best things to do is simply let your grass grow. Don’t cut it so short.

In the end, it’s enough to know that we are “seeds” who have been planted by the “Son of Man,” and that we’re part of a healthy harvest that will someday be reaped by the angels of God.

We don’t really want a Willy Wonka in the church. It would be enough to be like Charlie Bucket, a kid who was kind, brave and true.

God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sunday Sermon

July 10, 2011

The Third Sunday after Trinity

One day during the past week, I was at a restaurant having breakfast. It was my day off, and I was simply having a leisurely breakfast to myself and reading the morning paper. I tend to treat myself to a breakfast out on my one day during the week that I am off. I have done it for a few years now. I sit, read my paper, shut out the world for a few minutes, enjoy the food and then on about my day. It so happens that it is a very busy restaurant, even during week days, so many tables and booths are usually filled. I do not normally pay much attention to what people around me are doing or what they are discussing, unless they are doing so in a loud manner, or as in the case of this day, I simply happen to catch a couple words that catches my attention.
It just so happened that I was reading an article in the paper about Casey Anthony and her being found not guilty. Coincidental or God’s providence, I do not know, but it so happened that same moment the people at the table immediately across from me apparently were discussing that very topic. Now, I could only hear bits and pieces of what they each were saying, but the gist of it was that they seemed to feel that it was a crime that Casey was found not guilty and that the jury that found her not guilty was apparently all lunatics.
I went back to my paper and didn’t bother to listen any further, but as I sat there I could not help but wonder where these people came up with their conclusion. Did they have some miraculous power that somehow put them at the scene the day this child of Casey Anthony’s died? Did they somehow have more information than that of the lawyers and jury had that somehow gave these people a better sense of the truth?
I couldn’t help but shake my head in puzzlement and dismay at the way people are. This one conversation is not very different from many going on elsewhere in the country (or over the past centuries of time for that matter). We humans just simply cannot let go of the negative. We live in a country where our judicial system says a person is innocent until proven guilty and yet we treat each other as though they are guilty without even the possibility of being innocent.
It is so sad to say, that many of us act this way and do not even realize it. We make up our minds about things without even knowing the facts. I would wager that none of us in that restaurant that day had any true knowledge of that case outside of what the news media has presented at some point. Not one of us in that room could possibly have more or better information to convict this young lady of murder than those who were in that courtroom. Yet, they were very clear in their conviction that she was far from “not guilty” as the jury and courts had decided.
I am not here to say that I think she is necessarily innocent or guilty. I have no way of knowing one way or another. Yes, a tragic death of a child was involved, but that does not give me the right to simply assume the view that her mother committed the crime is true. Yes, she “confessed” to lying to the police authorities, and it would seem that those untrue statements that she made point some suspicion to her. I agree that it would seem, anyway, that those lies would not have been necessary if she were innocent. Why would she make these statements at all if she were innocent? We may never truly know. And even if we were able to find out, would it really help our day to day lives?
Now, some of you might be asking, at this point, what any of this has to do with today’s Mass, the readings or the message the Holy Spirit wants me to convey today. Well, I suppose I could say that I have the liberty to preach on any topic I choose. I suppose I could simply “twist” the readings to have them fit with the topic I want to talk about. Today, I suspect it is a little of both. As many of you know, I do not normally use the pulpit for specific issues of society that can be taken out of the news or politics. Oh yes, I touch on some topics generically and in reality I am doing the same here today, but I am not normally one to take a current event topic on a regular basis and preach on it.
You see, that conversation at the restaurant that day really gave me a thought for today’s sermon, but it was not about whether Casey Anthony is guilty or not. That’s for the governmental authorities to try and prove. Ultimately, whether guilty or not, she has only God to answer to in the end. So, that said, I am not concerned with her case specifically; I am concerned with people’s reactions.
Jesus’ parable we read today applies here very well. Parables are Jesus’ way of communicating truth through narrative analogies in order to teach a moral and spiritual lesson. His parables produce different results in different people – much like our parable today teaches. Just as the seeds respond differently where they are scattered, so do the messages of Jesus sink into the people who hear them.
We take the messages that the Scriptures tell us; we take the messages of the teachings the Church gives us; and we take the messages from our preacher’s sermons; we take all these messages and we form our lives from them or we ignore them completely. Our free will allows us to do just these things.
The Holy Spirit speaks through these mediums to reach our hearts and souls. Many of these messages are true to the Spirit of God. Now and again we get some bad messages, because humans that are communicating them are imperfect. But, overall, I would say the messages are as they are intended to be from God. Just like Jesus’ parables, much can be gleamed from the messages and there is so much in the messages themselves, that many ideas can be brought away from them. After all, the average person in the pew probably on listens to or concentrates on 40% of the words spoken at any given sermon. Not hard scientific data, simply blend of a few sources and research examples.
However, all in all we take messages and we simply do the picking and choosing. We would be upset if someone misunderstood a memo we sent out to the world to read and then someone in the world phrased in such a way that it seems opposing to the message you originally sent and sends it out again….. Yet, we seem content to evaluate each other in a manner that is less than flattering, when we sometimes do not have all the facts.
We have seed that withers and dies. People, who claim to be God fearing, hear and see God’s message, but live a life in such a way that even a lackluster Christian would raise an eyebrow at. We have those who claim to be God fearing and may even attend church and maybe pray now and again, but their life seems out of sync and not representative of the life they claim to be until something happens and they suddenly need God. Then there are those who live their life as close as humanly possible in the understanding of what being a good Christian means.
Somewhere in the middle is where I find conversations much like the one I overheard. We have to be careful to not look at our fellow human beings and automatically assume the worst. I did not hear the entire conversation, nor did I try. I simply heard a few short words that happened to trip a thought in my mind. Obviously, with today’s media and technological advances, we are going to hear what is happening hundreds of miles away as if it happened in our back yard. We want to be concerned with our fellow human beings, but we sometimes get consumed with simply wanting a juicy story or something to gossip about.
I am not advocating that we stop talking about what goes on around us, nor am I saying that we should not have access to such information. However, I am saying that when we speak about such things, are we doing so in the guidance that Jesus taught us? The conversation I overheard parts of, would not be in itself bad, if it were simply a conversation of what we knew as the facts and maybe some innocent questions amongst themselves as to whether she was guilty or not, but in this case, they had already made up their mind when only the courts and the jury had most of the necessary facts to make this determination.
So, what does this parable tell us and what is it about?
· Some seed falls on the paths, and the birds quickly eat it.
· Some seed falls where there are rocks, and not much soil. Plants grow quickly, but soon the sun dries them. There is not enough soil, and the plants die.
· Some seed begins to grow in a place where there are too many weeds. The weeds stop the growth of the plants, and the plants die.
· But other seed falls on good ground. So, the plants grow well. The farmer has a harvest from these plants.
Jesus himself explained it to the disciples. The farmer is like Jesus. The seed that he sows is the seed of the good news about Jesus. The farmer sows the seed in many different places, just as Christians tell God's good news in many different places. What happens to the seed is different in different places. It is the same with the good news about Jesus. It has a good result in the lives of some people, and it has a poor result in other lives.
The first seed fell on the path, where there was no soil. Some people hear the good news but give no attention to it at all. This is like the seed on the path. These people do not change their behavior. These people do not think about other people. They are selfish. They quickly forget about the good news.
Some seed falls where there are rocks. It grows quickly, but then it dies. This teaches us that some people listen to the good news. They seem to like what they hear about Jesus. But this does not last. They have a difficult time, or other people laugh at them. Then they have no more interest in Jesus. They never really trusted him.
Some seed began to grow among weeds, and the weeds killed it. This teaches us that some people have no time for Jesus. They are selfish, and they want things for themselves. Perhaps they want to be rich, or to be powerful. They worry all the time. They are anxious about their possessions. Sometimes, the Devil is there to make these people doubt anything and everything.
Finally we hear in the story about seed on good ground. The good ground is like people who love the Lord. They believe in Jesus and they trust him. God will bless these people. His Holy Spirit will help them to love other people. They will be able to forgive other people, and to live in peace with them. They will be joyful. This is because God can change them. He changes the inside of these people, and this changes their behavior.
This parable can teach us about ourselves. God will bless those people who trust him. We learn from this parable the same truths as we learn from the beatitudes. When we know that we need Jesus, we should trust him. When we really trust him, he will teach to us. We will change, because Jesus will change us.
Granted, the views I have given are only one of a myriad of possibilities and I explained them in a dramatic and intense way to show a point. Do I really believe a majority of people are as harsh as some seed examples above? Not really, but there are those out in the world that really have no clue how they are treating their lives or each other. If the people at that table that day had their situations reversed with Casey, I somehow suspect their viewpoints would be different.
But ask yourself this question: what kind of soil are you like? I think if when we have a healthy conversation in life and we treat it knowing that we will never have all of the facts, and speak of others in non-judgmental ways, we at least are letting some of those seeds of Christ to fall within some of the good soil we are all made of. We are allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us and accept some thoughts that maybe we would not normally listen to. We need to fertilize our soil by having an open mind to new and different realities that may not always seem to be “in check” with our personal views of life. Jesus’ parable challenges us to see a different way and to treat others in a manner we would want to be treated if in a similar situation.
I have no idea or not whether Casey Anthony is innocent or not. But, I do know that when we stop judging, we start accepting God’s love and grace.
God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.