Homily for Ordinary Time 15
July 16, 2017
Ridding Our Soil of Sin
One of my least favorite chores growing up was picking up rocks. My dad had a huge garden – probably twice the size of this church. Every year, during the spring time, my dad would pay us a dollar to fill up a bucket of rocks from the garden, and then dump them in the woods. Not a fun task – but an easy way to make a buck, and an important job, because it is hard to make a garden if there are too many rocks in the soil.
The rocky ground, the hard ground, and the thorn-infested ground in today’s Gospel are symbols of three things. The rocks symbolize unrepentant sin – if our life is full of sin, we will be unable to become holy. The hard ground is a symbol of a hard heart and a bad attitude – we are convinced that we don’t need God. The thorns and weeds are a symbol of worldly desires – we want pleasure and money and comfort far more than we want Christ.
All of us would like to believe that we are the good ground – that we are living a life of faith in God. But are we really? Let’s look at each of these types of ground more closely to see which ones we really are.
First – the rocky ground. St. John tells us in his first letter that “if we believe we are without sin, we are deceiving ourselves”. No matter how many rocks my siblings and I took out of our garden, there were always more. It was a never-ending chore! Likewise, all of us are sinners, even if our sins are small. Thus, repentance must be daily. St. Francis wrote to his Franciscan brothers that their lives should be marked with “constant conversion”.
So what does that look like, practically? Well, when is the last time you have been to Confession? If it is more than a couple months, then you are still living in sin. Are there sins in your life that you have made peace with? Perhaps an addiction to lust and impurity, or greed, or unforgiveness? Or even worse – living in a state of sin, such as those who are divorced and remarried outside the Church, or living with someone without marriage? If we are not making a daily effort to repent and rid our lives of sin (with God’s grace, of course), then we are not truly disciples!
Second – the hard ground. Many of us live our lives as practical atheists! Perhaps we believe intellectually in God but He makes no real difference in our life. How do you know? Well, do you pray – really pray, seeking Him in Scripture and the Rosary and the Mass and silent prayer? Do you ask God what His will is for your life? I love what Corrie Ten Boom, a Holocaust survivor and author of the famous book “The Hiding Place” says about prayer – she asks, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” In other words, does your relationship with God direct your life? If not, then we are hard ground!
Third – the thorns and weeds. What do you truly want in life? What is the most burning desire of your heart? Is it to be holy, or to be rich and famous? I sponsored a great kid for confirmation this past year, and at his confirmation party we were all outside playing sports. In the heat of competition, he let out a mild curse word – as mild as you can get. I didn’t think anything of it, but he immediately came up to me and apologized. I said, “Peter, it’s not a big deal.” But he responded, “It is a big deal. I don’t want to be the kind of person who has a foul mouth.” I was taken aback – wow, this kid gets it. His goal in life is to be holy, and he is willing to do what it takes to live for Christ.
So, for us, what really is our goal in life? What do we spend our time on, our money on, our energy on? Is it soccer, or our job, or living for Christ?
This was meant to be an honest – even brutally honest! – examination of where we are in the spiritual life. Do not be discouraged if you find your soul to be rocky ground filled with sin, hard ground without a deep relationship with God, or thorny ground distracted by the things of this world. The good news is that soil can change! To make a garden, we have to till the ground, remove the rocks, weed it, water it, and prepare the soil – in the same way, God wants to change you – if you will let Him. Ask Him to do that today. Invite Him into your soul. He will come, with His grace, and like a master gardener, produce the fruits of a holy life in your soul. Invite Him in – start praying deeply from your heart, receiving the Sacraments frequently, seek the Lord in His Word. His grace is all you need to change hard ground into a fruitful garden.