July 30, 2014
By Father William Muench
You have probably noticed that the Sundays of July have been all about some of the parables of Jesus, so, I would like to share a bit of my own fascination with those parables.
Each week as I have prepared my homily, I noticed that there was a constant theme. For me, these parables strive to deal with the question, “What is the Catholic Church?” So, to begin with - what do you say in answer to this question, “What is the Catholic Church?” What is your personal understanding of your Church, of your Catholic Church?
The first parable that we heard this July was the Sower and the Seed. I know that you remember this one.
Jesus’ story is about a man spreading seed – some falls on good soil – but some also falls on rocky soil, some among the thorns, and some on the foot path. Jesus uses this story as an image of how the Word of God is received by people.
Some are like good soil – open and ready to live in the spirit of Jesus. When we are good soil we as church demonstrate to all that we understand how to make this world a better place because we are the Church of Jesus.
This parable also speaks of negative influences. Some people are like soil with thorns, that is, distracted by the lure of riches and so do not nothing for Jesus. Also, some are like soil filled with rocks, chocked by the problems and tribulations of life, and so they are distracted from the way of the Lord. Finally, some are like the seed on the foot paths; in the parable, the seed is grabbed by the birds. Jesus says that this describes those who do not understand so the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. What is taken away from those who receive the Word like a foot path? I think that what is taken away is the realization that they are able to do so much to make the world a better place and so they do nothing in following Jesus.
The next parable is the Wheat and the Weeds.
In the story, the Master tells his servants to allow the Wheat and the Weeds grow together, to be separated at reaping time. Jesus explains this parable in that we belong to a Church that is open to all, saints and sinners. There are many who seem to be scandalized that there are sinners in our Church. Yet, we know from the Gospels that Jesus openly welcomed sinners – he hung out with them and was criticized for having meals with them. Jesus made it clear that he did not come to condemn but rather to lead all to conversion.
This touches us all. We know only too well that we are each a mixture of good and bad, yet, we are all important to the Lord. We are all important in the Church. We are striving to become saints, by overcoming our sinfulness through conversion. Jesus makes it very clear that being the Church of Christ means that the Church welcomes sinners to lead them to the Lord.
Many of the great saints of our Church required conversion from a life of sinfulness. So, all sinners are welcomed and challenged to find conversion, to become saints. The Catholic Church is not a museum for saints – rather it is a school for sinners.
One more thing to add here. Something I feel very strongly about. Many times – sadly but true – some of what we would call rather important people in our Catholic Community fall into sin, sometimes rather public sin.
Because of their position many seek to have them removed – not just from the community – but from the Church. I would hope that we would all understand and accept the message of Jesus, Our Savior: we as Church must be willing to welcome them and pray that they will find conversion.
Finally, there are the parables of the buried treasure and the pearl of great price, a story that suggests that when we discover the joy and peace and love of the Kingdom of God that we would truly give up everything to make ourselves part of this Church.
And finally, a story that now makes sense to us – Jesus tells the story that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a net thrown into the sea which collects fish – some good and some bad – and then sorts them out at the end of the day.
So, not until the end will the angels of the Lord sort us out, the wicked from the righteous. I would hope that some interesting miracles will happen before that end of the ages – that some of the bad fish will become good.