Sunday, July 17, 2011

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

In the spirit of full disclosure, and because so many people had commented how much they loved this homily, I must give credit where credit is due. The idea of tying the gospel reading with the formation of conscience was all mine. The 7 step plan to form your conscience is based on a 10 step plan I found in this web site, which bases its plan on the book: The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth. published by St. Mary's Press.
Like I said, this homily got such a good reception that I'm working on turning it into a 45 minute talk and make it available on MP3 for people to download and share with others.
Also I've decided to merge my personal blog "Tolle lege!!" and this one, in the hope I can manage them better (And this will motivate me to add more content) Stay tuned!!

Today’s Gospel is a continuation of last week’s reading. In fact both readings share many themes: they are both parables, they both talk about of planting fields, of soil, and harvest. However, if you recall last week’s gospel, Jesus talked about a farmer who’s good seed landed in types of soil; on the road, on rocks, among weeds. In today’s parable Jesus is more focused, he talks about just one type of soil, the good soil, the fertile one, the soil that when planted with good seed will produce, 30 or 60 or 100 fold. The kind of soil we know very well here in the four-county area, soil in which the smallest seed, like the mustard seed, can grow into a great tree. But also the kind of soil so fertile, that it takes time and effort to get it ready, and once is planted requires a lot of tending and care, because if we go and plant it without tiling or fertilizing it and don’t take care of its cleaning and hoeing, most likely we will end up dealing with lots of weeds, especially if an enemy, comes after us and spreads bad seed in our field.
The beauty of Jesus parables is that the same story can be used to teach multiple lessons. For example, in today’s gospel Jesus gives us an interpretation for this reading, but we can take this story and apply a different interpretation, one that will shed light in some of the biggest questions of our culture. In this new way of looking at this parable the field is our conscience; the place within our mind in which we make judgments, the place in which we decide what is right and what is wrong, the place in which we decide how we are to live our life. The good and bad seed are the ideas we receive from our culture ideas we get from the church, the Bible, our parents, our friends, the TV, the internet, magazines, surfing the web, there are dozens and dozens of sources for these “seeds”. Some of them are good and some of them are bad, but all of them when allowed to grow in the soil of our conscience will make us the person we are.
As I mentioned before any fertile field which is not prepared correctly and is not tended lovingly will end up over run by weeds. So the topic I would like to explore today is this: How can we prepare our conscience? How can we help form our conscience and the conscience of those with whom we live? How can we plant the right seeds and tend to them so that at harvest we can produce much fruit? Well… To answer this question let me introduce you to a quick seven step plan to form your conscience. I assure you if you follow these steps you and yours will develop very strong characters.
First: Study, pray and practice the Scriptures; in your daily life and in the lives of others. Follow rules like: Love your enemy, feed the hungry, protect the innocent and give voice to the weak. Lear what Jesus says about these things, plant then in your mind and then do them!
Second: Receive the Eucharist. The body and blood of our Lord is like the sun and the rain which gives life and nourishment to the fields. We receive the love of God in communion, he will give us strength and a desire to seek truth and act in a way pleasing to him.
Third: Examine your conscience and Go to confession. Reconciliation is like weeding the field of our conscience from the weeds we get because of our fallen nature and that we receive from our culture. Start with the commandments and ask yourself each day: Were my decisions today based on these them or did I made them on my own?
Fourth: Find out what the Church teaches about important matters. Read the catechism, talk to a priest, read religious articles and books. Educate yourself on what the Church says and why. This knowledge is like the round-up that will get rid of any erroneous ideas that might be keeping us from the truth of the Gospels.
Fifth: Pay attention to the little decisions that you make every day. Habits form before we can recognize them and often choices that seem small in the beginning can become like crab grass in our conscience, once they attach to the ground they are very difficult to eradicate. Base your decisions on the eternal and simple truths of the Gospel: Truths like Human life is sacred, or like: In the order of creation there is only one life giving union that reflects God’s inner life that of one man and one woman united in Holy Matrimony; We were created to be in life giving relationships, anything else goes against Gods plan for each one of us. Everything we do even the smallest act, even if we do them in private moments of our life form the person we are and make our fields grow.
Six: Pay attention to your environment. Every day we are bombarded by ideas. It’s just like watching what you plant in your garden. You want to be careful you are using the right kind of seeds. You want to make sure of that what you read, or watch will not corrupt your mind. Surround yourself with things that line up with what is good, true and beautiful in life and reject what is fake and disturbing.
Seven: Look for role models. Look to those people who live virtuous lives, priests, nuns, deacons. Learn about the lives of saints and imitate them! Look at how the fields of others are fruitful, and imitate them.
My brothers and Sisters you might be saying “That sounds like a lot of work” Well?… Any farmer will tell you that it takes a lot of work to get a good harvest. I you want to form your conscience the right way don’t settle for anything else, work hard for what pleases the Lord and ask Him to help you plant the right seeds in your fields so that you too can produce a bountiful harvest. God bless you.