Homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Last night I joined my youngest sister and niece for dinner in Saint John. I had not seen my niece since March, the beginning of the pandemic. My niece is now married and has 2 small children. During the dinner, the conversation turned to stores of days gone by, about ourselves and the people we loved…many who have gone home to God, including my parents. But I noticed that the stories we shared, were funny ones. For example, when I was in grade 2 or 3, coming home from school one day in early September and my grandmother opened my lunch can and all these frogs jumped out at her! The power of a story… to make us laugh, cry or to think!
Jesus also knew the power of a story, not only for enjoyment and fun, but as well as a teaching tool. In the Gospel for today, Jesus is by the sea and so many people have gathered to hear him, that he gets into a boat and he begins to share parables or stories with them. So he begins to teach, “A sower went out to sow.” Now he has their attention! The farmers and gardeners in the crowd are listening because Jesus is talking about something they know. So the disciples ask him, “Why are you talking in stories?” Jesus might have replied, “Because if you’re not willing to sit with a story, you don’t get to pierce its secrets.”
I wonder, what kind of stories might Jesus tell today? They’d probably begin like this: A mother gets her kids ready for daycare. A construction worker is asked to work late because of the nice weather. A personal support worker puts her PPE on to begin a 12 hour shift in a nursing home. A man has just lost his job and has to go home to tell his wife and 3 kids.
A few years ago, I attended a conference given by Meghan McKenna, a renowned theologian and professional story teller. She began the class with, “Once upon a time…” The class sat in silence, waiting to hear what was coming next. And then she said, “whenever you hear this introduction… it’s telling you that the story that follows this intro is about you!” Jesus was the master story teller. It’s easy to imagine Jesus looking out over this assembly gathered today and talk to all of us who are present. He wouldn’t begin some major theological discourse, nor would he begin with complicated Scriptural evaluation. And definitely, he would not begin with rules or regulations, especially those who keep us from loving each other and God. He’d tell stories that we could relate to. He would tell our story: “Once upon a time, (remember…that’s you and me) three faith communities came together to form one parish. They called it Holy Spirit! They worked very hard in building up this new community and then it happened… a pandemic hit. What a major blow to this new parish (and others). Mass stopped. Slowly, people began to come back, even though the format of their celebration changed. Not only was their community turned upside down, but so was the world around them. What were they going to do? Well, their faith is a powerhouse! They still prayed at home, watching Mass on television or their computers, they look out for one another, they still contributed financially to the parish coffers. Their leadership team continued to meet by zoom, doing what they could to not only maintain the parish, helping it to grow, discussing how to bring the parish to the next level or work and prayer. And then Jesus would no doubt say, “Like the story of the sower of the seed… the seed or the Word of God has fallen here on rich soil, and it yielded a hundred fold.”
We, along with many other faith communities and of other different faith traditions, are the rich soil… we hear the Word of God and to the best of our ability, put it into action. In the First Reading, using metaphors, Isaiah reminds us that ‘God’s Word is like rain… it softens and saturates and it makes growth spring up… snow brings a natural pause in the action. We, too, need that pause… to stop so that we can sit with it and discover it’s secrets. I encourage you, som time today or this week, sit quietly think about the past 4 months and then ask yourself: how were we enriched by the Word of God? How were we challenged by the Word of God? How did we spread the Word of God during these months? And finally, how will we continue to do so in the coming months? If you’re having trouble, turn it into a story: “(Your Name), A sower went out to sow…” or “Once upon a time…(Your Name)” No doubt you will be pleasantly surprised by what the prayer will reveal to you! Amen.