HOMILY FOR THE  FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A

HOMILY FOR THE FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A

ISAIAH 55:10-11/PSALMS 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14/ROMANS 8:18-23/ MATTHEW 13:1-23

We have three sets of homily notes to choose from.
Please scroll down the page.

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai: Four kinds of hearts and their spiritual results

Fr. Paul K. Oredipe: Power of God’s Word 

Fr. Evaristus Okeke: Obstructions to Transformation

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai: Four kinds of hearts and their spiritual results

The first reading and the gospel reading of today present us with the themes of seed and sower. In the first reading Isaiah says that both rain and snow water the earth and cause the seeds to grow and provide us with food. Similarly, the gospel noted that like seeds the word of God is spread across the world, it grows, and provides us with spiritual nourishment. However, when it comes to farming as the parable of the sower presents to us, there are factors that determine positive growth.  This parable does not say much about the quality of the seed or what the sower did but more of the soil. Therefore, it can be regarded as the parable of the soil or the Parable of the Four Soils. This is a parable that tells us how soil conditions can affect growth. The seed is the Word of God and the soil is the heart. So when we talk about four soils we are referring to the four kinds of hearts and their spiritual results.

Unresponsive heart: This kind of heart can also be regarded as the indifferent or uncaring heart. The seed that fell on the path refers to the word of God on an uncaring or indifferent heart. The heart is indifferent or unresponsive because of bias and hatred for the speaker, or because it does not like to be reminded of certain things. There are people like this, no matter what you say in as much as these factors are there they will never understand you and they will not respond. Like it is popularly said; if you hate your mathematics teacher you will never understand mathematics.

Impulsive heart: This kind of heart can also be termed as the rash or reckless heart. The seed that fell on the rocky soil can be said to have fallen on the reckless soil. The seed did not take any root in the soil. This refers to the heart that has no inner conviction. The seed is given to them but deep within them they see no reason for it and so it withers. Christians are to live by an inner conviction of the word of God. If you are not convinced about it there is no way it can produce result for you.

Preoccupied heart: This refers to the seed that fell among thorns. Thorns are the cares of the world and the lure for wealth. These things preoccupy the heart of man and so the word of God has no space for growth. Today, the hearts of many youths are preoccupied with the desire for riches and that is why they fall into temptation and as 1Tim6, 9-10 says they are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that lead them to destruction. Many people are backward in the things of the Kingdom today simply because of the preoccupation of their hearts.

Good heart: This refers to the seed that fell on good soil. A soil is good because of ploughing, weeding, watering and manuring. The good heart receives the word of God, weeds it, waters it, manures it for proper effective growth. The heart is made good by regular weeding of sins and negative habits, regular watering and nurturing of God’s word, regular meditation and reception of the sacraments.

Beloved in Christ, where do you belong? how do you receive the word of God? Our modern world is full of distractions; the rocks, thorns and birds that work against the growth of God’s word in our hearts.  Our call is to become like the good soil. The gospel says the good soil produces a harvest of 30, 60 and 100. Beloved in Christ, we have not been redeemed to reduce we have been redeemed to produce greater harvest for God’s kingdom.

Many Christians today give in to the cares of riches and wealth and so abandon their spiritual growth. Others because they don’t want to suffer they abandon the principles of right living and give in to lust and immoralities for gain. The second reading says sufferings and hardships are part and parcel of the human condition that have an eternal reward which far outweighs this present gain. True Christians, therefore, should have positive mindset towards God’s word so that they can sustain their spiritual growth. The worries of life will always be there, rather than them destroying our Christian vocation we should use them as ladders to heaven.

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Fr. Paul K. Oredipe: Power of God’s word

Today’s parable is one of the easiest and most difficult parables in the gospel.  The traditional explanation:  “what kind of soil is in your heart? But the realities of our lives show that the four sets of conditions that militate against the seed are present and active in the heart of each one of us.  Nevertheless, there is good soil in each of us too.  We all have a tremendous potential for good. 

Today’s readings are basically optimistic.  They speak of the power of God’s word.  Isaiah in the first reading tells how rain and snow fall from the heavens and will not return without having watered the earth, and made it fertile and fruitful.  Through the words of the prophet Isaiah, our First Reading today, God tells us that His words are powerful, that His revelation is not powerless and empty:  “The word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.”  God’s word goes fort from the mouth of God and does not return void.  It needs to do God’s will, the end for which it was sent. 

We are the ones who are called to put the word of God into action.  “The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.” Let us ask Christ Himself to make of us a heart of flesh rather than that of stone; to create in us an openness to Him at all times and in all places; to grant us wisdom of heart. 

Our Gospel reading talk of a farmer who went out sowing.  Some of the seed fell on the footpath, where birds came and ate it up.  Sometimes the word of God falls on our deaf ears and blind eyes.  We have smoothed our lives out to such an extent that God’s word cannot penetrate.  We certainly have the power to keep it out. 

 The seed sown on the path:  Who are the ones who come and trample that seed before it can take root in us?  Can greater understanding be helpful?  Could more quiet time help us take in the word that is spoken? 

 Some people resist the Word of God, by refusing to listen or by distracting themselves from hearing the Word, or by finding excuses for not listening, criticizing the priest, the liturgy, and other church-goers.  They do not want God to interfere with the kind of life they want to live. 

Some of the seed fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.  It began to wither for lack of roots.  Sometimes our difficulties make us a little more receptive to God’s word.  We let it in.  We begin to see some changes in our lives, but then we easily trust in ourselves again.  We just do not allow those roots to sink deeply enough for them to catch on and grow. 

 The seed sown on rocky ground:  When have we become all excited about things of God and of faith and made resolutions to make changes and spend more time in prayer?  Why were our roots so shallow?  Can we learn from this? 

 Another type of hearing arises, whenever one hears the Word, but sees only the joy and not the sacrifice.  This is a kind of “sunshine Christianity” in which one follows Jesus as long as there are miracles, praises and honor.  However, when it comes to turning one’s face to Jerusalem and the Cross with Jesus, there is often a parting of the ways.  There is no real commitment to Jesus and the kingdom. 

 Some of the seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked it.  There are lots of influences around us that can make that happen.  That is why we are so concerned about the friends our children have.  We want the values that are important to us to grow in them.  Outside influences can choke them off.  We need to be wary about ourselves as well.  It is amazing how the foul language and gossip of others can make those things seem acceptable to us.  It is amazing how self-centered we can become when that becomes one of the norms in our society. 

 The seed choked out by thorns:  What are the worries, anxieties and confusions that choke out the growth of the word within us?  How can the “lure of riches” lead us away from the things of God and faith?  In the end, what lasts? 

Then there is the person who is too full of the world’s aspirations.  Such a person is operating under the influence of money, power, and popularity.  The Word of God becomes unnecessary and irrelevant to the daily concerns connected with the pursuit of worldly affairs.  Wealth speaks louder than Jesus.  Money silences faith.  

After all, the material world says that if you acquire enough of the world’s goods, you can control the Church, God and Grace.  Everything is earned and kept.  You can buy your way to heaven.  Those who do not want to live like them are stupid or lazy.  “Rights” becomes the operative word.  God’s Word, therefore, is easily dismissed. 

 Part of the seed, finally, landed on good soil, and yielded grain at a hundred – or sixty – or thirty – fold.  We try so hard to provide that kind of soil for our children and those we love.  We need to seek it in our own lives as well.  We come to realize that the easiest and quickest way is not always the best.  We begin to realize that we are living lives worthy of our calling when our lives differ from the lives of those around us.  We take the message in.  We share it with those around us. 

The good soil:  What is it?  Where does it come from?  How can we preserve it?  How can we pass it on to our children and grandchildren? 

Finally, there is the person, who authentically hears and proclaims the Word of God.  This is the person who hears the message, internalizes it and puts it into practice in his or her life.  He it

is “who bears a yield of a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold.”  The Word of God becomes the vital center of that person’s life.  The Word inspires and consoles. 

How are these scriptures comforting?   Challenging? Which type of soil are we?  Or which type of disposition do we show most of the time?  What is our disposition and response to the word of God? 

In summary, in the parable – the farmer stands for Jesus.  The seed is God’s Word.  The soil, meaning the footpath, rock, thorns, good soil, refer to the people, who hear God’s word. 

Some people reject it outright.  Others receive it, and discard it later.  Still others receive it, treasure it, and put it into practice. 

 It is important to note that in only one case was the Word rejected outright.  In the other cases, it was received with joy.  The problem is not in receiving God’s Word.  The problem is in treasuring it, and putting it into practice. 

There are, therefore, three steps involved in responding to God’s Word:  receiving it, treasuring it, and practicing it.  Let us take a closer look at each of these steps: 

The first step is hearing God’s Word.  We might call it the “mind” step.  It involves listening attentively to Scripture being read and explained. 

The second step is treasuring God’s Word.  It might be called the “heart” step.  It involves taking to heart the Word we have heard.  We consider its implications for our life, and how it can make our life better. 

This second step does not necessarily take place in Church.  It may start in Church, but it usually continues during the week ahead, as we think about the Word we heard on Sunday. 

The third step is putting God’s Word into practice.  If we recall the first step, the “mind” step, and the second step, the “heart” step, we might call the third step the “soul” step.  It involves acting on what our mind has received and what our heart has treasured. 

 St. Paul referred to the “soul” step when he said: “The Word of God is … sharper than any two-edged sword.  It cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet.” 

 And so the three steps involved in hearing God’s word are: the mind step (receiving it), the heart step (treasuring it), the soul step (putting it into practice).  Today’s gospel is an invitation to begin responding to God’s Word by receiving it, treasuring it, and putting it into practice. 

Let us close with a prayer: 

Lord Jesus, Sower of the seed of God’s Word, Help us realize that just receiving your Word is not enough. Help us, also to take it to heart, and put it into practice. Lord Jesus, Sower of the seed of God’s Word, help us respond to your word, not only with our whole mind, and our whole heart, but also with our whole soul.   Amen. 

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Fr. Evaristus Okeke: Obstructions to Transformation

We have often time heard people say that despite the increasing number of Churches, crime rate is on the increase. It is also shocking to discover a sharp contrast between the activities of men in the Church on Sunday and their activities at their communities/places of work from Monday to Saturday. Needless to say that unspeakable crimes have been associated with some “men/women of God” and even in the house of God.

On the other hand, we often hear people argue over the justification of some religious or social practices base on whether they enjoy biblical backing or not. Yet, these same persons find it very difficult to practice the virtues that are clearly commended in the bible and desist from those vices that are clearly condemned in the bible. The summary of the issue at hand is that: people are encountering the Word of God, yet they are not being transformed by it. The liturgy of today looks into this problem.

In the gospel reading, Jesus used the agricultural setting to explain the problem. For the cultivation of any produce, the seedling must be health, the soil must be fertile and the farmer must be skilled in the art of cultivation. None of these conditions is negligible. The absence of one will render the presence of others helpless. But when these three conditions are perfect, then transformation becomes possible. The seedling transforms into a full blown plant that produces in plenty.

In the gospel acclamation, Jesus explains that the seed is the Word of God, the sower is Christ and our hearts are the soil. In the first reading, God speaking through prophet Isaiah confirms the viability of the seed. The seed is perfectly health because it has been made to be fruitful; if not, it would not have been said that it cannot not return to the Lord without accomplishing that for which it was intended. On the part of the sower, God has never left his people without the Word. In the Old Testament, He spoke through the prophets (as seen in the first reading), in the New Testament, He spoke through his Son and the apostles after Jesus’ Ascension. Thus, the Sower has never been the cause of the problem.

From an agricultural perspective, we may wonder why the sower planted some seeds or left them behind on poor soils. No doubt, a good sower will not allow a seed to rest on a soil that will not support its growth. God is gratuitous with his gifts. He does not conclude that any is “good for nothing”. He continues to anticipate the best from us all; and so, he “plants” in all.

We are left with the soil. The gospel reading clearly shows us the varied manners in which the soil renders futile the perfection of the seed and the sower. In the second reading, St. Paul summarizes the different altitudes of the different poor soils as – unwillingness to be patient and to accept suffering. Ordinarily, no farmer can be successful if he cannot wait and if he is not ready to bear risk/loss. Therefore, no heart will be able to accommodate the Word of God for onward transformation if it is not ready to respect God’s time and God’s will.

Enough of blaming the multiplicity of Churches; enough of blaming the Priest/Pastor based on what was preached or not preached; enough of arguing “if it is in the bible or not”. No doubt, these are problems in themselves but the major problem is our hearts that is becoming increasing hostile to the Word. We have the bible with us, we know what is contained therein, but often time we are not ready to practice it. People do not want to be governed by what is true but by what can enrich them materially. Material transformation will make us obsess but spiritual transformation will make us fruitful. Our hearts needs to be sanitized continually; if not, it will remain contaminated with the virus of corona materialism.

When we consider why the different soils failed in the gospel reading, we will come to know how to sanitize our hearts. The first soil suffered from lack of understanding. Whatever you have not understood cannot be built into your conviction and so, it will not be able to motivate you. Don’t just read the bible like a newspaper; study to understand the message. The Word of God is coded in the words of men. To get the Word of God from the language of men, you need interpretation. When interpretation is inauthentic or bias, the Word of God will be lost. Be mindful of where you go for interpretation.

The second soil suffered from lack of perseverance. God’s Word does not immune us from challenges but enables us to understand God better in all that happens to us. Without perseverance, this revelation of God to us will be truncated. Do not stop being good because the ungodly are prospering more than you are. Only God is our sure prosperity. The third soil was unproductive because it was distracted by worldliness. We cannot serve both God and wealth. Whatever cannot guarantee us heaven should not be allowed to occupy us in this world. Use material things only to the extent that heaven is guaranteed. To be a Christian is a decision. When this decision is not firm, transformation is thwarted.

The last soil is that heart that dares to remain committed to the Word that is sown in it. Tribulations and distractions come, but it chooses to remain steadfast. It may waver sometimes but it does not delay repentance. This soil is fruitful not because it is perfect but because it continually struggles towards perfection. The day we stop aiming at perfection is the day the Word of God will stop transforming us. God Bless You!

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, Edo State, Nigeria. He was ordained October 20th, 2018. He offers his daily homilies, talks and articles that bother on, faith, theology, morals and many other burning issues in religion and politics. Fr. Daniel writes poems, inspirational quotes and clips.

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