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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: September 20, 2014
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during the Religious Jubilarian Mass at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock, on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014.
In today's Gospel we have a very familiar passage: the parable of the sower. The basic meaning of the parable as used by Jesus is easy to understand. Seed falls on four types of soil and produces or fails to produce accordingly.
1.) The seed that falls on the path is trampled and eaten by birds. This represents those who hear the Word of the Kingdom but never accept it.
2.) The seed that falls on rocky ground represents those who hear the Word but have no roots, and so fall away because of persecution or temptation.
We should then go forth as sowers ourselves and scatter the seed produced in that hundredfold yield, investing ourselves generously in others with optimism and enthusiasm.
3.) The seed that falls among thorns represents those who believe the Word but are choked by worldly anxiety and the lure of riches, and so fail to produce.
4.) The seed that falls on good soil represents those who hear the Word, embrace it wholeheartedly and produce fruit abundantly.
In each case the receptivity of the soil was decisive and represents four types of persons. From this come many homilies about preparing the soil of our inner garden, removing the rocks and thorns, devoting attention to the inner life. Certainly an important message for all of us.
But have you ever read this parable from the perspective of the sower and what that might mean for our outer life? If we are to follow Jesus, model our lives on him, continue his work in today's world, this means that we should be doing what he did. And he was the sower. The Good News was the seed. And he sowed that seed everywhere. He didn't do a cost/benefit analysis.
He was willing to accept a 75 percent failure rate. Even though he had good reason to doubt that sowing on the path, on rocky ground or among thorns would come to much, he was an optimist, always willing to be surprised. So he didn't prejudge even the most unpromising bits of land. And neither should we!
As you jubilarians look back over a lifetime of sowing the seed of the Word of God in the hearts of generations of students and patients and parishioners, I want you to notice that the generosity with which you spread the seed is more important than the visible results. The sower in our parable had only a 25 percent success rate, so if you did better than that, I'd wonder whether you might have neglected those hard-nosed, rock-headed, thorny people whom it is so easy to prejudge as automatically unreceptive to the Good News of the merciful, healing love of Jesus ... which they so desperately need, and which can start the process of turning them into good soil.
Read this way, Jesus' parable speaks to both our inner life and our outer life. That we should cultivate the soil of our inner garden so that we will be as receptive as possible to the Good News Jesus has sown in our heart — and thus produce abundant fruit a hundredfold. And that we should then go forth as sowers ourselves and scatter the seed produced in that hundredfold yield, investing ourselves generously in others with optimism and enthusiasm, trusting that the Lord will bring forth from our efforts an abundant harvest.
Thank you Sisters for giving yourselves to the Lord and allowing him to use you in his service all these years. You are truly rich soil because — in the words of today's Gospel — you have heard the Word, embraced it with a generous and good heart, and born fruit through perseverance.