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Homily - Friday 16th Week in Ordinary Time

Jul 30, 2020
James Tissot / Public domain
Of the different kinds of soil presented in the parable of the sower I would like to focus on the rocky ground.  This is the person who welcomes the Word of God and it begins to sprout in his heart, but because of lack of perseverance in the face of challenges it cannot grow deep roots and dies.  This is a fairly common scenario.  We have an encounter with God at a retreat, for example, and we are on fire for him.  At the beginning we experience great satisfaction in prayer, attending Mass, reading the Bible, etc.  But as time goes by the gratification we experience in these practices diminishes more and more and with it also does our perseverance, until we finally give up.  And we ask:  “What happened?  Why did I lose the taste for spiritual practices?”  Surprisingly, through our diminishing satisfaction in them God invites us to allow his Word to grow deep roots in us.  This is what St. John of the Cross calls the movement from the realm of sense to the realm of spirit.  When we live our spiritual life in the realm of sense we act on the basis of gratification, that is, we do what feels good and avoid what doesn’t, acting thus like infants.  When consolation is withdrawn from our religious practices an important opportunity emerges, to grow up and begin living the spiritual life of an adult, of a true disciple.  That is, to follow Christ not on the basis of gratification, but in faith, hope and love, which are not bound to feelings.  These three virtues are similar to the muscles in our body.  When we want to develop our muscles we expose them to resistance by lifting weights.  Similarly the virtues of faith, hope and love become strong when they experience resistance.  This is the road from slavery to our appetites to freedom and true union with God.  Therefore, what feels like an obstacle has the potential to be a great grace and opportunity.

The diminishment of spiritual consolation serves another important purpose, it puts us in touch with our reality.  We frequently assume that the reason we experience great satisfaction in acts of piety is our high degree of holiness and love for God.  In reality these experiences don’t say much about how holy we are, but about how good and merciful God is.  The subsequent experience of spiritual dryness puts us in touch with our poverty and total dependence on God.  It helps us realize that when we thought we were loving God through our acts of piety we were really seeking the gratification they gave us.  We were using our religious practices to satisfy our spiritual appetites.  Thus, we were pursuing the gift and not the Giver.

Therefore, in order for us to become fertile ground in which God’s Word bears abundant fruit it is crucial that we persevere.  Only then will God’s Word grow deep roots in our hearts and we can experience the freedom that he grants to those who are determined to be true servants of love as his Son was.  As our Gospel acclamation stated:  “Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart and yield a harvest through perseverance.”

Written by Fr. Jorge Cabrera, OCD
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