Some time ago, during my hospital rounds, I visited a Catholic patient. As soon as I got into the room, before I could introduce myself as one of the hospital chaplains, seeing my collar, with eyes wide open, she said, “Are you a Catholic priest? I am so happy that you are here. I love being Catholic. Every day I wake up and I remember that I am Catholic, it gives me extra joy.” I was happy to meet this Catholic lady, who was so excited about her Catholic faith. Out of curiosity, I asked her, “What is the main thing about the Catholic faith that makes you so excited?” She said, “You see, I have three brothers and three sisters; all of them are Jehovah’s Witnesses. I see them always going from house to house knocking on people’s doors, but for us Catholics, we don’t do anything, we are just happy being Catholic.”
Really? Is that what it means to be Catholic? We don’t do anything? I get it that we may not go around knocking on doors but does that mean we don’t do anything? What happens to what the priest/deacon says at the end of Mass? One of the options for the dismissal rite at Mass is, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” Every Catholic is a missionary, every Catholic has the responsibility to announce the good news. It may not be by moving from house to house and knocking on people’s doors. We announce the good news by the way we live our lives, the way we study, the way we drive, the way we do business, by our actions and inactions, by our words and silence, etc.
The good news we preach is the same one Jesus brought, the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven. In today’s gospel passage, half-way into the gospel according to Matthew, Jesus takes a break to reflect on this kingdom. He does it through parables. In these parables, we see that God speaks to us through nature if we are attentive enough. The gospel passages for the next three Sundays will be presenting the parables of Jesus regarding the Kingdom of Heaven. For today, he gives us the first, the parable of the Sower.
The parable of the sower is the only parable given a thorough explanation besides Matthew’s parables of the wheat and the weeds, and the parable of the net. Since the passage already gives a detailed explanation of the parable, I do not intend to go into the explanation of the parable, I would like to draw our attention to a line in the gospel passage that may easily skip our attention. Before giving the interpretation of the parable, after presenting the parable, Jesus says, “Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
At the end of each Mass, we receive the mandate to go proclaim the good news by our life. One obstacle to our proclamation of the good news is that when we listen to the word at Mass, we tend to hear for others and not for ourselves. Jesus says, “Whoever has ears ought to hear.” I think it is safe to say, “Whoever has ears ought to hear for themselves.” Sometimes at Mass, when the priest is giving examples of bad things people do some wives give their husbands the look, or the husbands give their wives the look or elbow them. Sometimes, after Mass, some parents would come to the priest to say, “Father, you gave a great homily today. I wish my children were at Mass to hear you.” Others would say, “I wish my neighbor came to Mass today. Father gave a perfect description of my neighbor in his homily.” The truth is, all of us, including the priest, need to fix something in our lives. We can only improve when we first listen to the word of God for ourselves. It is only then that our light will shine outside of Mass, and even without going about to knock on people’s doors, just by our lives, people will know we are Christians, and they may strive to be like us.
As we reflect on our lives, to see what kind of soil we are in relation to the word of God, the seed that the Sower plants, I ask you, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
Note: Though the question itself is commonly attributed to an earlier Christian author, David Otis Fuller (1903-1988), Dr. Billy Graham often used it.