Planting Seeds of Faith

“Hear this!  A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, 
and the birds came and ate it up.
Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep.
And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots.  
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it 
and it produced no grain.
And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit.
It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”
(from Mark 4:1-20)

We plant the seeds of faith by being intentional disciples – spreading the gospel message, sharing our beliefs and values openly, loving God and others, and acting as feet-washing servants. Even then we don’t know if or when we will see results.

I am not a farmer by trade, but I know enough about planting seeds to know there are things we can do to make germination more likely, to increase our chances of bearing fruit.

First, we must use a high-quality seed. Our seeds of faith must be authentic. The soil in which we are planting will be more receptive if the message is genuine. When we sow seeds of faith for show or for personal gain, they will likely fall on rocky soil.

Second, we need to sow the seeds under the right conditions. We must plant the seeds of faith with love and out of love.

Third, we need persistence. Why not play the odds? If germination rates are only 40-80%, why not increase our odds by sowing the seeds of faith more often? Yield will increase with the number of seeds planted.

Fourth, we need patience. Germination will not likely occur overnight, or perhaps even for years.

In researching the germination of seeds, I came across the word quiescence. Seeds are living organisms. Although a seed may appear to be dead, it is actually in a state of quiescence. Quiescence means that the seed is at rest until desirable conditions trigger germination; the point is, the seed of faith we planted is still alive.

That should provide some level of comfort to those of us who are praying for loved ones that have lost their way on their faith journey. We have planted the seeds. We must be be patient – those seeds may not be dead, but rather in a state of quiescence. Germination is still possible.

If we use high quality seeds and sow them with love, and are persistent and patient, then all there is left to do is walk by faith, trusting that those seeds will germinate.

And when they do germinate, the possibilities are limitless.

Planting seeds is an act of faith.

The following is a quote from Henry David Thoreau’s work, Faith in a Seed: “Though I do not believe a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”

Please continue to plant the seeds of faith.

Homily: Don’t Let the Fire Die

January 26, 2021 – Memorial of Sts. Timothy and Titus.

For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. (2 Timothy 1:1-8)

The following is a homily originally delivered at St. Pius X Parish, Indianapolis in 2013:  

One line from today’s readings seemed to jump out at me. It was in Paul’s second letter to Timothy: Stir into flame the gift of God.”

I like camping and being in the great outdoors, but I would not consider myself a survivalist. There is a show on the Discovery Channel that follows a survivalist as he takes on all that a particular rugged landscape has to offer. A helicopter drops him down into the rain forest, or the mountains, or a frozen tundra and leaves him there for a week to test his survival skills.

It becomes very clear each time I watch this show, regardless of the environment the survivalist finds himself in, that his survival ultimately hinges on fire. Not only his ability to start a fire, but to keep it going.

A campfire left untended will die out. The survivalist knows that he must occasionally stir the embers, fan the flame, and feed the fire in order for it to continue producing the desired heat.

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Video Homily: It’s About Our Response

January 24, 2021 – Third Sunday in Ordinary

My pastor, Fr. Jim Farrell, was scheduled to preach this weekend, but was experiencing a bad case of laryngitis. He asked me to fill in for him on short notice.

So, I have no scripted homily / text to share with you, but if you’d like to listen to / watch the homily as delivered at the vigil Mass last night, click below. God bless you!

Homily: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

January 23, 2021

This homily was delivered at the daily Mass at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis yesterday morning. It is based on the words spoken in the movie, The Help. The gospel of the day detailed the calling of the twelve Apostles.

WE are “good enough,” deserving of his love, and have infinite value. We are worthy of his call as apostles, and so must do the work to which we have been called.

Regular People

January 21, 2021

He appointed the Twelve:
Simon, whom he named Peter;
James, son of Zebedee,
and John the brother of James, 
Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew,
Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus;
Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean,
and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him. (Mark 3:13-19)

The twelve men Jesus ultimately called to be His apostles were not the best and the brightest. The Rabbis leading the religious communities were surrounded by scholarly disciples. These disciples studied and trained for years before being sent out as learned leaders. Only the best were called. Only the best survived.

Jesus, on the other hand, called fisherman and farmers, even a tax collector. He taught them through parables, but even those they had difficulty understanding at times. Once they had been called, their faith surged and faded. Doubt was always looming.

Yet that is who Jesus chose to call. That is who Jesus later sent out to “preach the gospel to every living creature.”

The apostles were not special because they were called. They were special because they responded. They were special because they left their nets and followed Him.

Jesus is calling you. He chose you. Don’t deny him because you think you’re “not good enough.”

Choosing Our Jesus

January 20, 2021

Looking around at them (the Pharisees) with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart… (Mark 3:1-6)

Before we dismiss the Pharisees as unintelligent, radical, or simply anti-Jesus, I think it is important to understand their perspective.

Let’s begin with the recognition that the Pharisees were anything but unintelligent; they were the most learned of Jewish scholars. For hundreds of years, the Jewish people awaited the Messiah, a great Savior that would wipe evil from the face of the earth and take his rightful place as king.

And then along came Jesus. He attracted many followers and those followers believed Jesus may be the long-awaited Messiah. The Pharisees immediately wanted to shut that down – not because of the good things Jesus was doing, but because he didn’t fit the image of what they had in mind.

They believed the Messiah would come into Jerusalem on a white horse and an army of soldiers. They wanted him to defeat their enemies and put sinners to death. They pictured him as a mighty and powerful king that would reward the Pharisees for their faithful adherence to Jewish laws and customs.

However, Jesus did not fit the mold. He was not a warrior king. He was gentle and loving and compassionate. He did not put sinners to death; he ate with them and allowed them to be his followers. He didn’t even follow Jewish customs himself! How could he be the Messiah?

What angered Jesus was not the intelligence of the Pharisees or their strict adherence to Jewish law. He was angered by their hardened hearts. He was angered that they would not allow their hearts to be open to the possibility that their image of the Messiah was faulty.

He was angered that the Pharisees were more concerned with being right than they were in appreciating all that Jesus had to offer.

That’s our takeaway. Do we accept Jesus for what he is and what he offers to us? Do we appreciate the sacrifice he made for us and the many gifts he bestows on us?

Or do we accept only parts of Jesus? We like the kind and loving Jesus, but not the one that challenges us to live a life of holiness. We like the Jesus that forgives our sins, but not the one that challenges us to sin no more. We want to be loved unconditionally, but are not willing to love others in that same way.

Are we like the Pharisees? Do we only accept a Messiah that fits our image of what he should be? Do we just want to be right?

Stay the Course

January 19, 2021

We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end,
so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises.
(Hebrews 6:10-20)

The reading today was intended as a pep talk for the Hebrews: Stay the course, your reward will come later.

Being a disciple of Jesus Christ can be challenging. The secular world offers a broad array of desirable things, tempting us to stray from what we know is right. If we succumb to temptation, we may receive immediate gratification, but it is temporary and does nothing to fill our hearts. Discipleship fills our hearts gradually and leads to eternal happiness. It is short-term empty promises versus a long-term inheritance.

The pep talk letter encouraged the Hebrews to stay the course; don’t allow the lack of immediate gratification to make them sluggish or steal their eagerness for the fulfillment of hope. They were reminded that their reward will come through faith and patience.

We may see others straying from what is right and holy; they may even appear to be enjoying “the good life.” We are encouraged, like the Hebrews, to stay the course – our reward will be great in heaven.