While I am on my annual vacation, I offer for your consideration a Homily from Father Charles Irvin, a retired priest of the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan, as well as the Founding Editor of Faith magazine.
Faith and Hope
When it comes to facing failures in life, the farmer in today’s Gospel parable sounds a lot like many of us. We work hard, and only sometimes succeed. Most of the best things that we give to others are not by them well received. Most of what we want to plant in the lives of those around us doesn’t “take”; it doesn’t become rooted and permanently planted in their lives.
All of us have to deal with failure, those areas where the best we’ve given to others comes up lacking, falling short of our hopes, our dreams, and our great expectations.
There are some biblical commentators who suggest that the parable of Jesus we just heard was autobiographical. That may well be true. Jesus certainly had to face a whole lot of apparent failure. He knew full well the pain of failure. He was born and raised in Nazareth and his own hometown folks rejected Him. His own Hebrew countrymen rejected His message. His handpicked twelve apostles? Well, one of them sold Him out for thirty pieces of silver and the others fled when He was crucified. Peter wasn’t too swift to take His message to heart, Thomas was the doubter, and the others weren’t much better either.
Up to this point my remarks all sound terribly dismal and discouraging. But my point today is that we need to remember that Jesus did not let apparent failure stop Him. In His parable, Jesus went on to speak about a crop that yielded a harvest in successful amounts, some yields bringing spectacular success. Today’s Gospel parable is not a dirge—it is a celebration; it is a story of hope, not of despair.
Any crisis has within it both danger and opportunity. True there are evils that surround us, but many of those evils are slowly being overcome. God is at work among us bringing good out of evil.
You and I, like all good farmers who continually face disasters of every sort, need to seriously engage ourselves in the enterprise of faith and hope, planting the best of what we have, and then letting God’s sun, wind, and gentle rains do the rest. The best years of our lives, and the best that we have given to others in them, or are giving right now, or will give in the future, will not be fruitless.
Many times I am called upon to console parents who poured out all of their love and faith into their children, taught them the Catholic faith, sent them to religious education classes, or to Catholic schools, only to have them, as adults, leave our Church and go elsewhere, many times to a type of religion that requires little if any faith but which gives good feelings. We must remember in such cases that the love and the faith that we’ve planted in the hearts of those around us, particularly in the hearts and souls of our children, will eventually blossom. The hopes and dreams that we’ve planted in others will germinate, grow, and yield a harvest of some extent, even if our efforts do not now appear to be unqualified successes.
Sure, our world is a mess now, but it always has been. We need to see that there is also an amazing amount of goodness in it. And so, keep on planting God’s good seeds in the lives of those near to you. Faith and hope are what should be in our hearts, not defeat and despair. —Rev. Charles Irvin