Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sunday July 16 •
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit seeking our Lady's intercession. Let us pray. Hail Mary, full of Grace. The Lord is with the blessed heart among women, and blessed is the fruit of Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Good morning, brothers and sisters. In our first reading today from the prophet of Isaiah, there's a very important phrase that helps us understand the nature of grace and the will of God in the world. It's the final line of that. The Lord is speaking through Isaiah to us. He says, my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will achieving the end for which I sent it.
The church teaches that when God wants something to happen on Earth, He provides all the graces necessary for it. He rains these graces down upon the earth and it is accomplished. His will is accomplished. Why? Because nobody can thwart the will of God. Whenever God wants something that happens when your will is omnipotent, all powerful, then who can stop you?
One of your own creation? Certainly not. No human, no demon, no angel could force the will of God when he wants something to happen. Now, how does this work? However, when God wants to use us, and we may be resistant to His will? Well, what the church says is God's grace flows down upon a land of people because he wants something to happen.And if the people to whom he sends the grace initially reject the grace, it simply flows like a stream to somebody else who's open and willing. If for some reason the ground is rocky and hard, then that water is going to flow elsewhere to fertile soil. Right? And then the fruit will be born in that fertile soil. This is one of the reasons why we have saints. You know, if everybody was a saint, there wouldn't be any saints. What do I mean by that? Because the saints stand out from the crowd. They're almost extremists in grace and in holiness. But you wouldn't need anyone to be that extreme if everybody was as holy as they were supposed to be. If everybody were receiving the grace that God poured out upon the earth. You wouldn't have these exceptionally virtuous and holy people. They were created because the rest of us didn't accept the grace since they were opened. All of the excess grace simply flowed into them, and God's will was still accomplished. He just did it through one person instead of many. Now, knowing this, we can be and should be to a certain extent, a little concerned, because that. Does that mean I'm losing grace? Well, it's certainly possible. Right. God is constantly pouring out. His grace is upon us. And if I'm not open, if I'm not fertile soil, then the grace simply runs off or it doesn't bear the fruit in me that it was supposed to bear, and they bear to someone else. The saints talk about the graces that the Blessed Mother distributes.
They said that in heaven, oftentimes when she's appeared, she has ten shining rings on her fingers and each ring is a separate grace. And when people ask her, obviously, it's all from her son. But when people ask her for intercession, she pours out, you know, these rays of grace upon them. Now, if people don't receive this grace, then other people can scoop it up and there have been saints who say to the Blessed Mother, I want all of the graces that other people reject. I'll take them. Give them to me. I'll use them. Please don't let them be wasted. Send them my way. It's something that you need to consider praying for. But again, if you're not that fertile soil, are you going to be using those graces? Just because you asked for grace. Doesn't mean you absorb the grace. The church teaches that grace builds on nature. Grace builds on nature in a simple way. To understand that is obviously, you know, I will never have the grace to fly like an eagle. Sorry, I don't have wings. It's not my nature. It's not natural to me. But if my nature, which is human, is tainted or corrupted because of sin or vice in various ways, again, grace is prevented from working. Not because grace isn't powerful. Isn't God because I'm blocking it. That's why conversion is so necessary. That's why the ground that Jesus describes in the Gospel today needs to be renewed right there. Roxanne, you need to get those big rocks of sin out. If there are thorns in it, you need to uproot those weeds, Get rid of those, too.
Right. If it's if you're really packed down soil like a pathway that need to, you know, what's it called till, till very go till the soil. Right. Loosen up the dirt so that the grace can penetrate and bear fruit. That's our response. We want to be open to as much of the grace as that God is pouring out upon us each and every day and yet so many things, primarily our sins. But it doesn't even have to be sin. It could just be some area of ignorance, something you need to learn, or some lie you're believing that you need to reject that's blocking the life of God from flowing within you. Now there is a consolation to a certain extent, because Isaiah clearly tells us that God's grace is is like water right at the beginning of the passage. He says, Justice from the heavens. The rain and snow come down, the rain and snow. It's not just rain. That is the analogy for God's grace. It's snow, too. You may say, Well, okay, fine, it's frozen rain. What's the big deal? This is a very important distinction that if you're not a farmer, you might not appreciate. So when I was in seminary, some of the guys were from Nebraska and a lot of farmland out there and they would tell me that if they didn't get a good snowfall that winter, then their crops would not grow as well in the summer. The reason is because as the rain is falling and the air is so cold, it's crystallizing. When it becomes a crystal, it actually traps nitrogen inside the crystal framework. And then when you have, you know, 30 feet of snow piled up on these fields as it's been snowing all winter long, when the spring comes in, that snow begins to melt. All that nitrogen that was trapped in the crystals is now saturating the soil. And plants need nitrogen. They need a lot of it. And so what these farmers have to do when there's not a good snowfall is they have to buy nitrogen and soak their land in it, which is very expensive. So snow has a purpose even in bearing fruit. But there's something fascinating about snow, which makes it quite distinct from rain, is that snow can't run off. Snow stays where it falls until it melts. Oftentimes when we're praying and asking grace is for ourselves or asking grace is for someone else. You know, we might worry, well, if God's pouring out the grace and they're not open to it, maybe it's just flowing off to somebody else and my prayers are wasted. I shouldn't have been praying for them. Well, God can send grace like snow to somebody who has a cold heart, so to speak. And when that grace falls upon him, it simply waits. It sits there and it piles up like the snow and winter. And the moment the thaw comes, and that person begins to open their heart to God's grace, suddenly what happens? Boom. Just this rush of of life flows into them. So, you don't have to worry when you are uncertain whether a person is receiving the grace or open to the grace. That's that's not within our power to know necessarily. But either way, God gives grace as rain or as snow. Right. Ultimately, the desire is to bring about holiness in our lives.
Now, again, as Jesus says in the gospel, we're the ground that needs to receive the rain and the snow. That's that's what we are. But there are many things in our lives that prevent us from bearing fruit, from allowing that rain to really transform us and nourish the seeds that Christ has planted. So, the main way that we remove those problematic areas of our soil is kind of summed up in part in what Saint Paul is saying in the second reading. You know, he begins by saying that I consider the sufferings of this present time or as nothing compared to the glory to be revealed in us. If you know anything about Saint Paul, you know, he brags about the suffering he goes through for Christ and the kingdom. He glories in it. It's his share in the cross of Christ and it was through his suffering that God brought about His conversion and His Holiness, Paul realizes that suffering is the key to transformation, right? Christ suffering can transform us from sinners to saints. Our suffering is also part of that sense we share in the life of Christ. That doesn't mean we only get the good stuff from Jesus. No, we get all the stuff.
Yes. The greatness and the glory, the divinity, but also the broken humanity and the cross. All that suffering is the key that God will use in your life to help make you richer soil. But if you constantly run away from the cross and run away from the suffering, it's never going to work, right? If you're the path on which the seed cannot penetrate, the rain simply flows off. To break up that soil is going to, in a sense, harm the soil, at least its current state of being. One of the problems in the spiritual life for somebody who's open to grace is the fact that a person who's that open more easily suffers. Somebody who's hard hearted doesn't suffer as much. That's why a lot of times we like to be hard hearted. We actually do it to ourselves because we have suffered, and we reject it and we can't handle it. So, in our hearts, problem is a hard heart can't receive the word, can receive the seed. They understand what I'm talking about. It's not easy, by the way. Always think that that's what all of our adult prayers sound like to God. It really doesn't matter how you say it. He just hears a little child crying and screaming. So, but that hardness of heart. Right. We do that because we don't want to suffer because we're afraid. Because we know if we soften our hearts, you can wound again. But without a soft heart, there is no salvation. Right. Jesus Christ became in fleshed so that he could suffer and die. We need that same courage. We have to be open and willing to suffer. It doesn't mean we rush to the cross. If you know anything about Saint Francis of Assisi, I always love him. A lot of people don't realize this, but he really wanted to be a martyr. Obviously, he wasn't. But he really, really, really wanted to be a martyr.
So, he got permission from the pope to go to the Middle East. Again, this was like, you know, 15th century to go to the Middle East because he wanted to try to convert the Muslim sultan, basically the king of Islam at the time. So, Pope gave him permission. He goes there and he finally gets an audience with the sultan, which is quite impressive.
Some Catholic monk from another country has come to talk to him about Jesus. You know, he's not convinced. And Francis says, look, I can prove to you that my God is the true God, but yours isn't so, and says, okay, how? He goes, I want you to build a giant bonfire and I want you to choose a representative from your highest priestly class and both of us will walk into the fire and whoever walks out alive, their God is the true God. And the Sultan was like, okay, sounds like a good plan. Let's do it. So, he got his, you know, a priestly class together, and they built a giant bonfire. And, you know, everybody was gathered around, and Francis was standing there ready to walk in, and none of the sultan's imams would go in.
They were all so terrified. They refused. The sultan even threatened them, but they wouldn't go in. And so Francis said, Don't worry, Sultan, I'll just go in by myself. My God, I'll still prove himself. And he starts walking into the fire, and the Sultan sends his soldiers to tackle him. So, they tackle Francis. And don't let him walk into the fire.
Francis says, why are you stopping me? He goes, because what will happen if you walk out is I'll have to become Christian. And he sent him back home out of the country. The point with somebody like that is they weren't afraid of suffering or death. They weren't afraid of anything. If it brought them closer to the Lord, if it served the kingdom of Heaven. No. Yes. Saint Francis kind of ran towards suffering God doesn't ask that of you. Okay. It's okay. But he does say you should not run from suffering. You know, when you have a toothache, go to the dentist. But until you can get that Novocain. Offer it up. Offer it up. Right When you're struggling with a problem at home or at work in society and you're doing everything you can to fix it, that's fine. But until then, offer it up and ask the Lord to use this suffering to make you fertile soil. We don't have to be afraid of suffering, not with the grace of God to strengthen us and to heal us regardless of the thing we must endure. And so, lastly, I'll end by sharing another story from Saint John Vianney. He's the patron saint of parish priest, the French priest. Hundreds of years ago, he would often have the devil, like certain other saints, appear to him and physically beat him up. Don't worry, God doesn't normally let this happen to people usually have to be really, holy to get this. You're not going to get it. I'm not going to get it.
Don't worry about it. So. So the devil would appear to him and beat him up. You know, and he would offer up that suffering and the devil would do this because John Vianney was such a great saint. He was bringing so many souls to Christ, and the devil just wouldn't go into a rage and, like, physically beat him up.
But obviously God was letting the devil do this. The devil couldn't do it if God didn't allow it. John Vianney knew this, and so he would offer up all the suffering that he was getting directly from the hands of the enemy. But he gave a name to the devil. And whenever the devil would appear, he'd call him the grape and he's like, oh, you've come the grape and now you might not know what that word is. I don't know if they even use it in French anymore, but are you familiar with that three-tooth prong you use for gardening? Right. To break up the soil if you're pulling up weeds or anything. Right. You know, you've seen those little handled things with three prongs on it and French. That was a grappling Do you see John Vianney would call the devil this because he says you're just making me fertile soil, soil for the grace of God. All the suffering you're giving me is just sanctifying me. Thank you. He was grateful to the devil for doing this. Now, you might not be there yet, right? You might not be ready to be grateful for the sufferings that you endure. But you should be. If they are doing that much good in our lives, not only should we be grateful for them, but we should also ask for them now, in zeal. Sometimes people ask for suffering, but it's imprudent because they're not ready. So I usually don't recommend you just ask for suffering because God will give it to you and you probably don't know what you're asking for. So, you always want to go through the Blessed Mother. So Blessed Mother. I know I'm going to have to bear some cross to receive this grace for virtue, whatever it may be, or grow in holiness. In this way, I put it in your hands. You talk to Jesus between the two of you, you decide how this is going to happen. She always does a better job of praying on our behalf than we do on our own. But if the devil himself, as John Vianney teaches us, can be a tool in the hand of God for sanctifying me, then why should I be afraid of any suffering? But it takes profound faith, profound trust in the Lord to accept that and to see in and through the suffering the hand of God sanctifying me and opening me up to even more life and grace in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
You may watch the Mass in its entirety on our YouTube channel. Homily begins at 21:54