Msgr. Joseph Prior

(See the readings for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 12)

The doorbell rang in the late afternoon. When I opened the door three men I had never met before were standing there. “Good afternoon,” I said. “Praised be Jesus Christ,” came the response. Immediately one of the men, named John, said: “We’re here to proclaim the Good News.”

He then told the story of his youth and the broken relationship he had with his father who was involved with drugs. He spoke of the damage that addiction had on his relationship and the anger and resentment he felt toward his father. He then said that changed once he had encountered Jesus. He said that through the Word he learned of the Lord’s great love and the power of mercy.

Over time he grew more and more of aware of that mercy through the sacraments of confession and Eucharist. Strengthened by the Lord’s grace, he was able to be reconciled with his father. The wounds of his youth were healed and now he finds joy in sharing the Good News and helping others find the same healing.

The power of God’s love is immense. Many times the work is unseen or not recognized like the dew that shows up in morning (cf. Eucharistic Prayer II). Or it can be likened to the rain and snow that water the earth (cf. Isaiah 55, first reading). While the rain and snow can be seen, one does not see the effects of that water on seeds and plants until much later (weeks and months sometimes). The water helps to break open the seed and start the plant to grow. It helps it grow strong until one day it can bear fruit. All the while the source of growth is unseen except for its effects.

The Gospel passage for today’s liturgy from the Gospel according to Matthew is a long one. At the center of that reading are the words:

But blessed are your eyes, because they see,
and your ears, because they hear.
Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

These words help us to understand the entire passage. Jesus speaks to his disciples, those who have accepted him into their lives and their hearts. He is the Word who is heard. He is the Word who is seen. The disciples have entered a relationship with him. They have seen him. They have heard him.

What’s more is that they have taken this experience to heart. Their lives have been tremendously changed for the better because of this relationship. They have found healing. They have found mercy. They have found love. They have found joy. They have found peace.

These are the ones whose hearts are like the good soil who have not only received the seed but taken it in. The seed is then transformed into the wonderful plant that yields fruit. So much so that it is 30 or 60 or 100 fold.

Anyone who has planted, whether full-time farmers or home gardeners, knows the joy of a bountiful harvest. That joy is similar when one witnesses the abundance of grace that comes from an encounter with Christ.

God is the one who sows the seed of his Word which is a powerful force for good. As already mentioned, Isaiah likens it to the rain and snow which brings forth seed (which will propagate the abundance) and bread to nourish the body. He says: “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”

I was heartened by the witness offered by the man visiting last week. He spoke of the power of God’s love and mercy and how it has changed his life. You could see by the joy in him as he spoke of God’s goodness, the fruits of which needed to be shared. It is not every day that we hear a profession of such saving grace; nevertheless the saving grace continues to be poured forth every day in lives of the faithful.

God is at work. His invitation is always there. Open hearts receive it regularly and are transformed in love. Blessed indeed are the eyes that see and the ears that hear.

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Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.