Sunday Sermon for July 16, 2017, the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Readings: Is 55:10-11; Rom 8:18-23; Mt 13:1-23

In the first reading today God says through the Prophet Isaiah that His Word will come to earth and will not return to Him until it has achieved the end for which it was sent.  This can be understood in two ways: the Word of God contained in the Sacred Scriptures and Jesus, the Word made Flesh.  Either way, the truth of the statement remains:  Jesus told us that not a jot or tittle would pass away from the Law until it was all fulfilled and, the Word made Flesh achieved perfectly the end for which He was sent.

What is important for us is that we have been saved by the work of the Word made Flesh and that His Word has been planted within our hearts.  What a blessing!  Throughout the centuries many people have lost sight of how precious a gift this really is.  After all, is it such a great privilege when so many millions have been given the gift Faith?

The fact that we have been chosen personally by God is absolutely astounding regardless of how many others have been chosen along with us.  However, in our own day we are beginning to see more clearly that not very many who are chosen allow the Word of God planted in their hearts to take root and flourish.

As our Lord points out in the Gospel, the seed has been sown in various places and types of soil.  For some, the vile creature snatches the truth from their minds and replaced it with his nonsense before it even had a chance to sprout.  In others, the truth is seen and understood to some degree, but the concern for what others think of them or the desire to fit in with everyone else, is more important than living the truth and uniting themselves with Christ.

Then there are those who go through the motions, but their real love is for the things of this world rather than the things of Heaven.  These people are all given the same gift of faith as every baptized person, but by their own free will they choose to reject or compromise God’s truth.  Like weeds in an untended garden, Satan’s lies overshadow God’s Word in their hearts and minds and they bear no fruit.

Tragically, today we are able to understand more than ever the point our Lord made that many are called (baptized) but few are chosen (bear fruit).  We have witnessed many people leave the Church, many others compromise the Truth, and still others pick and choose what they want to believe.  We live in a time where it has become vogue to define one’s own religion: forget what God has revealed, we can each be the arbiter of our own truth.  Needless to say, the Word of God, both Jesus and the Scriptures, is being rejected.  Many still say they believe in Jesus, but Jesus is the Truth, and if they have rejected the truth, they have rejected Jesus.  They believe in a Jesus of their own making, but they have chosen their own “truth” over Truth Himself.

This is exactly what our Lord said: they look but do not see, they hear but neither listen nor understand.  None of us can point a finger at anyone else, because we are all one step away from falling into the same trap: we can compromise the truth as well as anyone, we can reject the Church’s teaching on this point or that, we can be wooed by something selfish or worldly, we can get caught up in earthy pursuits and be distracted from the things of Heaven.

With this in mind, we can now understand why the full maturing of the implanted Word will only take place in those who listen to the Word of God and live it.  This allows us to recognize more fully the precious gift we have been given and the great privilege that is ours as members of Jesus Christ to bear fruit that endures.  Of course, in a world like ours that has strayed so far from the truth, there is now a hatred for the truth.  You are intolerant if you stand for what is right and true.  This type of “intolerance” is the only thing the tolerant people of the world will not tolerate.

Therefore, to choose, embrace, and live the truth is difficult because it is completely counter-cultural.  We have to love those who do not even tolerate us.  This can be a great suffering for many, but St. Paul reminds us that the sufferings of the present are not to be compared to the glory to be revealed in us.  This is how the plant matures and bears fruit; it is how the children of God are revealed.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit