Sunday, July 13, 2014


By Deacon Jerry Franzen  July 13, 2014    Cathedral
Isaiah 55: 10-11          Romans 8: 18-23        Matthew 13: 1-23

Praised be Jesus Christ. (Now and Forever.)
Good Morning.

When I was part of a youth ministry team
ut of St. Paul/St. Henry parishes,
I was a member of a group that went to “Workcamp.”
This was what we now call a “mission trip.”
We, high school youth and adult chaperones,
went down to southeastern KY for five days
to do service work among the people of that area.
One year I worked with two other adults and seven youth
at the home of Carolyn Shepherd and her husband
in the town of McDowell, Kentucky.
We put a new layer of shingles on half of their roof
to stop a leak,
we replaced one porch with a new and bigger deck
at the back of the house
and we replaced the railing on a second porch
in the front of the house.

To get to the site each day
we went from four-lane highways to two lane roads
to the one-lane road that led back into the holler.
The Shepherd home was on the side of a hill above the road.
Further above a steep slope behind the house was a terrace
for the vegetable garden that Mr. Shepherd tended.
Most homes in that area had gardens.
Super markets were quite a distance away.
I noticed lettuce, corn, beans, cucumbers,
squash and potatoes in the Shepherd garden.
And I’m sure that there were other vegetables.

I suppose that these people would have had little trouble
understanding the gardening described in today’s gospel.


The gardeners in McDowell would tell you
that seed cannot even begin to grow
on the compacted soil of their area
much less on a well-trodden path.
The soil must be tilled,
broken up so the seed can penetrate the soil.
The soil hides the seed from the birds and other seed eaters.
The soil shades the seed
so the water in the soil can moisten it for germination.
The soil provides a base for the roots to be anchored;
the plant is then nourished through the roots in the soil.
The gardeners of McDowell would also tell you that
rocks in the soil impede the growth of roots.
Rocks do not hold the water needed by the plant.
AND, weeds will rob the newly developing plant
of its needed water and nourishment
and may shade it from the sunlight it needs. 

But the Gospel reading is not about gardening.
It is a lesson on faith,
faith needed to reach the kingdom of God.
Our lives cannot be too compacted for the kingdom.
Are we so busy with establishing a career
that our faith cannot be squeezed in?
Are we so inundated with the necessities of life:
 food, clothing and shelter, that there is no room for God
and His kingdom?
Are we too set in our ways
to let the Holy Spirit plant the seed of faith?
We cannot have lives littered
with rocky attitudes and weed-like evil behaviors
that impede and overshadow our faith.

We might ask further:
Am I a person of quick enthusiasm
coupled to quick disillusionment,
running from one fad to the next; one cult to the next?
Am I having a problem
finding a stable and suitable place in my life
for the Holy Spirit to plant the seed of faith?
Am I living amongst weeds that could strangle my faith.
Is my desire for greater wealth
choking off the growth of my faith?
Are we so preoccupied with climbing the corporate ladder,
club memberships, automobiles and sports events
that we fail to experience communion with God?

To make the kingdom of God present on earth:
our lives must be loose and penetrable;
our lives must be free of internal obstacles;
our lives must be free of external obstacles.
If we want faith in God’s kingdom to grow in us,
we must be fertile soil.


If I were to end at this point,
you would have heard a pretty standard homily,
based on Jesus’ explanation to the apostles.
Actually you already heard Jesus give that homily.
But I believe that there is more to be said.
I believe Jesus used the example of the seed to
encourage us to  go further, to go deeper.

 Our faith in God’s kingdom begins small like a seed.
A parent, a teacher, a spouse, a friend, a book, a song
can act as an agent of the Holy Spirit
to spark the germination of faith.
We should expect true faith to start small.

From the small spark, an awesome life of faith can grow,
just as a mighty oak can grow from a small acorn.
We should expect true faith to grow.

Faith in God’s kingdom, like a plant,
grows to be something quite different from the original,
as the mature oak is quite different from the acorn.
Expect your faith to change, to mature in character.
Expect your faith to change you.

Just as that oak tree must then produce acorns,
a well-developed faith in God’s kingdom must,
as Jesus pointed out, bear fruit.
It must serve to spark faith in others.
We should expect our faith to bring about change in others.

And like the growth of a plant,
faith in God’s kingdom does not grow automatically.
The growth of true faith must be nurtured.
We should expect true faith to require continual feeding
at the Lord’s table and in His Word.


And it doesn’t end there.
We are not alone in the struggle
for this fertility of faith in our lives.
God has provided help for each of us,
help so that we who look can really see,
and so we who hear can really understand.

The relationships in faith that we have with others is reciprocal. Parents, teachers, spouses, siblings, friends, even children
and those we may not even know
can help to nourish our faith.
Books, songs, works of art,
places and many things of God’s creation
can also act as agents of the Holy Spirit
to help to nurture our faith.

My daughter Dawn said that
the fertile soil required for the growth of our faith
is the Church.

when you find yourself resisting God in you life,
look to others to help you break that rock-hard barrier.
When you find God’s presence withering in your life,
look to others to give you God’s life-giving water.
When you find that God is not taking root in your life,
look to others to give support and stimulation.
When you find that God is being choked out of your life,
look to others to help you clear away
the rubble and the thorns of evil.

I am eternally thankful for all who have
cracked open my faith when it was hard as a rock;
all who have watered it when it was wilting;
all  who supported it when it was not firmly rooted;
and all who weeded it when it was being choked off.

Maybe during this week,
we could each take the opportunity
to thank those who have helped to nourish our faith,
for we have been the beneficiaries of their faith bearing fruit.