Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily, June 17, 2012 Small Seeds of Love and Good Soil, Fr. Ken Hughes, SJ

St. Mary of the Angels:       Sunday 11 OT  6/17/12

Ezekiel: 17:22-24;   Corinthians II: 5:6-10;  Mark: 4: 26-34


My Brothers and Sisters,


Last Monday evening, I went to the airport to pick up a friend at terminal “E.”  When I got there, the parking lot was full but I knew that there was a second lot and proceeded to drive to it.  Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn and ended up on the exit ramp.  Not wanting to go back through the tunnel, I turned onto 1A and suddenly found myself in East Boston.  Now, East Boston (like most of Boston!) is not exactly driver friendly!  One way streets, convoluted intersections, lack of road signs, -- all left me totally lost and confused.  I stopped frequently for directions.  And people were most gracious. But, the directions usually went like: “Oh, you’re going in the wrong direction!  Turn around and take your first right , then your second left, at the intersection, veer right, then take your second left and your fourth right, etc, etc., etc.”  I became more and more lost.  Finally, I pulled up beside a rather heavy set man with a cane.  “Airport?” he repeated.  “Oh, this is complicated!”  (At least he admitted the reality!) He then proceeded to give me yet another set of directions.  Then stopped and said, “Let me get in the car with you and I will show you the way.”  As we continued along, he then said, “You know what? I’ll go with you all the way and take the bus home.  I am your Good Samaritan for the evening.”  And so, Ernie, my “Good Samaritan for the evening” guided me all the way to terminal “E.”


I told this story to two fellow Jesuits at dinner the next evening.  One added this next story:  He was meeting friends at a downtown restaurant and struggling to find a parking place.  Just as he found one, a driver scooted in before him and claimed the spot.  The man  jumped out, ran across the street to mail a letter, returned and then drove off.  Fortunately, this Jesuit, guessing what was happening, had stayed and so he did get the parking spot. Fine. When he returned after the meal, he was surprised to find a piece of paper placed on his windshield.  The note said, “Please accept my apologies.  I was very selfish in taking your parking place to mail my letter.  I am very sorry. Please forgive me”  Apparently, the driver realized what he had done, drove around to find another parking place, wrote the note, and came back to place it on the windshield.     


What do these two stories have to do with today’s Gospel?


Well, Jesus had just presented and explained his parable about the Sower and the seed.  We all know the four kinds of soil that the seeds fall upon: the solid path, the rocky ground, the thorny brush, and the good soil which produces 30, 60, 100 fold.  Now Jesus puts aside the first three problematic soils to focus on the good soil.  That is what these two parables are about:  the good soil.  The twofold mystery here is that in the good soil of our being 1)  seeds of God’s grace are growing without our realizing it and without our doing much about them, and 2) the tiniest seeds of God’s grace can produce tremendous, far-reaching results.


What seed of God’s grace was planted in Ernie, my “Good Samaritan for the evening?”  What seed of God’s grace was planted in the man who returned to apologize?  Obviously, good soil was receiving God-graced seeds.


But let’s look right here at St. Mary of the Angels.  A couple of weeks ago, about twenty of us gathered at Joe and Kitty’s home to talk about the troubling Vatican intervention into the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.  In a prayerful and respectful setting we listened to stories of Srs. Virginia, Catherine, and Nancy, touching stories of God graced seeds planted in Sisters and by Sisters in this country over the centuries.  These were/are seeds of faith, seeds of hope, seeds of compassion and love.


From those stories of the Sisters we moved to stories of St. Mary of the Angels: funny stories and painful stories, stories of struggle and stories of celebration.  But, amidst the stories, this question arose: is St. Mary of the Angels growing or diminishing in size?  The response was, “Neither.”  The size of St. Mary’s has remained pretty much the same over the years.  But it was perceived that people come and people go. People stay for awhile and then move on.  In the imagery of today’s Gospel, people come to be fed and nourished by the bread of this community and people come to find shelter and comfort under the overshadowing and embracing branches of this community.  And then leave nourished, embraced, comforted. Like the grain of wheat, like the mustard seed, this community will probably always be small, but, as the first parable tells us: God is working quietly night and day in each member here.  And the second parable encourages us to keep planting our tiny seeds of faith, of hope, of love.  You never know how someone will be touched, as I was, as my Jesuit friend was.  And because the soil is rich right here, we know that it bears fruit for the people who come, the people who go and the people who remain.


Blessed Teresa of Calcutta used to say that her sisters did not do great deeds of love but rather small deeds with great love.  That is the way it is with small seeds of love and good soil.   Ernie, my Good Samaritan-for-the evening, will never know how much his one act meant to me and is now multiplied in my sharing it with you.  An anonymous note writer brought great delight to my friend, a delight that I now multiply by sharing the story with you.  And you have your stories! Thus, the Kingdom of God, the community of faith, grows seed by seed, story by story,  every day and every night.  Just let us be the good soil to receive these seeds of grace, so that, in receiving, we can give and share with one another and with all whom we meet along the road of life. 


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