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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

I Planted, But God Made It Grow

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 17, 2018
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

Today’s Gospel passage (Mark 4:26-34) calls us to keep our hearts focused on the Kingdom of God in the new life we have received in Christ. 

Our Lord speaks in parables using nature so that we can better understand what He is trying to teach us. Today, He speaks of seed being scattered on the land. The seed sprouts
and grows. Yet, the man who scatters the seed knows not how it grows. This emphasises that the growth comes about not by man’s doing but by God. Therefore, God gets all the credit. 

Today’s message can be seen as a reference to the growth of the Church. Saint Paul refers to this parable in his letter to the Corinthians where he speaks of the early Church. Paul says: “I planted, Apollos watered it, and God made it grow." (1 Corinthians 3:6). So, we are reminded that we work with and in God, but the building of the Kingdom is reliant upon His grace.

Today’s message can also relate to the work of God’s grace in our souls. The Kingdom of God has been planted in our souls in Baptism. Our Lord reminds us that the
Kingdom of God grows in stages like nature itself. He says that the seed first sprouts and grows,
“first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”

When we are baptized and strive to live our baptismal call, it is then that God provides the growth. In other Gospel passages, there is more insight. In John 15:1-10, we learn whatever branch does not bear fruit must be cut off and burned. What branches that do bear fruit will be pruned to bear more fruit. In other words, we must be purified of what is not of God’s Kingdom if we want to live in God’s Kingdom.

Many saints give us good insight into how Our Lord works in our soul. One such saint is the 16th century mystic Teresa of Avila. She saw the soul as a castle representing a journey of
faith through seven stages, ending with union with God.

The first mansions begin with a soul’s state of grace, but the souls are surrounded by sin and only starting to seek God's grace through humility in order to achieve perfection. Through continued love of God and prayer the soul has an aversion to both mortal and venial sin and grows in a desire to do works of charitable service to man for the ultimate glory of God.

The fourth through the seventh mansions are represent contemplative prayer as the soul becomes purified of it
s earthly desires and God infuses Himself more deeply into the soul. The fifth and sixth mansions can be compared to betrothal as the soul prepares for Divine Union with God which is the seventh mansion. Teresa relates that the highest mansions can only be gained by being in a state of grace through the Church’s sacraments, fervent devotion of the soul’s will to Him, and humbly receiving a love so great it is beyond human capability or description. It is this great love of God dwelling in the soul that is the goal of all Christians.

My brothers and sisters, each one of us Christians is called to union with God. This goal of union is why we practice our faith, why we pray, why we do penance. Our Lord has taught us that the kingdom of heaven is within. This kingdom is planted into our hearts in baptism. Yet, this kingdom must be preserved through holy living so that God’s grace may increase in us.

It takes a lot of faith and dedication and prayer for one to grow spiritually. Yet, when we give ourselves to God then He increases His grace in us so that we may become full of His grace.

Our Blessed Mother is the most perfect example of one who received the fullness of God’s grace. When the angel Gabriel
appeared to her she did not know how God would live in Her though the Incarnation of Jesus. She said,
“How can this be?” Yet, she trusted, and thus the Holy Spirit came upon her, and the power of the most High overshadowed her, and the Son of the Most High developed in Her womb, He Who would be called the Son of God! 

It is through our Blessed Mother’s yes to God that we too are able to share in God’s Divine life. This is being fulfilled in us right now as we are saying yes to God by striving to live His commandments. It is through Our Blessed Mother’s yes to God that we are able to receive the Holy Eucharist where God Himself dwells within our human nature.

brothers and sisters, today’s Gospel
Fr John Paul Shea
passage calls us to acknowledge the new life we have received in our souls and to live this new life with all our hearts so that we can live with and in God for all eternity! We live in a world dominated by original sin. We live in a world that has lost its relationship with God. But, God has redeemed us through Our Lord Jesus Christ. He has given us a new life in Him. We must therefore allow this new life to grow in us so that we can become one with Our Heavenly Father.

May each one of us strive to live in God’s grace so that we can become all who He calls us to be. Amen.

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