15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 13, 2014
I spent this past week on a High School youth mission trip in Champaign, Illinois called Catholic Heart Workcamp (CHWC). 11 people from St. Andrew’s joined up with around 300 other youth and adult leaders from all over the country. We came together to share our faith while helping those less fortunate in the community through acts of service. The morning started off with daily Mass and the evening consisted of praise and worship music, skits, videos and listening to powerful presentations from various speakers. During the day we would go out in small groups to do various jobs. My group got to help a non-profit agency with landscaping and painting homes for senior citizens and foster families.
The theme to the camp this year was, “Beautiful Mess. It Is. We Are.” This speaks to how the world we live in is a complete mess. It is full of sin and temptations in all shapes and sizes. And unfortunately, we fall into the messiness of sin often. The world is also full of disaster and heartache. Just ask someone who just lost their home to a fire or ask a wife who just lost her husband to cancer. Sometimes things just don’t make sense. However, it is how we react to these messy moments that ultimately defines us. We can choose to surrender to the world and give up. Or we can choose to surrender it all over to God. It is in these messes that our faith grows even if we don’t immediately realize it. From the 2nd reading today, Romans Chapter 8, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” Our actions and reactions to the messes of the world is how we find beauty in ourselves.
Another great thing about going to CHWC is listening to the powerful stories from the many presenters. I want to share with you a story I heard from a priest at a CHWC I attended 3 years ago. Realize that this story was geared towards teenagers, so I apologize in advance!
*** Two teenage brothers wanted to go out to the movies because it was storming outside and they were bored. They picked a movie and went to their dad to ask permission to go. “Dad, can we go to the movies?” “What’s the rating of the movie you want to see?” “R. But only because of a little sex scene and a little nudity.” “Sorry boys, you know the rule. We don’t watch rated R movies.” The brothers went off to try and pick a different movie. “Dad, we decided to go to a different movie. Now can we go?” “What’s it rated?” “R. But only because of a little profanity and a little violence.” “Sorry boys, you know the rules. My answer is still no.” The boys were getting really worried by this point because they were afraid if they didn’t go to the movies, dad would plan one of his lame “Family Game Nights.” So, after picking another movie, they approached their dad a third time asking if they could go. “Well, what’s this one rated?” asked the dad. The boys, looking down to the ground said, “Dad. It’s rated R. But all of our friends have seen it and it’s only rated R because of a little drug use and a little nudity. It’s really no bid deal.” “Sorry boys, no rated R movies. Hey, I have an idea” the dad said proudly. “You can all stay home with me and we can have a ‘Family Game Night’ and just hang out together all night long.” The boys felt defeated but agreed. Now the father knew the boys would rather be out with their friends so he tried to make it a fun night. He got their favorite sodas, chips and even made some homemade brownies. The brothers realized their dad was trying his best and were actually having a good time. “This night isn’t turning out so bad dad. Thanks. And by the way, these brownies are really good. Did you make them yourself?” “Why yes I did! It’s a special recipe.” “What’s in them?” the boys asked. “Well there’s the usual stuff like cocoa, brownie mix, eggs…and a little dog poop.” “WHAT?!?! What did you just say?” yelled one of the brothers. “I put a little dog poop in the brownies” the dad said calmly. The brothers started spitting out the brownies and washing out their mouths with water as they ran around the room. “You can’t put dog poop in the brownies!” exclaimed the brothers. “But it’s just a little bit” replied the dad. “It only takes a little bit to ruin the whole batch!” yelled one of the brothers. The dad stood up tall, leaned forward a little, looked them right in the eyes and said, “and that’s exactly why we don’t watch rated R movies. Because just one little sex scene, just one scene with nudity, just a little drug use and profanity ruins the whole movie.” ***
Believe it or not, this story speaks to the parable of the sower in today’s Gospel. According to the parable, there are four paths where the seeds God sows can land.
First, there’s the path where people don’t understand God’s word and quickly fall away. Second, some understand God’s word on a superficial level but have no roots, no depth. These are the ones who quickly get angry with God as soon as things get messy. Third, there are the ones who allow the temptations of the world to choke out their faith. These paths are the ones we want to avoid and help others walk away from. In order to do this we need to help ourselves and others better understand the faith. We need to develop strong roots so that when trial and tribulation comes our way, which it will, we will not be blown away. We need to resist worldly desires that choke out and damage our souls, no matter how much pleasure they appear to bring at first glance. The father in my brownie story was trying to keep temptation away from his two sons. He was trying to keep his sons on rich, fertile soil so they could develop strong roots.
Let us strive then to uproot the thorns of the world, remove the rocks that block us and get off the shallow soil. We need to strive for the fourth path in life, the one with rich soil so that we can bear much fruit for God’s Kingdom. I must however warn you. This is probably the hardest path of the four. It takes parents saying “no” to their kids from time to time like in the story about the brownies. It takes walking away from friends that are not good influences on us. It takes giving up sin and addictions that destroy our hope for salvation. It takes serving others and putting their needs ahead of our own like at CHWC. It takes forgiving others and loving them as one of God’s children.
But here’s the good news…if you continue to cultivate this lifestyle, it is in this rich soil that God will transform our messes into beautiful messes!
For more information on Catholic Heart Workcamp, please visit: