Homily – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Good morning once again, everyone. As I said, it’s great to be back. No place like home. Walking into the sacristy, I saw Alicia. She did our readings today. I know Alicia Washington. She’s amazing. And she says to me, “You know, Father John, this is my favorite parable, so you better not mess it up. I’m expecting a really good homily.” Right, there is truly no place like home, So thank you for that warm welcome.

You know, it was a long reading we just heard. And the part that I honestly was the most intrigued by this read around is actually the middle part.

This internal discussion between Jesus and his disciples, or more specifically, we could say His 12 apostles, the ones that He chose.

Why I was drawn to that was because that made me think about something that happened 25 years ago in my life.

It was 25 years ago that I started my college experience as a freshman at DeSales University in Pennsylvania.

And I had my first philosophy class, and it was there that I was introduced to the idea of a “paradigm shift”.

You know those words, that concept is pretty popular in different places.

But how many have you ever heard of that? A paradigm shift. Raise your hands.

All right. Thank you so much for raising your hands and exerting some energy here at Mass. I appreciate that.

A paradigm shift was introduced to me specifically by the work of Stephen Covey. In that same class, we were getting lots of texts, and the one accessible text, the one kind of pop text was his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

And having tried to articulate the concept of paradigm shift was him retelling a story that took place here in New York City.

He was on a subway early one morning reading his papers and magazine.

And in the car walks this man and three children of his – at least they seem to be his children.

The three children went on to just make a big havoc within the car, running around everywhere, sometimes even bothering people who were sitting there, grabbing even newspapers.

They were really annoying. And Stephen is sitting there with his newspaper, also kind of feeling annoyed with what was happening in the car.

And after some time he eventually goes to the man. He says, “You know, sir, can you do something about your kids? They’re causing a real disruption here for lots of people.” And the man kind of just like almost wakes up from being in a trance.

He says, “Oh. I didn’t really see what was going on. We just came back from the hospital and my three children just learned that their mother had died. And I guess I really don’t know how to deal with it. And I guess I don’t really know how to even deal with my children right now.”

And at that moment, Stephen went from being annoyed to being a person of sincere compassion, asking, Oh, my gosh, it’s horrible. What can I do?

This was a paradigm shift. When you’re seeing the world in one way and thinking you have it all figured out.

And then being changed to see the world a different way and realizing that your previous way of looking at the world no longer relates.

In this version, we’re just looking at irresponsible parents.

In this version, we’re looking at a man who’s had his life just transformed.

This idea of paradigm shift, I think relates directly to the concept that Jesus is trying to offer to his 12 apostles in this exchange He has with them.

The Gospels began with the parable of the Sower.

And this parable, the sower, was something that he spoke to a large group of people.

It says that he was sitting on a boat and when he was sitting in the boat, there was a way to kind of get him away from people enough so that they could hear him project a story.

And the disciples say, 0Hey, you know, why do you always tell these stories to people when you’re out and about? But when we’re having our, like, you know, inner time. You never seem to kind of tell these stories.”

And then Jesus seems to go into this very mysterious way of explaining what’s happening.

He says, Well. To those who the mystery of the kingdom has been revealed, stories are not needed. But those who have not entered into that insight, parables are required.
This is probably not an answer that the disciples really wanted, The Apostles wanted. Primarily because I probably didn’t understand it.

The mysteries of the kingdom. We understand the mysteries.

The stories that are more entertaining are the more interesting.

What do we have that the people out there don’t have?

I would venture to say that the apostles, whether they knew it or not, experienced a paradigm shift.

Now, paradigm shifts are things that we all experience, but maybe sometimes we don’t understand them.

I look at my own life. I think about when I was 15 years old in high school as a sophomore at the time, coming home from school one day taking a nap because I was kind of tired only to be awakened by my dad, who says, We got to run to the hospital right now. Your mom was in a car accident.

It was probably about five or 6 hours later, I found out that she died.

15 years old. Life. Just completely turned around.

Everything was common and secure and understood before that age, now gone away in an instant. We’re now in uncharted territory.

But there could be other things that happen that are more pleasant. I think about when I first found love. Probably about a year or two after my mom died. It was in high school. My first girlfriend. I was head over heels.

And I thought I was going to be a priest since I was like, you know, in first grade, all of a sudden I’m like, you know, none of that priest stuff. Like, I’m in love. As you can tell, it didn’t work out and the priest stuff actually won, right?

Or it could be even something even more simple. You know, as I’m getting older, I realize that I can’t drink as much as I used to.

And I’m not that I don’t even really feel a lot of desire to even drink alcohol anymore.

Now, what that does, though, it changes the way you socialize. Because we know we live in a very strong drinking culture, right? And if you’re not always the one to kind of be going round after round, you’re sometimes people may think there’s something wrong with you, especially if you have a reputation for going round and round, which unfortunately I did back in the day.

A paradigm shift. Living your life one way and now knowing that you have to live it a different way and it takes you into uncharted territory.

It’s going and entering into a mystery.

You can no longer rely on the things you had before.

The concepts that you thought were so permanent don’t seem so permanent anymore.

What was black and white is now all gray. That is a paradigm shift.

And when you think about these 12 apostles, they all did go through a major paradigm shift.

Because what we know from their lives is that they were kind of ordinary.

Most are fishermen. One was a tax collector. So he worked for the government, right? They had jobs, they had families, but they had an encounter with Jesus.

And that encounter was enough for them to drop the nets. To drop what they were doing to even leave their families to go on this mystery tour with Jesus.

Not even knowing where things were going, but knew that they could trust the one who was guiding them.

And that was enough. The most interesting thing about the parable of the Sower is that, first off,

it’s the only parable in the Gospels where Jesus gives a lengthy explanation about – normally he just gives the story, lets it land, and has people try to unpack it and figure out what to do with it.

But here, he kind of explains with the whole parallels. It makes preaching pretty easy, like, I don’t need to explain anything, right?

But there’s one serious component of the parable which I think is not mentioned.

The people who heard the parable could be very much intrigued by this whole idea.

Of somehow receiving the word of God, receiving just God’s presence and allowing it to just blow up in one’s life so that one can just grow and become a person.

That radiant joy radiates comfort.

And in turn is able to draw many people to knowing the loving presence of God.

This is what it means to be bearing fruits. 30, 64, All those numbers that Jesus rolls out. But the component that’s missing is that even a tree that grows up that great and gives great strength to the world through its presence and its fruits, even that tree will one day have to die.

No tree lasts forever. Because if it doesn’t die, there won’t be any more trees. There won’t be seeds to replace the tree.

You know, I live in California and we’re always plagued most years by forest fires. You guys got a big whiff of them this year from Canada, right?

California. It’s become more of like a regular occurrence. And many people will look at forest fires as being this big tragedy. And of course it is. And start wondering what can we do to make sure that we don’t have them.

But even if every single human being was responsible and then prevented actually starting a forest fire, they still would burn. It would still be some lightning that will strike the forest one day and set a fire on fire to a whole forest.

But even park rangers say the fires are good.

We need them every now and then to replenish the forest.

So in a certain way, things have to die, not just so they can go away.

So they can be transformed into something new and something even better. Something even more for.

Jesus doesn’t give that impression to the many multitudes of people He was talking about that.

Yeah. Even when you become that well established tree, you also have to die.

But in a certain sense, his inner circle understood what that meant.

They knew what it felt like to have to die.

To leave things behind to go into the unknown.

Knowing that in some way, shape or form their life would benefit from this.

That they become who they’re meant to be. And that they would even be able to find joy in the midst of sorrow.

I think perhaps the greatest thing for us to think about is let’s not wait for a paradigm shift to be inflicted upon us.

Let’s try to welcome a way to always be in a movement of shifting more and more, of letting go of things in order to make room for something new.

I offer just two suggestions today as we go from this church into our very busy week.

Has lots of structure and lots of commitments. You don’t have to wait for something to hit you.

You don’t have to wait for someone to die or to fall in love.

You can just take a moment to be present to what is.

Not scrolling on your phone, not looking at TV, not even listening to music.

But maybe even that could help. It’s just sitting on a park bench. And just watching people walk by who you never seen, who you probably will never see again.

And just thinking about what they carried. The lives they have live, the sorrows that they have, the joys that they have.

What they’re walking into. What they’re walking away from.

Just be fully present to what is around.

It has nothing to do with what you’ve kind of put in front of you. To be attentive.

A paradigm shift can happen on a park bench. And I also offer to that in a time right now where there’s lots of needs that we have, like we need to put the air conditioner on because it’s really hot and we need to make sure that we have all our things as we walk outside so that we don’t get covered with rain and things like that.

Is there ways for us to say that while I may need this, I’m going to do without this.

And it could be something very simple, like I’m just not going to have another piece of cake.

I truly believe that being present to the moment and just saying no can actually facilitate ongoing paradigm shifts, not as sacrifices, not as proving to God that you somehow are strong,

You can tough things out, but so that you can be surprised by how God wants to reveal His love for you.

I guarantee you you will see something that you’ve never seen before.

When you make a simple intention to be present to the moment or to say, I don’t really need this, even though I really, really wanted it. That is going from parable to mystery. That’s a paradigm shift. But more importantly, that’s growing into the awareness of God’s presence working in and through you.

It was so good to be with you this morning. Let’s continue to pray for each other.