Sunday, July 12, 2020


A sower went out to sow.
As he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirty fold.
Matthew 13

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I find it hard to believe that I left here as pastor of this Cathedral twenty-three years ago this summer. Twenty-three years ago! Those who were here then know that after I left here, I was the Vocation Director for the Archdiocese and the chaplain at Bellarmine University. I then became a staff member at Saint Meinrad Seminary, conducted over one hundred and fifty Priest convocations and retreats in ten countries and wrote a weekly column for diocesan newspaper for fifteen years. 

I retired five years ago, and in my retirement, I continued leading priest convocations, especially in Canada and the United States and I have been volunteering in the Caribbean missions in a small, poor thirty-two island country, off the coast of  South American, called Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. I completed twelve trips to the island missions. However, I had to cancel my last trip, trip thirteen, because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even though I have not been able to travel down there like I had hoped, I have continued to work for them from here, through my computer, skype, whats-app and my cell phone. It is not easy work. In fact, it can be very frustrating at times because of the poverty, the poor communication and some major cultural differences. 

When I saw what the gospel reading was for today, I thought of a discussion I had with a friend of mine recently. I was telling him about some of the frustrations I am having with working down in the Caribbean missions. Thinking back, I guess I had mentioned some of my frustrations in earlier discussions because he said to me, “Look, you might as well accept it! You cannot change those people, so why do you bother?” I was hoping for some encouragement. What I got was a short lecture on hopelessness! I was aggravated by his evaluation and assessment of something that I was pouring my heart and soul into! I recoiled a bit because I am certainly not ready to quit! 

I knew working down in the Caribbean missions would not be easy, but I certainly do not consider it hopeless! If I wanted an easy retirement, I would have learned to play golf rather than putting myself in a place known for its poverty, its heat and its potholes! Besides, since we are pulling priests from mission countries all over the world to work full-time in our U.S. parishes, I thought it would be good for some of us retired priests to help out part-time in some of those mission dioceses. 

Like the sower of seed in the gospel, some of what I have done has not been successful. Some of it appeared successful, at first, but did not last. However, some of it has produced some amazing results. Through all the ups and downs of my mission work, I have been inspired, when I get discouraged, by the words of Mother Teresa when she was asked about why she bothered to care about the “hopeless” situations in which she worked. She answers the “why bother” question for me.

        People are often unreasonable, illogical and self -centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

Mother Teresa was right. Like the sower of seed in today’s gospel, some of what I do will go nowhere. Some of what I do will not last. However, some of what I do will, no doubt, have lasting effect. It will produce a harvest. It will help in ways I cannot predict. When Mother Teresa was questioned about working so hard and not making a dent in the depressing situations she worked in, she famously said, “God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful.”

When Jesus first spoke this parable about the sower and the seed, he was speaking from his own experience. Some of his teaching fell on deaf ears and was totally rejected. Some of his teaching showed promise of taking root in some of those who heard it, but it did not survive long-term especially in face of hard times. However, some of his teaching was taken in. It was fed and watered and ended up producing some amazing results.All these years later, we are part of that successful harvest.  

When Jesus first spoke this parable about the sower and the seed, he was no doubt thinking as well of those who would follow him, taking his teaching to the ends of the earth. He knew they would sometimes face failure and rejection. He knew that sometimes, they would see promising signs of success, only to watch things die on the vine. He knew that sometimes they would see their preaching take root and produce abundant results. He was teaching them that their job was to liberally sow the good seeds of his gospel and leave the results to God!

The big question I get from the gospel today is this, “Why bother?”  It is the question I ask myself as a volunteer in the missions when the results of my efforts are not obvious, even after all my good efforts. It is the question I ask myself as a priest when the results of my efforts are not always obvious, even after all my good efforts. It is the question you parents and teachers ask yourselves when the results of your efforts seem to be a complete failure, when the results of your efforts are disappointing and when the results of your efforts are swallowed up by other voices and stronger cultural influences. 

All of us who have given our lives in service of others, sooner or later, are forced to answer the same question. “Why bother?”  It is Jesus, the teacher, and Mother Teresa, the patron saint of those who work in situations that appear almost hopeless, who answer that question best. In the parable Jesus teaches us to keep on sowing good seed, to sow them far and wide and to leave the harvest to God! Mother Teresa taught us to “Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you've got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God."

Friends, when you give yourself to helping others, be it people in foreign lands, your own kids, your elderly parents, your students as a teacher, your patients as a doctor, you wife or husband as a spouse, you are like the sower of seed in today’s parable. You will often come away feeling disappointed, hurt or feeling like a failure. Give the best you have, anyway! Sow the best seeds you can find, and realize the results are up to God because “God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful.”

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