Spiritual Warfare Week 4: Relax & Pray

(July 16, 2017)

Message: Relax. Pray. God's purpose will prevail.

Last week we saw that even though we are in a spiritual war, it does not mean constant combat. Jesus wants us to have time to retool. "Take my yoke upon you," he says, "and I will give you rest." He adds, "My yoke is easy and my burden light."

Today Jesus gives a good reason to relax. He has already guaranteed the harvest. He tells about the good seed that produces a hundred, sixty or thirty-fold. For sure it faces obstacles - birds, stones, thorns - but they will not block its ultimate purpose.

Bishop Richard Sklba (in Fire Starters) observes, "Human instruments are frail and counter-forces may be many and often powerful, but God will prevail." Today's Gospel, he says, is "a parable of hope, possibly addressed to the disciples at a moment of deep human inadequacy."

I have to admit I sometimes feel inadequate and get discouraged. Not so much at the state of the world. Or about our church although you can see many signs of decline (as well as rebirth). But I don't so much get discouraged about the world or the church as I do about myself. I thought that when I hit 70 I would have things together. I knew I would decline physically and mentally, but I thought by now I'd be better spiritually.

For sure I can get into a comparison game: I may not be a great saint, but look at that other guy. You know what I mean. The comparison game can also work in a positive way. When I compare myself with men like Fr. Augustus Tolton, St. John Paul or (pause) Archbishop Sartain, I sense how much more I could achieve - with God's help.

Today's parable has a powerful message for me - and for you if you also sometimes get discouraged. The message is: It's not about me. And it's about you. It's about Jesus. Yes, let's try to be the best we can, but it's not about us. It's about God. He will bring the harvest.

The obstacles in our lives can seem like thorns and sharp pebbles, but God will bring the harvest.

This is powerfully illustrated by the Lord of the Rings. If you remember the novel or the movie, it follows Frodo the Hobbit - a halfling, three feet tall. Frodo has to take the Ring of Doom to the one place it can be destroyed. He struggles to get up the mountain and Samwise has to carry him the final stretch. Frodo arrives at the ledge where he can throw away the ring. He cannot do it. Samwise pleads, "Please Mister Frodo, throw it in the fire. Just let it go!" Of course he can't. In the end the ring has to be torn from him - along with his ring finger.

Today's parable is like that. God purpose will prevail. One way or another, in spite of obstacles and counter-forces, God's purpose will prevail.

It may take time, but God's purpose will win out. As young priest I was assigned with a pastor about ten years older than me. With us we had a senior priest - a sweetheart of a man. Or so I thought until I rode in a car with him. When a driver got too close, he started to shout and shake his fist. I covered my Roman collar. I had never heard him swear - until that car ride.

Getting back to the rectory, I tell the pastor about the uncontrolled rage. Do we need an intervention? Maybe call the Archbishop?

Relax, he says. This has been going on for a long time. Celebrate his positive qualities - and pray.

God did have his way of working things out. In this case the elderly priest lost his license. As you can imagine, he wasn't happy. It was like Frodo getting the ring torn off. Also like Frodo, after the worst happened he was at peace, deep down relieved.

I know people get discouraged about long time debilities - anger, obsessions, over-indulgences, compulsions, greed, self-pity. Not that we should make peace with our demons. Keep asking for daily grace. At the same time, relax. God's purpose will prevail.

We'll see another aspect next Sunday when Jesus speaks about weeds sown among wheat. Today recall the words of Isaiah: As rain comes down and does not return until making the earth fertile so "my word shall not return to me void but shall do my will."

Relax. Pray. God's purpose will prevail. Amen.


Spanish Version

From Archives (for Fifteenth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):

2014: Life in the Spirit Week 2
2011: To Sow in Trust
2008: Power of the Seed
2005: The Word Embodied in the Church
2002: Relentless Mercy
1999: Abundance vs. Scarcity Mentality
1996: A Sower Went Out to Sow

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