Today we celebrate the grandparents of Jesus, the parents of the Blessed Mother. It’s a chance for us to think about the importance of grandparents in passing along the faith, in showing examples to their grandkids, telling stories of the faith. There’s an association out there called the Catholic Grandparents Association. It helps grandparents in this important endeavor.
Today is the feast of St. James. One of the biggest and most important pilgrimages takes place in honor of today’s saint every year, the Camino de Santiago (the way of St James). We pray for the pilgrims. His remains were discovered in Compestella in the ninth century, where he had brought the message of Jesus during his life. A large church was constructed on the site, and that is the ending point of this ancient pilgrimage. We are a people who, like St James and the millions and millions of pilgrims who have made the camino over the years know this: we believe that if we want to grow closer to God and bring his message to the world, we must move our feet….not just our hearts or spirits.
“You too left Egypt, at baptism!” St Augustine said those words years ago. In baptism, we leave the shackles of original sin behind and enter the promised land of the church just as our ancestors in faith left the land of Egypt, as we hear about in our first reading today. Praise God!!
Today our readings invite us to wake up and look out. In our collect at Holy Mass, we prayed that we might be “watchful.” It is a good thing to be, watchful. And there are two big reasons we must be watchful. First, to watch out for the devil. Second, to watch out for God.
First, the devil. The Lord Jesus talks about a plot of land that has wheat in it. Into this beautiful land of wheat, an enemy comes, and this guy is up to no good. He comes to plant weeds among the wheat. It is while everyone was sleeping: “While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.”
My friends, the devil works this way. He comes when we are sleeping to destroy all the good things that we have going on. He wants to plant his weeds in your houses. In your families. In our hearts. In our city. In our parish. In our diocese. When we are tired, or confused, or stressed, or bored, or just plain blah….the devil comes in those moments. We had better be watchful lest he get away with it. Thing of it is, I think there are a lot of Catholics who are pretty content to let the devil do what he wants, who don’t really care too much when he enters. Because we underestimate just how bad his weeds are. Make no mistake: those weeds cause more destruction than we could possibly imagine. Let’s not let them come up on our watch.
We must also be watchful because we don’t want to miss God. All of our readings are about hidden things, small things, seemingly insignificant things. Consider our scriptures today:
- The kingdom of God, Jesus says, is like a tiny mustard seed. It is hard to see at first, but capable of producing something wonderful.
- The kingdom of God is like a little yeast, hard to see but without it there’d be no leaven. Again, a small, seemingly insignificant thing, hard to see, but important and necessary.
- The kingdom of God is like a field of wheat and weeds, and the reality is that you can’t always tell them apart. Zizania–the weed discussed here–looks exactly like wheat in the early stages of life. You can’t tell them apart
- God, says our first reading, is all powerful, mighty…but he hides his greatness in clemency and kindness.
- And then there are the longings that St Paul talks about in our second reading. Invisible things, but powerful. Just the other day a woman came and told me God planted a desire in her heart to reconnect with someone she hadn’t spoken to in 5 years. It started with a longing–a longing you can’t see or even put words to. Our innermost longings, desires, thoughts….they matter to God.
Point is this. Sometimes the most powerful things–and the stuff of the very kingdom of God itself–are those things that are hidden, small, seemingly unimportant. Sometimes they are invisible. We have to be watchful to see it all and to see and worship God in it.
A last thought. Those weeds. They seem to have no value, but to one who is watchful, there is value even there. Jesus says the weeds are to be used for burning. Everything has a purpose for Jesus. I’m reminded of Fr. Charlie, my childhood priest. He said he thought he was the weed of the priesthood. The rest were holier, smarter. But that weed, he was Jesus to me. He changed my life, that man who thought he was a weed. There is beauty even in our own weedines, even in the weediness of others. I hope we are watchful to see it.
May be always be watchful!
We continue to consider the power of the Precious Blood of Jesus, as we do throughout the month of July. Our readings today help us. In our first reading from Exodus, we hear how the Lord ordered Moses and Aaron to instruct the faithful in the land of Egypt to get a lamb and sprinkle some of its blood on the doorposts and the lintel of every house. God says he will come by and wipe out everything in Egypt, except the houses marked by blood. Those folks, they will have life. We who have the Precious Blood of Jesus, we who are marked with that, in a similar way have life….have salvation. We have been saved by that blood. We pray that blood will cover the whole world, that is, that all might come to believe. Ephesians says, “You who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” His blood has that power.
Today we celebrate St. Lawrence of Brindisi, a 16th/17th century saint. He spoke many languages and by the time he was my age, 31, he was papal emissary and peacemaker. He brought many people to the Lord. He wanted to blood of Jesus on everyone. I read this quote the other day from Nelson Mandela that I think applies to him well: “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
Our psalm today says: “I am sunk in the abysmal swamp where there is no foothold; I have reached the watery depths; the flood overwhelms me.” From time to time we find ourselves in a swanp, sinking and driven down by stress or overwhelmed by troubles. But God reaches out to us and saves us. He reached out and saved Moses in our first reading, for example. He will do so for us. Jesus talks about his mighty works and says he is amazed how many of them he has done that have gone unnoticed or unthanked. It’s true! His nightly works, they are crazy and beautiful. And of course the greasiest of his works is his gift of salvation, how we reached down to us and brings us up. We would sink down to the netherworld, every one of us, were it not for our savior.