15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Liberty, Freedom and 'Good Ground'

This weekend, we in the United States are celebrating the birth of our nation. We not only recall the courage and heroism of ordinary citizens as they struggled to fashion a new nation built on the idea of freedom and liberty, but we also recognize, very deeply, that the violence that marked our American Revolution has not gone away.

We live in a world of violence - violence which touches every facet of our lives - violence which takes many forms.

We continue to deal with the fallout of unfamiliar, uncertain economic phenomena, widespread unemployment and worldwide suffering and death due to uncontrollable pandemic. Daily, we are confronted with a systemic racism that tears the very fabric of our society and which is not limited to one country or one moment in time. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to drastically change the way we live our lives in relation to others: from the way we socialize, to the way we worship together... even to the way we shop for necessities.

The lesson here is discouraging and we find ourselves at a crossroad – how we view liberty and freedom determines which path we choose to take.  We cannot afford to be paralyzed by ignorance — nor emboldened by an arrogance to do stupid things.    It’s a tall order.

Liberty... Freedom... Contrary to mainstream belief, Freedom does not mean “to do what I want when I want.” Freedom is not the ability to self-determine one's own identity. Our freedom, our liberty can never be subjective; it can never be "what pleases me," but is always linked to God the Creator, and to others. All liberty, all freedom is tied to responsibility. And this responsibility is to acknowledge that God is the giver of life, and thus one’s thoughts, actions and choices are informed by the relationship one has with Him.

Choices that show love for others — especially those who are most vulnerable — are instances of real freedom. We catholics have to seriously examine this aspect of our faith in ways we have never done before.

The point of the parable of the seeds is obviously "good ground." We have to be receptive to the Gospel in order for it to produce the good fruit of holiness and happiness that God intends. But what does that really mean?

Listening to the Word of God can and should be paramount for us. That means that we are "listening in faith" - ...preparing "good ground." But it is not just a matter of hearing sounds or reading words. It is not just a matter of human wisdom and understanding - we must allow the Spirit within us to take what the living God is saying and put it into action.

So, being "good ground" really means being open to and aware of the presence of God around us. It means being able to tune out the distractions. It means letting go of so many of the thoughts and cares that seem so important - and it means making room for the “seed” which is the power and love of God. Once we have received this seed, we must protect it, nourish it and cultivate it.

Most importantly, it means that we really do need to think about God, about the earth, the church and about the world in an evolutionary way. This is only way that we can truly be free.

The reopening of our churches for Sunday Mass can be a turning point for us. It should force us to see that “being church” does not just mean “going to church.” And it should help us to understand more fully that “becoming Eucharist for others” is just as important as “receiving the Eucharist."  Church buildings may have been closed, but  "church" has always remained alive.

“Seed” and “good ground” are powerful images of what freedom looks like to Jesus. For Matthew, being “good ground” is a gift that builds faith; but there is no genuine faith unless it is translated into decisive action. We have to ask, then, what happens to this gift? Does it come to maturity and bear fruit? Does it enrich and change our lives and the world we live in? Where are the signs of a rich harvest?

I guess it all depends on what we do with the good ground.