Last Sunday after touring Mammoth Cave we were watching a documentary about Christ.  The host was the actor David Suchet who played Hercule Poirot in the mystery series of the same name.  He was standing in front of a cliff-face wall of empty carved pagan idol niches near Caesarea Philippi (the same place that Fr. Barron used in His Catholicism Series) where it is said Jesus asked His disciples the question ‘But who do you say that I am?[1] There in front of a pantheistic worship place Jesus poses a fundamental question to His closest followers ‘But who do you say that I am?[2]

Earlier, I had read two articles; one was a news article on the quiet tsunami of changing moral values over the past 20-30 years in the United States. The other was from Rome about a group of Catholic Bishops and other ‘intelligencia’ meeting at a private seminar headed by Reinhard Cardinal Marx, president of the German Bishop’s conference, to discuss ‘developing the Church’s teaching on human sexuality based on a ‘theology of love’’[3] as an alternative to Pope St. John Paul the Great’s ‘theology of the body’. These were very worrisome articles to me.

As David Suchet was discussing the events that happened there in front of those pagan idol niches something of an awakening came to me.  These changes of moral acceptance and the organized discussions to create within the church a new point of view towards some of them, that I read about earlier, forces each of us (those reading about them and those participating) to answer the same question that Christ asked His disciples in Caesarea Philippi – ‘But who do you say that I am?[4]

Standing near the pagan idols in Caesarea Philippi Peter spoke with clarity and chose Christ.  That is what each of us is called to do. That is what those attendees in Rome are called to do, and that is what I think they are trying to do.

But what really hit me watching the documentary was the realization that I needed to review my own actions and thoughts. That before I try to remove the splinter from their eyes I have to take the plank out of mine – by understanding how I am answering Christ’s question ‘But who do you say that I am?[5] I am nervous about the reports that have surfaced from last year’s extraordinary synod on the family. I am really nervous about the statements from the German Bishops Conference this year.  I am very nervous about this meeting of progressive intellectual elites.  And I have every right to be nervous.  But I should be most nervous about how I answer Christ. Do my words match my actions?  Do I look straight into Christ’s eyes and answer as Peter did; or do I look past Christ as I answer and stare at those idols sitting the niches behind Him?

Do I rest my eyes on a cross or a niche?


[1] Mt 16:15 (RSV)
[2] ibid
[3] http://www.churchmilitant and other reports
[4] Mt 16:15 (RSV)
[5] ibid



We have moved into the next phase of our liturgical year – Green is back.  The liturgical year is half over and we have celebrated the major feast seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter – now we look to how to improve ourselves as disciples.  We start to learn how to bring understanding to those who don’t know what these great celebrations mean to us.   Today[1], Christ gives us a lesson in how God works His salvation and what part we play in His workings.

The parable of the sower and seed highlights three important lessons.

We shouldn’t think great things are expected from us – at least as far as the world sees great things.
The parable describes the actions of the sower as just sowing the seed.  God does the rest.  But Christ is making the point that that it is by our small part, our little actions, that great things happen. We sow – God does the rest. We witness – God does the convincing. We proclaim – God moves hearts. We introduce – God makes friends.  But as small as these actions are (as compared to God’s part) we need to know that our part is important. To think that for our actions to be important they should be great, awesome and grandiose is the work of pride, the manipulations of Satan. After all, there is nothing greater than love and love comes in small actions as well as large.

Today, Christ teaches us that it is by small actions that great things grow.  God’s action of love fertilizes and nourishes our seemingly small actions and they become large and bear fruit. Christ’s great action of climbing onto the cross began with a commonplace birth in a small town among farm animals.  And that birth was enabled by a small yes from an unknown maiden. Think back in your lives – how many times have you mentioned an impactful moment to the one who impacted you and they were surprised – little to them monumental to you.

Our small actions should be a constant and important part of our lives.
God expects us to be farmers/sowers all the time.  What isn’t as obvious in the parable to we who live in suburbia but was to those Christ told the parable to was the constant effort needed by the sower. Ask any farmer what is entailed in raising crops.  The sowing, the weeding, the fertilizing and so forth.  God, is growing the seed but we are to tend the field – our actions of discipleship are constant. Rarely does someone introduce two people to each other and then just walk away. Rarely do we give someone a new way of looking at something and then just drop it – let them digest this new viewpoint on their own.  We need to tend to God’s field.

We should be aware of the help we receive from God in our small actions.
The parable also assures us that though it might not seem like it God is working with the seeds we have sown.  We can feel comfortable that our seemingly small actions, if done within the Love who is God, will grow to greatness as the mustard seed. And most importantly we need to remember that we are seeds ourselves – God is working with and in us. We are not alone and we are not left to our own devices – God is there.  This is important for us, the sowers of today – it doesn’t depend only on us. Don’t let doubt, despair, desperation and frustration take over – if we have sowed with God’s love then we have done our part. Pope Benedict XVI addressed this in his first encyclical. These words I return to whenever I am tempted with doubt, despair, desperation and frustration over my part in His plan:

There are times when the burden of need and our own limitations might tempt us to become discouraged. But precisely then we are helped by the knowledge that, in the end, we are only instruments in the Lord’s hands; and this knowledge frees us from the presumption of thinking that we alone are personally responsible for building a better world. In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength. To do all we can with what strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: “The love of Christ urges us on” (2 Cor 5:14).[2]

Brothers and sisters, let’s start to look at how we are as sowers.

  • Do we not sow at all and just rely on God to do everything?
  • Do we grudgingly sow a few seeds and then leave it up to God?
  • Do we sow seeds and get frustrated at the pace of growth?
  • Or do we sow with vigor, work with constancy, and rejoice in our participation with God in His field?

There is only one of those that brings God’s kingdom among us.  The rest of our schooling in discipleship depends on this choice.  Pray for the grace to allow the lesson of this parable to sink deep into your heart. Pray for the acceptance of our small part in God’s plan. Pray for the strength to resist the frustrations that can erode our actions. Pray and work for God’s glory.  Pray and work to help those are lost. Prayer and action.  St Augustine summed up this parable in one sentence “Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you.[3]


[1] Mk 4:26-34
[2] Deus Caritas Est – Pope Benedict XVI #35
[3] CCC2834 (quoting St. Ignatius of Loyola)