Some Thoughts on the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Those of you who are regular readers of my blog might notice that the title of this article is “Some Thoughts on the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A” as compared to the normal title including the word “homily.”  That’s because I’m not preaching this weekend.  We have a visiting priest from the Archdiocese of Tamale in Ghana seeking support for ministries in his diocese.

While I am not preaching this weekend, and, in fact, am away for a mini-vacation that doesn’t mean I haven’t spent time reflecting on the readings.  It is the Word of God and it deserves regular attention for as we hear in the first reading, “my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”  So, even when I am not preaching, I still spend some time (albeit not as much as when I preach) reflecting on the readings for my own spiritual growth.  It also helps me keep my thoughts from the readings continuous from week to week.

Today’s gospel tells the familiar Parable of the Sower and includes Jesus’ explanation of the parable and why he speaks in parables.  Jesus refers to a prophecy delivered by Isaiah

You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see.  Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them.

It is not enough just to hear God’s Word nor it is it enough to say we have seen (read) it.  We need to hear God’s Word at Mass with open ears.  We need to read it with an open heart.  Only then we open ourselves to the fullness of grace in the Bible.

Here I want to turn to a concept presented in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and used in numerous writings since.  The concept I speak of is “active participation.”

When many people hear “active participation”, they think of how, before the Second Vatican Council, the priest did more of the Mass himself but that “active participation” calls people to be lectors and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.  The participation of the laity has indeed increased since the council but we should realize that even before the council, the laity were involved in the roles of altar servers, musicians, and ushers at Mass.

It is good to have the laity more involved in Mass, while maintaining the priest’s role as unique, but “active participation” is not just about serving in a role “up front.”  Everyone is called to “active participation” in the Mass.  Here active refers to attentively listening to the words that are spoken at Mass and opening our hearts and souls to know how we are called live out our faith.

How often might we be at Mass but not doing our best to pay attention to what is going on?  Some of you might be old enough to remember the days when Mass was in Latin and, while the priest said Mass, many people would be praying the rosary during Mass.  Now, the rosary is certainly an important devotion of the Church but it should not pull away our attention from what is going on in the Mass.  When the Mass was in Latin, many people couldn’t follow along, so they prayed the rosary.  With Mass now in the vernacular (local language) we can understand the words and so we need to pray attention to what is going on in the Mass. So, one should not be praying the rosary during Mass.

During the Year of the Eucharist in our diocese, I encourage you to think about your attentiveness at Mass.  During this year we are called to come to a deeper understanding of the Eucharist and Mass so that we have a deeper appreciation of what it means for us and receive the graces offered.  I hope to help you develop your understanding through homilies and presentations throughout this year.


Fr. Jeff


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