Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sermon - June 14 (8 AM)

Lead me Lord,
In the paths of peacefulness
In the roads of righteousness
in the ways of willingness.
Lead me Lord,
Down the tracks of thoughtfulness
In the streets of sensitiveness
By the journey of joyfulness.
Lead me Lord, today. Amen. (David Adam)

Today we begin a summer journey together, a journey through the parables of Jesus.

Parables are rooted in the images of everyday life but as the author and priest John R. Donahue puts it, a parable is “where the ordinary has gone askew and thereby shocks us into realizing that the parable leads us into another way of thinking about life.”

Thus parables are open ended, with layers to their meaning, they are not so simple. That is why the disciples often asked Jesus to explain his parables. If Jesus had wanted to, he could have given a simple story or command like “love one another” as he did elsewhere. But to the crowd and his disciples he often spoke in parables, to leads us into another way of thinking about…

What is the Kingdom of God like?

· A sower sewing seed - the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how; but harvest!

· A mustard seed – the smallest of seeds – after its sown, it grows & becomes the greatest of all shrubs

The kingdom of God is tiny, almost insignificant and then like a seed it is planted and it grows…
In the competitive world of big-time college basketball, she is a perfect 77-0. No, she's not a sharpshooting guard or ball-hawking forward or a creative, inspiring coach.

She's a five-foot-four, white-haired, 77-year-old nun. And since she became academic advisor to the Xavier University men's basketball team in 1985, every senior who has played basketball for Xavier has left the Cincinnati school with his diploma.

What Sister Rose Ann Fleming has accomplished is remarkable, given that the average graduate rate among men's college basketball players hovers around 60 percent. She oversees two other full-time advisers and two volunteers who help her track Xavier's 271 athletes in 17 sports.

Sister Rose Ann makes her presence known. She is one of the first people all Xavier athletes meet when they come to campus for the first time. She has the ear of faculty members and the cellphone numbers of every athlete. She is not afraid to rap on dormitory doors or call players before dawn to ask about missed classes or late assignments. She deals one-on-one with every Xavier student athlete and coach. She has even stood up to the coach to pull a player who is struggling academically out of practice.

"In getting to know athletes, I realized that many of them had no structure in their lives beyond the sport. They had knowledge of when to go to practices, workouts, and all the things that make athletes strong, but I knew I needed to help them understand the importance of academics and the opportunity they have here . . . They have extraordinary talent and they are also students. They have academic talent as well as athletic talent. My job is to make sure they don't waste their opportunities to get their degree."

Her belief is that if students are focused enough to harness their talent into becoming Division I athletes, they certainly have the capacity to learn. But people learn differently, Sister Rose Ann says. “There are different channels to learning. And I see my job as finding the best possible one.”

Her greatest reward comes when Sister Rose Ann sees "our student-athletes walk across the stage to receive their degree . . . I know how hard they've worked and struggled to get to that point. I've also seen the daily victories of them sitting down and writing a paper that's been hard for them. That's always very rewarding, too." [The New York Times, March 15, 2015; ABC News, March 20, 2010; The Catholic Telegraph, August 5, 2014.]
Sister Rose Ann models the two parables in today's Gospel: Her work is like that of the farmer, who plants and nurtures the "seeds" of wisdom and encouragement that enable the students entrusted to her to complete their degrees; and Sister Rose Ann possesses the faith of the mustard seed: the conviction that, in the smallest acts of compassion and generosity, the most barren stretches of our lives can be transformed into surprising bounties of hope and fulfillment.

We may have no idea or expectation of a harvest; nurturing what we have planted may be a frustrating and seemingly futile undertaking, but in doing for others, in seeking what is good and just, we realize the Kingdom of God is in our midst.

Our journey with the parables begin today.

What are the parables saying to you about your life? Amen.

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