Sunday, July 13, 2008

What Causes You To Delete the Truth From Your Computer?

(Fifteenth Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on July 13, 2008 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read Matthew 13: 1-23.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Fifteenth Sunday 2008]

Jesus was born into an agricultural society, so it’s not surprising that he used a story about the sowing of seed to teach the people of his time some important truths about God’s word. It made perfect sense.

Our society, of course, is much more technological than it is agricultural. And so I wonder: If the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity—the Eternal Word of God—had chosen to enter our world in the 21st century as opposed to the 1st, what modern analogy would he use to make his point?

I thought about that recently and the word that came to mind was “COMPUTERS”! If Jesus were to give this same teaching today in our western, industrialized culture, I think he might choose to use computers rather than seeds to put forth his message. And that’s fitting, because our minds are often compared to computers: our minds have memory and computers have memory; our minds process information and computers process information.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus challenged people to think about the many realities that could keep them from embracing and living the truth. To make the same point using computers, I think Jesus would ask us the question: What causes you to delete the truth from your operating system? What causes you to delete the truth from your inner computer?

Jesus presumes here—as he does in the parable—that we’ve heard the truth at least to some extent. And we all have: “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart and soul and mind and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself”; “Forgive as you have been forgiven”; “Be holy as the Lord your God is holy”—these are things we’ve all heard before. Many times. They’re just a few of the many teachings of God’s holy word. You can find the rest of them outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

But the parable of the sower emphasizes the fact that HEARING these truths is not sufficient! Hearing them is one thing; living them consistently and perseveringly is something else.

Obviously the latter is what we should be striving for.

In the parable, Jesus mentions 3 situations where people hear the word, but don’t allow it to affect their lives in a lasting way.

He first mentions the seed that falls on the footpath and is immediately eaten up by the birds. He says that this is the person who hears the word, but then has it stolen away from his mind and heart by Satan.

Using the computer analogy, this is like allowing the devil to sit at your computer terminal and delete the truths of God’s word from your operating system.

And that can very easily happen; although Satan usually doesn’t do this directly. He normally deletes these truths with the help of other people. Sad to say, these “deleters” can even be friends and members of our families. Satan really doesn’t care; he’ll use anybody who will cooperate with him.

This, incidentally, is one of the reasons why we’ve told the teenagers who are coming to Steubenville East next weekend to leave their cell phones at home! They will be hearing the truths of God’s word proclaimed to them next Friday, Saturday and Sunday through the talks and through the music, and we don’t want those truths “deleted from their computers” (so to speak) by people they might talk to on the phone back home. I’m speaking here specifically about those who aren’t happy that they’re on the retreat—people who will say to them things like, “What did you go to that stupid conference for?” “You don’t know what fun you’re missing back here!” “Have they brainwashed you yet?” “What are you gonna be now, a religious fanatic?”

If he can, Satan will use even our close friends to try to get us to delete the word of God from our hearts. And how do I know that? Because he tried to destroy Jesus in the same way through his good friend, Simon Peter!

Satan is shameless; he’ll use anyone he can, even our best friend in the world!

The seed that fell on the rocky ground, sprouted quickly and then was scorched, represents those who give up the practice of their faith because of some trial and/or persecution. I suppose you could say that this is like the person who’s been sitting at his computer for hours trying to learn a new program without any success—and the temptation finally comes to delete the whole thing from his system!

That, of course, isn’t the answer—and neither is giving up on God in the midst of suffering and persecution. When you have trouble operating a computer program, the best way to handle it is to find someone who can give you good advice and get you through the glitches. (Deacon Fran is always a big help to me, since he builds computers for a living!)

Similarly, when we’re tempted to give up on our faith because we’re having difficulty coping with the death of a loved one or some other tragedy—or because we’re being persecuted at work or at home for what we believe—part of the answer is to get some good counsel.

As I said earlier, Satan can work negatively through other people to undermine our faith, but God can work even more powerfully through other people to strengthen our faith—if we seek those people out.

We’re told that the seed among the thorns represents those who allow “worldly anxiety and the lure of riches” to choke off God’s word and keep it from bearing fruit in their lives.

Going back to the computer analogy, this led me to think of the internet. As we all know, the internet is a great blessing and a great curse at the same time. There are lots of good web sites out there, with all kinds of great and helpful pieces of information; but there are also lots of very bad sites out there that can lead us into serious sin. To the extent that we access those sites—in other words, to the extent that we buy into the hedonistic messages of our culture—we give in to what Jesus called “worldly anxiety,” and we delete the word of God from our computer.

His remark about the “lure of riches” got me thinking about those who shop and gamble on line excessively. They symbolize all those possessed by the spirit of greed and materialism, who delete God’s message of charity from their computers in the midst of their selfishness.

But the good news is that none of these things has to happen! We don’t have to become like the seed that falls on the footpath, or the rocky ground, or among the thorns. We don’t have to give in to the many temptations of the culture we live in. That’s why Jesus ends this parable by speaking of the seed that falls on good soil and produces a superabundance of good fruit.

These are the faithful souls who receive the word of God into their computers and then do their best to resist the temptation to hit the delete button!

If you want to be one of those souls (and I hope you do!), I invite you to pray this short prayer for yourself in silence, as I pray it for myself out loud:

Dear Lord, fill my computer—the computer of my mind and heart—with the right data (the data of your word!), prevent me from ever deleting it, and help me to use it in every circumstance of my life—for your honor and glory and for the salvation of many souls (including the soul of the computer operator—me!).