15th Sunday in Ordinary Time | July 12, 2020

A headline from The Catholic Worker printed publication.

Peter Maurin, a founder of the Catholic Worker along with Dorothy Day, is remembered for his words. As a young man, he was a teacher. Into adulthood, he shared his voice with anyone who would listen. In doing so, he asked people to reconsider the structure of our societies. He challenged them to analyze their reflection, both individually and collectively, and ask if they can love more faithfully.

Now, Maurin is upheld as a person of faith and commitment to realizing the kingdom of God through both his words and his works. Maurin firmly believed in returning to the land and to its work, and in building houses of hospitality that meet peoples’ immediate needs. He was also persistent in the idea of roundtable discussions. As he is noted to have said,

“The future will be different if we make the present different.”

To build a future for everyone, people must use each moment to act as though what Christianity professes is true — that there is dignity to each life, and we play a role in bringing each life to fulfillment.

This kind of change begins internally. It has as much to do with us as individuals as it does with uplifting the most vulnerable among us. And so it must begin with encounter and conversation and the sharing of wisdom, because people are made new both through listening to words and creating them. In our fraught times that seek a path forward, dialogue grounded in the assumption of good will is invaluable.

Conversion of the heart also takes place in prayer. Speaking with God is not a means of changing God’s mind or getting our own way. It is time spent conforming ourselves to God and asking that our minds and hearts be made like the mind and heart of Christ. The back and forth of prayer is perpetual conversion or turning toward God. This week’s readings center on this kind of metanoia, and they remind us of the transformative power of God’s Word.

In our first reading from Isaiah, rain and snow from the heavens are described as missionary. They “come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful.” They are sent to fulfill their purpose, namely to give life. In a sense, one might read this as a model of discipleship. I am reminded of the conclusion of Matthew, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:19-10). Following his Resurrection, Jesus sends forth those who have been changed by knowing him, listening to him, and loving him. They are tasked with sharing not so much what they have learned, but who they have met. Isaiah foreshadows this as the first reading continues: “So shall be my word,” says the Lord. It, too, is sent from God with intention. The Word is indeed the Son, and his end lies in doing the will of the Father.

The Psalm and the Gospel passage also rely on imagery of Creation and humanity’s relationship with the land. Matthew’s Gospel asks us to identify with the seeds of the sower, wondering where we ourselves have been planted. Like the challenge of Maurin, we are challenged to reflect on our lives with honesty. Where do we find ourselves? Have we fallen on the path or do we lie on rocky ground? Or are we scattered among the thorns? At the very least, we can conclude that God desires us to be rooted in rich soil. God chooses life for each one of us, and it is a choice that we are always freely given.

Dorothy Day is remembered as saying,

“The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?”

If the words or even silence that we share with Christ changes us, and we believe it does, then we have some sense of the work associated with the growing pains ahead of us. St. Paul’s letter to the Romans beautifully describes the anticipation of this change when he writes, “For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God.” The world lies “in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption,” and is itself “groaning in labor pains.” The hope described is literally for that of life itself.

May our work toward new life in Christ be filled with joy and hope, and may we be hospitable to a change that draws us ever closer to the image of the one who first loved us.

Meg Costantini