Rev. John Kha Tran

A little boy went to church with his grandparents. His grandmother sat in the choir. It really disturbed her to see grandfather nod off to sleep every Sunday in the middle of the sermon. Finally, she decided on a plan. She gave her little grandson fifty cents each Sunday morning to poke grandpa in the ribs whenever he fell asleep. This plan worked until Easter Sunday morning. The church was packed. Grandmother was sitting in the choir. She noticed grandfather nodding off. However, Tommy made no effort to wake him. Grandfather even started snoring right there in the crowded Easter service. Still Tommy did nothing. After the service grandmother was quite disturbed. She said, "Tommy what happened? You knew I would pay you fifty cents after the service if you kept grandfather awake." Tommy said, "Yes Grandma”, but grandpa offered me $1.00 if I would let him sleep."

Influenced by capitalism, we all want to make profits. Capitalism is an economic system. Capitalists invest and take ownership of the means of production and distribution privately or corporately. It is driven by profits and free-enterprises. Capitalist is a person who invests capital in business enterprises. When capitalists make their investments, they expect to make profits. We are managing our investments in the same way. We look for a bank that offers higher saving interest rate, or we make investments in corporations that generate better returns to help us become rich. We want to make profits.

The reading from the prophet Isaiah as well as Jesus’ parable seems to suggest that God is also a ‘Capitalist.’ God wants to make profits. The difference, however, is that God wants to make profits to benefit us and others. The world is God’s market in which we part take. God invests his word in us for our future. God’s investment is for our salvation and the salvation of others. The first reading says that just as the rain and snow come down from heaven to water the earth to produce fruit and bread so as the word that goes forth from the mouth of God. God expects his word not to return to him void. Every word that comes from the mouth of God has a purpose and a mission. "My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it." It is clear that God is investing his word in our lives for a purpose. It is important that we know and understand God’s purpose for us.

The Soil for the Word of God

Jesus is telling us what God’s purpose for us is. We are the soil for the word of God to grow and bear fruits. We can make the word of God alive and producing fruits. The fruitful returns will benefit us. To bring fruitful returns, it is important that we are good soil for the word of God.

Jesus explains in the parable of the sower. As a sower, God does not make distinctions between different soils; he simply throws the seed. The word of God is the seed to be sown into our lives. The seed is lavishly sown on different individuals. Some falls upon people who are poor. Others fall upon people who are rich; some falls among the uneducated. Others fall upon people who are well educated. God does not differentiate between rich and poor, learned and unschooled, younger and older people, English and Spanish speaking people, Arabians and Asians. Anyone can be good soil or bad soil for the word of God. God invests his words in everybody. God wants to address all without discrimination. The path, the rocky ground, the thorns, the good soil are you and me and everyone in the world. We can make ourselves one of these. We can choose to be a good soil or a rocky one. We can choose to be a soil full of thorns or a hard path. It is not the conditions of life, but the attitude we receive the word of God and apply it to our lives reflects what kind of soil we are.

God sows the seeds on the life of different peoples. And His expectation is clear. The emphasis is on our responsibility to be the good soil. The seed of the word of God can develop its potentialities only if it falls on favorable ground. In other words, the word of God can only take root and produce fruits a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold when we wholeheartedly embrace it and attend to it. We can make ourselves a favorable ground for the words of God. When we do not give the word of God wholeheartedly, we do not provide it the opportunity to grow; we allow it to disappear or taken away. Our worldly concerns are the thorns that choke the seed. Our habitual sinful activities and vices are the rocks that prevent the word of God to take root in our lives. Our indifferent attitude toward the word of God is the path that does not welcome the word of God wholeheartedly.

Cultivate the Soil

When he was still president, trying to secure the stock market and seeking to bolster sagging public confidence in scandal-rocked corporate America, George W. Bush spoke sternly to business leaders, calling on them to adopt higher ethical standards and proposing stiffer criminal penalties for executives who commit fraud. He outlined a series of steps that he said are needed to restore trust in the private sector. He wanted to make the Wall Street a good soil for investors. The President said, “We need men and women of character, who know the difference between ambition and destructive greed, between justified risk and irresponsibility, between enterprise and fraud . . . Our schools of business must be principled teachers of right and wrong, and not surrender to moral confusion and relativism.” This is the effort to cultivate the good soil of economy for our investments.

To make the Catholic Church in the United States a better soil, several years ago, the U. S. Catholic Bishops met in Dallas and developed a policy of zero tolerance to any priest who sexually abused minors.

We can make our life to be good soil for God to invest his word. We can take away the rocks of sin, the thorns of worldly concerns from our lives. We can prepare our hearts to be receptive to the word of God. We can cultivate our life for God’s word to bear fruit to a hundred, sixty and thirtyfold by being a good soil. This is the opportunity to exercise our power of choice. We can choose to be a good soil for the word of God. When we choose to be good soil for the word of God to produce fruits, the return will benefit us in God’s Kingdom.

Returns for Our Investments

A rich man had a dream in which he died and went to heaven. St. Peter escorted him down a lovely street on which each house was magnificent. The rich man saw one house that was particularly beautiful. "That," said Peter "is the house of one of your servant."

"Well," said the man, smiling, "if my servant has a building like that, then I'm really looking forward to seeing my own magnificent mansion."

Soon they came to a very small street where the houses were tiny. "You will live in that hut," said St. Peter, pointing his finger.

"Me, live in that hovel!" roared the man in great anger.

"This is the best we can do for you," explained St. Peter. "You must understand that we only build your home up here with the material you send ahead while you are still on earth"(McArdle, Jack, 150 More Stories for Preachers and Teachers, # 9).