July 23, 2023

As we celebrate the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time this weekend, we continue our reading of the Gospel of St. Matthew in our Sunday Gospel readings. Last week, we began Jesus’ discourse of parables, and we heard the parable of the Sower and the Seed. This week, we hear three more parables describing the Kingdom of Heaven. Since the Kingdom of Heaven is a mystery so multi-faceted that there is always more to understand, Jesus presents three parables that offer sketches of God’s Kingdom. The parables do not give a definition, but present images or pictures that are windows into the mystery of the Kingdom. Three parables – the field with wheat and weeds, the mustard seed, and yeast – invite us to consider different dimensions of the Kingdom.

“The mission of the pastors is to help the flock entrusted to them, that it be always out-going, on the move to proclaim the joy of the Gospel.”

Pope Francis

With the recent addition of Father Benzes and Father Ramon on our parish staff, as well as other staff changes, this is a time of significant adjustments for all of us. I am sure that each of us has, at some point, experienced either a change of jobs or changes within our workplace. The tricky part is recognizing that physically arriving and moving in is only the first step in making a good transition. Learning a new routine, meeting key people, learning the history of the situation and emotionally leaving the previous position are all crucial and necessary steps that take time.

An image that I have found helpful in working through the changes that we all face is that of a transplanted evergreen. When the tree is to be transplanted from one place to another, it is first dug up. Even though we try to preserve as much of the root ball as possible, many roots are severed as the tree is removed from its previous location. Then we prepare the new place, digging an adequate hole and providing good and loose soil as well as plenty of water. In spite of all of our good efforts, the tree normally goes into shock. New growth buds often fall off as the tree directs all of its energy into establishing new roots in the new location. The tree just seems to sit there while all of the activity is taking place underground. Little growth is observed above the surface. All during that first season, new roots break out of the root ball and search for nutrition. The tree is trying desperately to survive the shock of being transplanted.

When my family moved to our new home in Winfield, my dad transplanted several evergreen trees around the yard. While the trees were symmetrical, I noticed several years later that each one had a gap in its growth pattern. Since the new branch buds fell off when they were transplanted, there was a noticeable gap in the symmetry of each tree that marked the year that it was transplanted. All of the growth energy during the transplant year went toward reestablishing the roots. Noticing this taught me to be patient with those times when I was “transplanted” from one location to the next. Even though I may not have seen growth above the surface, my roots were stretching out to connect with new sources of life and nourishment. Generally, it took a whole year in a new place before I was able to “feel at home.” As much as I wanted to rush that process, it took time for the severed roots to reconnect before I could see growth take place above the surface.

I share this with you at this time in the hopes of inviting all of us to be patient with the changes that we experience, not only here, but in all areas of our lives. Adjustments take time. Growth may not be immediately apparent. Roots need to be reestablished. And as much as we would like to rush the process, we simply cannot. Maybe recognizing that we are all facing changes to one degree or another is the best way to patiently work through this time of change in our parish staff. Remember the transplanted evergreen! 

The extra space around us at weekend Mass reminds us that many are away on vacation. We remember in our prayer all those who are traveling. And we thank God for the good weather we experienced this past week. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.

– Father Jim Murphy