Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
My father and grandfather decided that our family of six needed tomatoes. So, we planted 100 seedlings. They decided that we needed some purple-hull peas. So, we planted three acres of peas. We needed watermelons. Sixty or so we planted. And so on with corn, butter beans, okra, bell peppers, cucumbers, squash. You name it and we had metric tons of it. . .for six of us. We sowed generously and reaped bountifully! My father and grandfather insisted that we weren't going overboard. They insisted that all this planting and weeding and watering and harvesting was absolutely necessary. However, when I went off to college and my younger brother got married – that is, when the unpaid labor got scarce – the gardens and orchards disappeared. Apparently, my brother and I were eating enough homegrown vegetables to feed Grant's Army! Of course, I'm grateful for the time spent bent over a garden hoe. Every preacher needs a story for his homilies. For years, when I was a teenager, my family sowed generously and reaped bountifully! I saw firsthand that nothing grows without a seed being planted. And that seed must die.
Martyrs bear witness to the faith. They plant the seed of truth in the hearts and minds of those to whom they witness. Their deaths for the faith spark that seed. Their blood giving it life and nutrition. But not all martyrs die bloody deaths. The ones we celebrate as saints in the Church did – like St. Lawrence. The vast majority of martyrs – like you and me – probably won't die for the faith even when we die in the faith. Our witness, our martyrdom will be less grand, more ordinary. We seeds of witness we sow are the ordinary seeds of everyday acts of mercy and love. Small handfuls of forgiveness, comfort, kindness. Even tiny little moments of fraternal correction or refusing to deny the truth. Standing up for the faith when doing so imperils friendships or our jobs. Risking social embarrassment or our popularity in the neighborhood. God will take the smallest witness and grow it into a harvest of faith. Think about how you will bear witness out there today. What will you say or do that plants a seed, a seed that could grow into a disciple of Christ? Die to yourself in humility and receive the courage of heart to speak the name of Jesus. Die to yourself in humility and be Christ for another.
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