12 July, 2008

What kind of soil?

I normally visit Mass on Sunday mornings, but my desire to visit confession impelled me to arrive before the vigil mass this evening. The sun baked the asphalt today, making it a relief to stand quietly in the shadows of the air-conditioned church and wait my turn.

Well, almost. The number of penitents on a midsummer's Saturday evening exceeded my calculations, and not only mine. When the onset of Mass compelled the priest to step out of the room and apologize to those remaining, a Dominican sister was the one person in line before me. That mitigated my disappointment at being the last in line.

I stayed for Mass. Our usual pastor is on vacation, and today we had a priest from the west African nation of Ghana. Given what I've read about the Church in Africa, I wasn't very surprised that he broke out into song twice during the homily:

  • once with a hymn I didn't recognize, and
  • the second time with the psalm responsorial, The Lord hears the cry of the poor; blessed be the Lord!
I happen to like very much the musical setting that he chose, and he endeared himself to me no less by singing the original version of the responsorial. (That is, the version we sang before the vertically inclusive language police got to it).

He also broke out into song during the consecration of the Eucharist. Each time he raise one of the consecrated elements aloft, he sang,
Lord, I adore you,
fall down before you,
Jesus, I love you.
I think he wanted us to join him in singing, but that was impossible. We're a proper, mostly white American parish. We won't sing our own hymns, let alone his.

All that aside, today's Gospel was Jesus' parable about the farmer who casts his seeds on different types of soil. The priest asked us something to this effect, Look at the fruit that comes from your life: has the Word of God fallen on dry soil, rocky soil, or fertile soil?

I'd really rather not answer that question on a day when I came to confession and the priest didn't have time for me. Actually, I'm not sure there's a single day of my life when I'd ever be happy to answer it. There's another Gospel passage where Jesus says, When you have done all you have been commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'

Ironically, the question is pertinent to the Sacrament of Penance. What to say? Mine, O Thou Lord of life, send my roots rain.

His homily will sit with me for a while. I wish he hadn't asked that question, yet I'm glad he did.

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