In today’s Gospel, Jesus told two parables about what the kingdom of God is like.
The two parables used seeds to illustrate the growth of the kingdom of God. We may be able to understand that the seeds sown in the ground will begin to germinate and grow to produce a harvest, or grow into a tree that gives shade and shelter. Yes, we may be able to understand that. Yet, we may not fully comprehend the mystery of growth and change.
It is not just about growth and change in seeds. It is also about growth and change in the kingdom of God.
Since the day we were born, the seeds of the kingdom of God were sown in us. These are the seeds of love that help us grow into the image and likeness of God in whom we are created. But along with these seeds of love are also weeds of sin that are sown by the evil one. These weeds will try to choke the seeds of love, so that there is not only no growth, but also to cause the seeds of love to wither and die.
So every choice and every decision we make will determine whether we grow or we choke.
And every choice and every decision is one small step towards developing a habit that is either growing or choking. We can’t deny that one strong influence in our lives, besides our mothers, is our fathers. Yes, our fathers are indeed a strong influence and they sow tough seeds in us.
And today, we also celebrate Father’s Day, so let me share with you two stories.
World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific. One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top up his fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet. As he was returning to the mother ship he saw something that turned his blood cold: a squadron of Japanese bombers and fighters was speeding its way toward the American fleet.
All the American fighters were gone on mission, and the fleet was totally defenseless. He couldn't reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger. There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet. Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dived into the formation of the Japanese planes.
So he charged in with guns blazing, attacking the surprised enemy planes. Butch weaved in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent. In desperation he even dived at the enemy planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible and rendering them unfit to fly.
Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction. Deeply relieved, Butch O'Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier.
Upon arrival, he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch's daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had, in fact, destroyed five enemy aircraft.
This took place on February 20, 1942, and for that action Butch became the first Naval Aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.
And today, the O'Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man.
The next story happened many years ago when Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone wasn't famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for corrupting the city in everything from drug-trafficking and prostitution to murder.
Capone had a lawyer nicknamed "Easy Eddie." He was Capone's lawyer for a good reason. Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie's skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time.
To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big, but also, Eddie got special dividends.
For instance, he and his family occupied a large fenced-in mansion with live-in servants and all of the luxuries.
Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him.
Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son whom he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had everything, and also a good education. And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was.
Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn't give his son; he couldn't pass on a good name, or a good example.
One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Easy Eddie wanted to rectify wrongs he had done. The seed of God’s love was beginning to germinate in him.
He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al Capone, clean up his tarnished name, and show his son the meaning of integrity. But to do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. He would lose everything. So, he testified. Within the year, Easy Eddie's life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street. But for him, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he could ever pay.
So, what do these two stories have to do with each other?
Well, Butch O'Hare, the heroic fighter pilot was "Easy Eddie's" son.
Indeed, a moving father-and-son story. Yet it is also a story of how a father felt the seed of God’s love growing in him. He had to kick an evil habit and change to grow in goodness so that he in turn can sow seeds of goodness in his son. And the seeds of goodness grew in his son and that gave him the courage to put his life on the line for others.
Yes, we will reap what we sow. Not just in others but also in ourselves.
God has already planted the seeds of love in us. We need to water it with prayer and let the seeds grow in us and bear fruit. May we in turn sow seeds of love in others so that they too will bear fruits of love for the Kingdom of God.