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Homily for Wed of the 16th Week in Ordinary Time, Memorial of Sts. Joachim and Anne, 26 July 2023, Mt 13:1-9

I wonder if you’ve noticed that when British royal parents talk to their children, they don’t talk down at them. They stoop or lower themselves to be able to communicate with them at eye level. I find that edifying. It means they take their children seriously—even when they are having tantrums.

That’s the kind of image that I get of God in our first reading—like a father patiently going down to the Israelite people’s level, looking at them in the eye, even when they act in a very annoying way like entitled brats. The responsorial psalm picks up from the first reading to caricature the bad attitude of the people in the desert when they began to get hungry and long for the fleshpots of Egypt, how they even regretted that they had left Egypt at all. The psalmist says, “They tempted God in their hearts by demanding the food they craved. Yes, they spoke against God saying ‘Can God spread a table in the desert’?”

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – JUNE 06: Diana Princess Of Wales Crouching Down To Talk To Pupils At The Swaminarayan School During Her Visit Of The Shri Swaminarayan Mandir In Neasden, London Nw10. (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

I remember my own maternal grandfather doing what Prince William does to his children. When he wanted to talk to me, he would sit on his rocking chair and make me stand beside him so he could speak with me eye to eye, with his hand on my shoulder. Since he became well- known in Pampanga as a sculptor and maker of religious images and icons, he told his stories complete with visual illustrations—the kind that children will never forget.

Today we commemorate the maternal grandparents of Jesus. I have a feeling that Jesus became a master storyteller as in today’s gospel, because of stories that Sts Joachim and Anne had told him while he was growing up in Nazareth. You see, many of the stories we heard from our grandparents are like precious seeds. Obviously not all of them germinate and bear fruit.

I remember a young priest talking in his homily about how his grandfather tended to tell the same stories over and over again. Apparently the old man who heard his grandson felt a bit offended by the way his priest-grandson made a levity of his tendency to repeat himself, which was obviously because of old age. The lolo approached him privately after Mass and said to him, “You know, the sun rises each morning and sets in the evening only to rise again the following morning and set again in the evening. In fact it does the same thing every day, over and over again. Do you ever get tired of the repetitions?” The grandson quickly got the point and apologized for his uncharitable remark.

I grew up on stories that stirred up my imagination. I think many of the stories I had heard had fallen on good soil. Look, I now even belong to a group we call The Storytellers’ Society Incorporated and we continue to publish books that contain life-changing stories. Jesus met his first disciples by the lakeshore while seated on a boat and telling people stories. Look what those stories had done to the lives of people like Simon, James, John, and women like Magdalene, or like Martha and Mary of Bethany. You don’t have to preach in a bombastic way to tell the good news. Just tell good stories and make sure you make them fall like good seeds on good soil and God will do the rest; he will take care of making them grow and bear fruit abundantly.