HOMILY THEME: “Jesus said, ‘Some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold.’” (Matthew 13:8)

BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC


HOMILY: Matthew 13:1-23

A harried businessman, rushing from home to catch a flight to a distant city in order to close an important deal, narrates the adventurous ride and the valuable lesson he learned from a wise cabbie:
“One day I hopped in a taxi, and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. The taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches. The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. The taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. To my astonishment the cabbie was genuinely friendly! So I asked, ‘Why did you just do that? That guy almost demolished your taxi and sent us to the hospital!’ This is when the taxi driver taught me what I now call ‘The Law of the Garbage Truck.’ He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage: frustration, anger and disappointment mounting inside of them. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it, and sometimes they’ll dump it on you. Don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don’t take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets.’” (Original source unknown)

The gospel passage we hear today may well be what inspired that wise, tolerant cabbie to respond to a near collision not with the “road rage” so characteristic of our day but with extraordinary kindness and understanding. Addressing the disciples of his day and of our own, Jesus relates the parable of the sower and the seed, reminding us that when the Word of God takes deep root in our lives, the whole world can be enriched, what began as a tiny seed blooming to become bread for many a starving soul. “Jesus said, ‘Some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold.’” (Matthew 13:8)

I met Dr. Dennis McKenna in my earliest days serving at Albany Medical Center where he was medical director of the Emergency Department. A husband and father of three, additionally he was a battalion surgeon with the Marine Reserve. Soon after I’d met him, he was recalled for yet another tour of duty in the Middle East. Much loved by seemingly everyone, Dennis didn’t have the time or the heart to say goodbye before he left the hospital. He did, though, communicate via email with his friends, and I share with you excerpts from his letter:
“Going away for a year gives me an opportunity to reflect on the job and the people I leave behind: mentors and colleagues, teachers and students, and so many great friends. We rarely, if ever, take the moment to consider who we are and what we do. But what we do in the Emergency Department is very special, very special indeed. It is not at all a cliché or trite to say we not only save lives (as if that were not enough), but we transform lives. How many people can say that about their jobs? And all of this miraculous work, whether simple acts of compassion or heroic life-saving interventions, is done by each and every one of you. Every single person in the Emergency Department contributes to this mission, and that makes me proud to work with you.

“This year away will be most difficult because of what I leave behind—my family. It is a lot harder for me than last time; I can assure you of that. But I have a wonderful and strong wife, and Karen will do fine. [Karen is a nurse in the hospital’s ER.] Some may ask why I would go, given these circumstances. Well, it really comes down to this: America needs Marines, and Marines need doctors. That is how Karen and I serve. This is what we believe to be the right thing to do for the privilege to live in this great country. I am sure that by the time I return I will have an even greater appreciation for all we have and all we do.”

Dr. McKenna closed his letter simply: “Semper Fi, Dennis.”
“Semper Fi,” shorthand for “Always Faithful,” described Dennis the Marine so many years ago, but serving with him for 17 years in the ER has attested to another faithfulness—as a Christian husband, father and physician. “Jesus said, ‘Some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold.’” (Matthew 13:8) Like Dennis, may our own lives be fruitful, faithful soil for the Word of God, sown among us to bloom as healing balm for a hurting world.
Postscript: On April 1, 2020, Dr. McKenna, by unanimous board approval, became the President/CEO of Albany Medical Center.

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