On a farm one day, the chicken was very excited.
Her friend, the pig, asked her what all the commotion was about.
“The farmer is holding a great breakfast,” she clucked. “Lots of guests are invited!”
“Really?” said the pig. “What are they serving?”
“Bacon and eggs!” said the chicken.
At this, the pig turned a very pale shade of pink.
“What’s the matter?” asked his chicken friend.
“Bacon and eggs!” exclaimed the pig – “For you, that’s a day’s work. For me, that’s a life commitment!”
Today, we recognise that some of the paths we take in life have far-reaching consequences. At the end of today’s Mass we’ll have an appeal for our Sea Sunday collection – remembering that many people who work at sea have to spend weeks or even months apart from their families and the safety of dry land. They have chosen a career which is vital for us who depend on North Sea oil, offshore wind farms, and foreign consumer goods, in our island nation. Let’s remember with gratitude those men and women who embrace these more challenging patterns of working, from which we all benefit.
Just as some career choices are more ‘bacon’ than ‘eggs’, so there are two ways in which we can approach our Catholic faith.
The first way is to read the Bible with interest. When we spot something we agree with, we can nod approvingly – “I am glad your teaching is something that I can agree with, O Lord.” Jesus used parables because they would be memorable stories, and as with all stories, we can pick out those meanings and morals which strike us as important.
But the Disciples of Jesus were offered something more. They were the ones who had chosen ‘bacon’ rather than ‘eggs’, to set out in the Lord’s boat rather than turn up daily on the dockside. Jesus offers them his direct teaching, not wrapped up in a story but explained clearly. This is both a blessing and a challenge, because it leaves no hiding place.
When new apprentices question the teaching offered by the Master, they will surely be rebuked, told to trust the Teacher, and follow the instructions. Only when an apprentice has learned the Master’s arts will that person be truly skilled enough to understand why the Master works a certain way. Only then can the disciple begin to critique the teaching.
Some of us present this evening have already reached the point in our faith when we have recognised that if Jesus is truly our Master, his teaching will challenge us to make some significant changes in our life. I learned that lesson in August 1993. I had already become a Catholic three years previously, but now I was a year away from completing my undergraduate degree. I was reluctant to pray a prayer asking Jesus what he wanted me to do. What if he asked me to do something I didn’t want to do? But during that summer youth retreat, I realised the Lord was asking me for bacon, not eggs. He was inviting me to trust him. If he was truly the loving Friend we meet in the Gospels, then Jesus wasn’t going to ask me to do anything which would damage me. He would only choose what is best. So that summer, I surrendered. That was the first time I could truly both pray, and mean, “Here I am Lord. Use me as you will.”
God’s word does not return to him fruitless. One of you here this evening will go home tonight, and for the first time in your life, will pray a prayer acknowledging Jesus as the Master of your life, even though you know He is asking you to make some significant change in your life. Perhaps He is inviting you to take on a charitable project, or to deal with some personal fault you have been avoiding. Jesus is asking this of you, because he loves you. If you trust him, he will give you the strength to bring it to completion.
Jesus himself never told a parable about bacon and eggs – it wouldn’t have been appropriate for a Jewish audience. But he did say this: unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
We are not randomly scattered seeds. We can resist the temptation of the Enemy who whispers to us that Jesus is not worth following. We can resist the distractions of the world around us. We can even choose to die to our own selves, resisting those inner doubts which worry that following Jesus might not always have the best outcome. If we choose to listen to what Christ and His Church DO say, even though the message is uncomfortable to us, we will indeed bear fruit. Some thirtyfold, some 60, some 100.
Listen, anyone who has ears!