Bishop Rice: Engage the Culture (Sunday Mass Homily)

In the Gospel today, we hear Jesus speak of the wheat and the weeds growing together in the fields (Matthew 13:24-30). Bishop Edward Rice’s homily focused on how this image is very similar to what we are heading into as we prepare to leave the Steubenville Conference to return to our homes, parishes, and schools. Though we live in a culture thick with weeds, we must stand strong and engage the culture, sharing the Gospel message.

A Cultural Contrast

While we have been here at Steubenville, we have tried to grow in our relationship with Christ and hopefully we leave different people than who were on Friday.  God desires to make all things new within us and elevate us. Hopefully he has done that this weekend.

The world to which we return, however, is full of weeds and we need to acknowledge that. We return to situations where people don’t practice their faith or, worse, actively oppose what our faith is all about.

How are we to live when we return home?

Engage the Culture

Bishop Rice held up St. John Paul II as a model for us. John Paul II was the master of engaging the culture, not withdrawing from it. He saw the terrible things going on in the world: abortion, euthanasia, suicide, drugs. He coined the phrase “culture of death” to describe in 1995 to describe the weeds of the world.

His response was to stand strong, proclaiming the Gospel of Life. He proclaimed that all human beings are made in the divine image, no exceptions. All life is sacred, no exceptions. All life has dignity, no exceptions. John Paul II did not hide from the enemy, but engaged the culture head on.

Bishop Rice exhorted that we must not withdraw from the world and simply say how bad the weeds are. This is not the Catholic way.

Into the Weeds to Make a Difference

As we return to our homes, we have an opportunity to go back into the weeds, having encountered Christ so that we may bear the Gospel to others. We bring the joy of having encountered Jesus, a joy that is attractive to others that will make them seek what we have experienced. We are blessed to have plenty of opportunities to evangelize our world. We must not give up.

Essentials to a Life of Holiness

As great as it is to be on a spiritual high after a weekend like this, we can’t base our faith on our feelings. Feelings come and go. Our faith must be based on Christ: love is defined by Christ on the cross.

There are three practical things we offered  need to do to stand strong in the midst of the weeds:

  1. Give yourself to Mary. Imitate St. John Paul II’s devotion to Mary. He took as his motto Totus Tuus, meaning Totally Yours.
  2. Define your life by the Eucharist. Make a promise today to never miss Mass on Sundays or Holy Days.
  3. Go to Confession regularly. You will discover what you need to work on and you will hear the Lord calling you to be your better self.

These three are the non-negotiables for personal holiness. The graces that flow from a love of Mary, the Eucharist, and Confession will help us bear fruit through the weeds.


“I am so edified by your faith. I go away energized and hopeful because of you.”

“You have a chance to go back into the weeds, having encountered Christ, and you can bear the Gospel to other people.”

“It is my hope and prayer that we have a new wave of disciples, grains of wheat going out into the midst of the weeds to change this world of ours.”

“We are prophets of hope. We always move forward because we have something to offer: the person of Jesus Christ.’

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Written by Stephanie To
Stephanie To works for the Respect Life Apostolate for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. A lawyer and bioethicist by training, she is passionate about the Catholic faith and pro-life issues. In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys making music (playing the violin, playing the handbells, and singing), cheering on the St. Louis Cardinals and KU Jayhawks, and hanging out with friends. You can follow her on Twitter at @stephaniehto.