Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Sower and the Seed

                                    15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s first reading is clearly an introduction to the famous parable recounted in today’s gospel account of the sower and the seed. Isaiah compares the word of God to the rain and snow that make everything blossom and grow. Without this moisture which comes down from above there would be no life on earth. Obviously Isaiah is talking about much more than rain and snow. For him the word of God is more real and more important than the rain and snow.

            My word shall not return to me void,
            But shall do my will,
            Achieving the end for which I sent it.

In today’s parable Jesus shares Isaiah’s view. He even quotes from Isaiah. The parable of the sower and the seed is one of the most famous but it is also the only one which Jesus bothers to explain to his puzzled disciples. In Matthew’s account the seed, that is, the word of God, falls in different places with different results. Some falls on the hardened, trodden down path and is quickly eaten by the birds. Some falls on rocky ground where there is little soil to nourish it. Some falls among thorns or weeds which choke it. Finally, the rest falls on good soil and produces a bountiful harvest.

What is the meaning of this parable? After telling His disciples why He uses parables, Jesus then explains to them the meaning of this one. Let’s try to put His explanation in our own words. In the first place, He equates the seed sown in the path with those who hear the word of God without understanding it. Who could that be?

How many people today have only the most rudimentary knowledge of their own faith? For how many of us does our religious education stop with the eighth grade? Is there any other field of endeavor in which we would be content to stay at the eighth grade level? What would we think of a job application where the candidate’s schooling stopped at the eighth grade? Why do we spend thousands of dollars trying to get a college degree? What professional athlete would be content with eighth grade skills? Even when they make the pros they have to keep acquiring new skills in order to remain competitive. Why should life be any different?

The second case of the rocky ground is more difficult. We all know of people whose faith has been shaken and even lost by some setback, some sorrow, and even some tragedy. Our Lord speaks of tribulation. But today, how many people have lost their faith because of a bad marriage or a divorce? How many have lost it because of some word spoken by an insensitive priest or religious? How many have lost their faith because of the scandalous behavior of a few priests? Finally, it is so sad to see the death or illness of a loved one cause someone to question their beliefs.
We don’t have to work too hard to understand the third category.

            The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,
            But then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word
            And it bears no fruit.

Worldly anxiety is something we can all relate to. It requires no dramatic event or crisis. It creeps up on us slowly and before we know it we are in its grasp. Young people know how important it is to have friends, but often the desire to be popular and well-liked can take over and ruin their lives. We all know that it is important for us to work hard in order to provide for the basic needs of our families, but how often do we see men and women so consumed by their work that their families are seriously hurt in the process of getting ahead? Even the elderly can fall into a daily routine that chokes them like the thorns in today’s gospel.

Life is full of snares and traps. Maybe that is what St. Paul had in mind in today’s reading from the Letter to the Romans.

            for creation was made subject to futility,
            not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it.

There is no denying that there is pain and suffering in the world. Paul continually urges his followers to remain steadfast in their beliefs and not to turn their backs on God, or ignore the teaching of his Son, Jesus. As in any endeavor there is a reward for perseverance.

            I consider that the sufferings of the present time are as nothing
            Compared with the glory to be revealed.

The seed, the grace of God, has been given to us all. It is not just the saints and martyrs who have borne fruit. They are just the tip of a huge iceberg. God’s grace is not a pious fiction. Despite all the pain and suffering in the world today, we just have to look around us to see in a multitude of acts of kindness, generosity, and unselfish charity the bountiful harvest that the seed of God is still producing.


Reading 1. Isaiah 55: 10-11
Reading II. Romans 8:18-23
Gospel. Matthew 13: 1-23 (A sower went out to sow).

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