15th Sunday in O.T. (A); July 16, 2017
Is 55:10-11 Ps 65 Rom 8:18-23 Mt 13:1-23
Deacon Jim McFadden; SJB
Today’s Gospel is about the great parable of Matthew’s version of the Sower, which was famously painted by Vincent Van Gogh. As you reflect on this parable, I’d encourage you to have Van Gogh’s image before you as a meditation aid. On Matthew’s telling Jesus goes to the Sea of Galilee where he attracts enormous crowds, which represent our hunger for God because that’s how we’re wired: we’re made in the image of God and, as St. Augustine so famously put it, our hearts will be forever restless until they rest in Him. The crowds sense the power in Jesus and they desperately want to receive His Word in their hearts. And, today, that still goes with us. We’re all wired for God. So, we listen
Matthew notes that Jesus “spoke to them at length in parables” (Mt 13:13a), which is a typical literary form he used to teach. Why did he use parables; why didn’t he use straight-forward language? Why did he teach this round-about way with riddles and puzzles? It can be frustrating because we want to know what he means. Jesus often teaches by way of stories because that’s how he can get to the underlying reality of the Kingdom of God by using nuanced symbols and metaphors. So, he uses parables for a purpose. So, what is he trying to teach us?
Let’s start with the Sower, who spreads the seed far and wide on soil that’s good and bad: on the path, on rocky ground, among the thorns, and finally, on good soil. In other words, he is spreading the seeds everywhere. Later on, which is unusual, Jesus explains the parable, comparing the seeds to the ‘word of the Kingdom of God’ (namely, grace), which means the Sower is God. God spreads his grace, his Love without expecting anything in return or reimbursement. He’s not into ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ way of relating to people. God is simply prodigal, liberal, extravagant in the way He loves us. In the Sermon of the Mount, He says that God “makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and unjust (Mt 5:45bc). We, on the other hand, do just the opposite: we share our “sun” with our homeys, those who might be good or useful to me. But, those who may be a threat, who might do me or my group harm, I keep my “sun” from them. As we put ourselves into the story, let us suspend this transactional way of relating to others. Let us be receptive to the Prodigal Sower.
The initial seeds “fell on the path, and birds came in and ate it up” (Mt 13:4). When we hear God’s word, do we even give it the time of day to try to understand what God is telling us? Do we give God even a slight chance to be heard? Does God get pushed out, because we have bought into our society and culture which tries to exist without God? Are to tone deaf to God’s Word? When we hear the Good News, does it seem impractical?
If that’s us, what should we do? Start reading the Bible. Get a good biblical commentary. Read some good spirituality and theology. Open up the Catechism of the Catholic Church with a guide. Commit yourself to 15 minutes of spiritual reading per day. Begin to open the mind and heart to the spiritual dimension of reality; otherwise, you won’t take in this language.
Then we hear that “The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it with joy. But, he has no root and lasts only for a time” (vs 20-21a). Sometimes we hear God’s Word, we get all excited, we want to believe it; but, we don’t make the Word the foundation of our lives. It just stays on the surface; we don’t allow it to take deep root in our hearts and souls because we are half-hearted in our commitment to Jesus. We waver because we have mixed allegiances. Rather than be on fire with our love for Jesus, we settle for being lukewarm; we tread-water or take the easy way out.
Through Scripture and the quiet of our heart, Jesus speaks to us and asks each one of us, “Who am I for you? Am I the Lord of your life, the longing of your heart, and the reason for your hope?” We have a choice to make: are we going to renew our commitment to Jesus, which means we accept His calling to be a missionary disciple to witness His Good News that He is Risen!
Then there’s the third category in which the Word “fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it” (v. 7). Are we like the ones who hear God’s Word and we truly believe? But, we get caught up in our problems and worries; we lose trust that God unconditionally cares for us and will never abandon us. We get seduced by the allurements of the world which promises us that if we have enough of the goods of the world, our pain will be alleviated. Eventually, these God-substitutes choke our faith, which becomes diminished.
Then we hear that some seed “fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred…fold” (v. 8). Brothers and sisters, when we surrender ourselves completely to our Lord Jesus, we will experience new Life, joy, and his Resurrected presence. When that happens, watch out: his divine Life will explode in our lives like spiritual dynamite, which produces so much life-giving and uniting fruit in our family, parish, and secular communities that we become radically transformed.
There you have it: where do you think you fall? Where would you be if you were in the field? And, remember: God never abandons us. He will continually be sowing his grace wildly, extravagantly, evenly wastefully. Why? He loves us unconditionally and he respects our freedom to love Him in return. Along with our Blessed Mother and through her intercession, may we say always say “Yes” to God’s love! Amen.