15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: Isaiah 55: 10 – 11; Responsorial Psalm:65; Romans 8: 18 -23; Matthew: 13: 1 – 23
This week, we hear from the book of the prophet Isaiah, and the theme of this short passage is the Word of God. How wonderful that we are hearing one of the greatest speakers of the Word precisely on this topic. How central to ancient Israelite religion was the Word! Biblical Israel knew itself to be a people to whom God uniquely had spoken. They savored his Word as it was preserved in the Torah and as it was spoken by the prophets and the sages of their religion. And the divine Word, Isaiah knows, is not a bland description of a state of affairs, but an effective principal. God’s Word makes things happen, changes things, brings life.
So many stories in the Gospels are about being able to see or hear things. These references shouldn’t be taken literally. If we do that, it can give us the impression that only clever people see or hear things, in the same way that clever people quickly grasp quadratic equation or Chaucer. It was once my privilege to hear a deaf man giving a talk about Jesus curing deafness and why the story had nothing to do with his ears and everything to do with his heart. To see or hear in the language of Jesus is not biological. In the Gospel stories Jesus links the ability to see and hear not with grasp, but with attitude. Are we open, enquiring, curious, hungry, humble enough to keep learning from him? Several times when teaching his disciples, Jesus criticises them – not for being stupid, although at times you begin to wonder – but because he is challenging the hardening of their hearts.
In every aspect of human endeavour, we want our children to see beauty wherever we see it. Whether instilling in our children total loyalty to our beloved football team, or an insistence on piano lessons. Whether our kids get it or not, we want them to view their lives the way we do ours. We can be heartbroken when they grow up and stop being like us. Whether it emerges as, “She won’t come with me to church anymore,” or, “He’s given up on his education,” the grieving and loss of who we are inside of them is very painful. The difficult and painful realization is that other people, including our children, are not versions of us.
The good news is that what I saw in the vast panorama, Matthew saw on the back of his hand. Our task is to show others how to look, God”s task is to show them he’s there. We can’t do that bit. Matthew couldn’t see the mountain’s reflection, but he saw reflection on a dragonfly’s back. God will show himself to Matthew in his way, not mine. The most important thing I can do is show him that there is something worth looking for.
Today’s Gospel presents us with two ways of understanding this parable. The first is contained in the parable itself. This describes the different threats to the seed, representing the word of God –there’s the stony ground, the heat of the sun, the weeds choking the seed’s growth, birds eating the some of the seed. But the punch line comes with God guaranteeing a bumper harvest, despite all the threats to his word taking root. This parable is meant to encourage the Church and each of us when we feel overwhelmed and depressed by so many threats to the growth of the seed of the Gospel. We must place our trust in God, the Lord of the harvest.
The second half of today’s Gospel gives an explanation of this parable, which is very different from the one I’ve just given. The emphasis now shifts from God’s activity in guaranteeing the bumper harvest to us, and the different ways in which we may receive the Word of God.
Does the word of God get choked by all our daily cares? God has given the freedom to push Him into the background of our lives if it suits us to do so! The freedom to shut Him out altogether.
Again, it’s easy enough to be enthusiastic Christians when nothing much is demanded of us. But our commitment can be so shallow; it can’t withstand the heat of temptations and the opposition of persecution. It’s when the going gets rough in following Jesus that our shallow commitment will shrivel and die.
And what about the birds of the air which eat the seed? These represent all the influences which undermine our faith –the secular values of the world in which we live, bad company, unsavoury material on TV or the Internet, what we read. All these different influences can prevent the Word of God taking root in our lives. For the Word of God to be fruitful in our lives it’s must be sown in good, receptive soil.
The parable itself is meant to give us encouragement. The later explanation is meant to be a warning. When the going’s rough we need to be confident that with God’s help we can overcome the difficulties and be part of the harvest of the Kingdom of Heaven.But this will only happen when we don’t take God and our salvation for granted. Jesus warns us very clearly of the consequences of not being receptive to the Word of God.
God bless you. Have a wonderful day.