15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 16, 2017)

This weekend (as well as the next two) provides a series a series of parables from Matthew’s Gospel dealing with how Jesus’ message was received.

In the today’s reading, we heard God speaking through Isaiah, the prophet: “The word that goes forth from my mouth shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” In the Gospel, we hear from Jesus: “Let anyone with ears to hear, listen.”

Is there anyone in church today who does not have someone close who has been exposed to the message of Jesus, but will not accept Jesus and what he has to say? Secondly, is there anyone of us in church that does not have to look in the mirror to see what kind of soil we are becoming?

Each of us listens to Jesus’ parable at two levels.

First, the level of the farmer - as preacher, parent, spouse, friend, we identify with Jesus in the parable of the sower. We, as well as Jesus, are sowers of seed.

Primitive Palestinian farmers did the opposite of modern farmers. They sowed on top of unturned soil, and waited to see what kind the soil it was after plowing.

For Jesus, three of the four portions of seed his farmer spreads either never takes root or never reach maturity. Only one of four seeds produces a yield, but it is so great that it makes up for all the lost seed. Like Palestinian farmers, no matter how hard we hope and pray and try to sow faith-ideas, we do not know what kind of soil our “seed” will fall upon until later, perhaps much later. We cannot control the soil of another. Everyone has a free will to choose the soil he/she will become -- accepting or rejecting.

You might get discouraged, unless you remember the math of the seeds. Have patience. No farmer plants and harvests in the same day. Those insights that you fear are bouncing off the hard soil of your child, spouse, friend or colleague will one day take root and bring a harvest of wisdom and knowledge. You may not see it soon. You may not see it in your lifetime. As someone once said, “Children always obey the teaching of their parents, but it is seldom while the parent is still alive to enjoy it.” We need to remember that we are only the sowers; God alone provides the harvest.

Second, we need to listen to the parable at the level of the kinds of soil. [This part of the scripture was probably added by Matthew as a response to the difficulties within his community, and was not part of Jesus’ original words.] We listen to the parable of the soil and identify with one of the types of soil.

Unlike the soil outside our houses that is not self-determining, we have the power to decide what kind of soil we shall become. We may need to soften the rigid [the skepticism, the unforgiveness] we may need to crumble the rocky [the hard headedness]; we may need to clear away the thorny [the thorny persons, places or things that ensnare us and prevent our growth].

The word of God as seed will produce fruit far beyond our expectations and in spite of our disappointments.

This is good news!