Sunday Word: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/071314.cfm
How perfect a parable for the summer time in this Sunday’s Gospel– the sower and the seed. Most all of us have spent some time in a garden an orchard or maybe have a few blueberry or raspberry bushes or tomato plants nearby in which we are enjoying the mid-summer harvest of warm days. Not everything has reached its peak as yet but we can see the growth taking place and look forward to reaping the harvest.
But Jesus’ parable in the Gospel is not about agricultural methods. In fact the Sower who sows the seed does so in a very haphazard way. He just scatters the seed wide and far on good soil, weedy soil, dry ground, among thorns and bushes, perhaps hoping that it will grow somewhere. Not exactly a careful plowing and preparation of the earth for optimum growth then a neat planting of seeds in straight rows for easy harvest.
Yet, this image is not so much about the seed itself but about whom the Sower is – and that is God. How does God sow his seed - with wild abandon so that it will go everywhere. What is that seed? It is his grace and his love. It’s all God is and all he has; he doesn’t know how to do otherwise and Jesus wants us to take note of this important image. His love and grace reaches out everywhere: good and bad, rich and poor, young and old, across all cultures and languages and regions. Remember other similar stories and events Jesus told: the Prodigal Son, the shepherd and the lost sheep, the miracle of the loaves and fishes, the amount of water turned wine (180 gallons) at the Cana wedding feast, etc.
In our first reading from Isaiah we hear: “so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” This sower’s intent is not one of carelessness or indifference but of purpose: that all may receive an abundance of his love and mercy.
So we know the Sower is extraordinarily generous like the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son. But what about the soil upon which the seed falls?
That is us. I doubt God is at all surprised when his seed, grace and love, does not produce a harvest. In fact some of the seed is wasted, received with indifference, finds growth only in fair weather or when things are going smoothly, or falls in the middle of our very busy lives filled with so many responsibilities and distractions that we’ve pushed God to the margins or never bothered to educate ourselves about our rich Catholic faith and we are worshiping God as if we were still fifth graders.
But, God does not cease sowing. He continues to sow knowing that he has brought us into life, wired us for himself and that our natural tendency to search for a deeper meaning and purpose may lead us back to him. As Pope Francis has said: “It is not God who abandons us it is we who abandon him.”
What is your soil like? How prepared are you to be receptive? The rich soil that Jesus describes was not typical of middle eastern terrain. If a five fold harvest was produced it would have been extraordinary. But the “rich soil” Jesus speaks of is a heart open to him; a person who is genuinely searching for him through prayer, good works, kindness and generosity towards others, who worships regularly and participates in the sacramental life of the Church. He’s not speaking of being religious fanatics or overly pious individuals but about those who take their faith seriously enough to remain open to all that he wants to give.
The Sower and the Seed is then about God and us. He sows and we receive what he offers. But we can also say “no, not now, too hard, later, maybe tomorrow, get back to me when I’m not so busy,” or find a host of other excuses. In other words, what kind of disciple am I? Do I follow Jesus from a safe distance or do I find myself up close to hear his every word?
Our gathering for the Eucharist each weekend is a time to encounter the living Christ in Word and Sacrament and to be open and receptive to whatever seed God wants to plant in us. It may be small at first, like the mustard seed, but in time with careful nurturing it will grow to be “the largest of plants.” God bless you.
O God, who show the light of your truth
to those who go astray,
so they may return to the right path,
give all who for the faith they profess
are accounted Christians
the grace to reject whatever is contrary to the name of Christ
and to strive after all that does it honor.
(Collect of Sunday)