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Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 16, 2017
July 16, 2017 at 12:05 pm #23095
Howard HampsonKeymaster@Howard the Pilgrim
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 16, 2017
First Reading: Isaiah 55:10-11
Psalm: Psalm 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14 (Luke 8:8)
Second Reading: Romans 8:18-23
Alleluia: The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower. All who come to him will have life forever.
Gospel: Matthew 13:1-23
My approach to the readings is to prayerfully try to discover the connections between the readings in order to discover the mind of the Church in making the Scripture selections for the Liturgy of the Word portion of the Mass. In other words, why did the Church select these readings for all the faithful to meditate upon and for the clergy to prepare their homilies from? What are we to learn and apply from these passages?
In order to do this, one must begin to prayerfully look for common themes in the readings. So in today’s readings, one can note that 3 out of the 4 readings plus the Alleluia have an agricultural element with God’s involvement in the agricultural process. But agriculture is not the main point. It is being used by God in His word as an illustration in order to impart important spiritual truths to us. The second reading from the Book of Romans appears to be the odd one since it doesn’t, at first glance, seem to have anything to do with agriculture. But it is connected to the Gospel reading’s spiritual application which we will see.
Next, let’s take a look at the key elements of the passages.
In the first reading from Isaiah, God is the one giving the illustration and spiritual application. Isaiah is just the messenger. The rain and snow come down from the heavens and don’t return there until they have accomplished 3 things by watering the earth.
- Making the earth fertile and fruitful, ready to produce seed and food.
- Giving seed to the sower for even more crops.
- Giving bread to the one who eats.
God then says his word which comes forth from his mouth basically functions in a similar fashion, doing his will and accomplishing his end. Guaranteed. Cause and effect. His word is powerful and productive, like the rain and snow.
The Responsorial Psalm
In the Psalm, the psalmist expands on the agricultural theme in Isaiah, clearly giving God praise and glory as the source of the rain and snow. In fact, he sees God as being personally involved in the watering and agricultural processes. God is walking in the midst of and working in his amazingly fruitful and productive creation, among his people. The results are expanded to include the untilled ground which becomes grazing land for livestock. God is definitely not some distant watchmaker who set things into motion eons ago and then walked away.
Our responses to this Psalm come from the parallel Gospel passage in Luke 8 to today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 13. “The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.”
And yet, all is not right with God’s creation. It is not as fruitful and productive as it was meant to be. There are thorns, thistles and barrenness. There is decay, corruption and death. Even the watering processes can run amuck resulting in floods and destruction and drought. There is suffering that is experienced by all. Why?
The Apostle Paul reveals that God’s creation is inseparably tied to us. God designed it that way. When we fell into disobedience, disorder, corruption, futility and death, creation fell with us. Why? Because God willed it to be so and so it is. But He did so for a reason. He has a glorious restoration plan both us as human beings and his creation. But there is a requirement to it. We have to participate in God’s restoration plan by desiring it and hoping for it and longing for it so much that we groan in pain for it. And creation has been already doing so for oh so long. Creation wants to see us get with the plan even more than we do! Because when we are redeemed and saved then it will be too. It’s a package deal. God made it that way. And it is our hope and longing for God’s restoration plan that is going to help us to become what the Gospel reading is all about.
Today’s Gospel reading is about the sower, the seed and the fruitfulness or lack thereof depending on 4 different types of soil. The Alleluia reveals who and what the sower and the seed are. “The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower.” By the way, Jesus identifies the seed as the word of God in the Luke 8 parallel passage. So from all the readings we learn that God’s word is like the rain and the snow and the seed in the agricultural processes.
What about the 4 types of soil? Well, those are us and represent the possible conditions of our hearts, our wills and our receptivity to the seed, God’s word.
So I am going to let you hear and read the Gospel reading on your own. It’s important for our eternal destinies. Only 1 of the 4 soils produces a crop. God does all he can to make us fruitful and productive. He keeps sending forth the rain, the snow and the seed, His word.
But the question is, are we going to cultivate the soil of our heart in the midst of the suffering in the fallen world around us so the seed finds a home, a place to lodge and grow? It begins by listening and seeing and responding and trusting and walking with God as we water and scatter the seed with Him.
Feel free to ask your questions and add your observations. That is what really is supposed to happen in this group.July 22, 2017 at 12:44 am #23190
I’ve been thinking about this parable of the sower all week, mainly about how to cultivate the soil of my own heart and about the seed that landed on the path and got snatched up immediately. Jesus says in verse 19 that these are the people who don’t understand the word of the kingdom. Why don’t they understand? Who is responsible for cultivating the soil of their hearts? Does the path represent something more than just hard-packed earth? Is it the well-worn track of customary ways of doing or thinking about things that most people don’t question until pain of some sort makes them look for its source and for a way to be healed? Say, like me when my discontent with things happening in the Anglican church grew to the extent that I was finally willing to investigate Catholicism? Verse 10 of Psalm 65 says that God softens the earth with showers. I don’t like being rained on any more than I like pain but all the most valuable lessons I’ve learned have begun with pain of one sort or another. Just some thoughts.July 22, 2017 at 2:17 am #23192
David W. EmeryKeymaster@David W. Emery
You pose some powerful questions, Janice. Let’s take a look at them.
Why don’t they understand?
St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 2:14, tells us: “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” Compare this with what Jesus tells the crowd in John 6:26: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” Later in the chapter, their departure proves him right.
Who is responsible for cultivating the soil of their hearts?
The people themselves are responsible. Why? Because God provides everyone, without exception, sufficient grace to lead them to salvation. If they reject that grace and go chasing after rainbows, that is their fault. God is not obliged to provide additional graces, although many times he does. This is why we see people, later in life, returning to God. But all grace is gratuitous; the extravagance of God’s love is evident in his providing us even a first chance, let alone a second.
Does the path represent something more than just hard-packed earth?
In the parable, the earth in every instance represents the person’s attitude toward God. The pathway is indeed hard-packed. For this reason, it is totally resistant to the Word and rejects divine grace out of hand. A self-centered approach to life is intent on “getting things” in a material way and knows nothing of spiritual things .
In like manner, the rocky soil admits a certain penetration by the seed, but not very deep. The seed finds little moisture so close to the surface, and it has no room to set down roots. So it ends up withering and dying when stressed by the ordinary ups and downs of life.
So also the seed which falls among the weeds. It germinates and grows early on, but then the weeds — the distractions of the world and the urges of the flesh — overgrow the plot and crowd out the divine life. This life may survive, but it will be stunted and never arrive at the plenitude that God had meant for it.
Is [the seed that falls on the pathway] the well-worn track of customary ways of doing or thinking about things that most people don’t question until pain of some sort makes them look for its source and for a way to be healed? Say, like me when my discontent with things happening in the Anglican church grew to the extent that I was finally willing to investigate Catholicism?
By no means. In your case, the seed fell on soil made infertile by the wrong kind of fertilizer. It wanted to grow and mature, but it had little chance where it was. Only by moving the seed to another field, where the soil is good, would it have a chance to provide a good harvest.
DavidJuly 22, 2017 at 5:44 am #23193
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