Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: Is 55:10-11; Rom 8:18-23; Matt 13:1-23
The sower, the seed, the soil and the harvest are the metaphors that help us to capture the central message of this Sunday readings. The readings invite us to reflect on Christ the Sower of God’s Word. The Prophet Isaiah in the First Reading speaks about the effectiveness of God’s Word. Like the rain and snow, which do not return without watering the earth, so too the Word that comes from the mouth of God does not fail. Isaiah’s message in the first reading is a prelude to the Gospel of today about the parable of the Sower. Just as the rain waters the land, showing us how God’s Word brings about the desired results, similarly the parable of the Sower reveals to us the dynamic power of God’s Word. Isaiah’s message contains an important aspect of conversion, so that the Word of God, like the rain may shower upon our hardened hearts making them “fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats.” The First Reading therefore helps to interpret the parable of the Sower in the Gospel. One interpretation is that many people who hear the Gospel simply never seem to “get it.” The message is stolen from them by the enemy before it takes root. Let me illustrate that interpretation with some statistics. There are about 50% of our Catholic kids who receive the Sacraments but disappear between age 18 to 35, only to reappear later for marriage. Why is that? Inadequate faith formation fails to equip them to take the heat and pressure of our secular culture. Then there are about 89% of lifelong, regular church goers who, according to George Gallup, have values and lifestyle identical to those of their secular neighbors. Their faith has been so neutralized by inadequate faith formation and focus on worldly preoccupation. Though they look like Catholics, their faith practice is fruitless. Then there are those who remain faithful, going regularly to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. They manage to do some good for some people, but in all produce only a mediocre harvest in life. Finally there are those who have taken their stewardship seriously and yearn to learn more about their faith so they may be better stewards. They sink their roots in Scripture, Tradition, prayer and the sacraments. These produce an abundant harvest. Jesus wants all of us, not just some to yearn for more, but to excel and be the best version of ourselves. Only then can we produce a bumper harvest.
The Gospel therefore helps us to understand that despite apparent weakness of some of the soil, in the end the Church will be successful in its evangelization. Despite the obstacles the Church faces in America and elsewhere, mysteriously it continues to grow. One good example is China particularly in Shanxi Province where the Catholic population continues to grow. A recent Catholic News Service story reported that the number of Catholics in China has risen from 3 million in 1950 to 15 million today. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The readings inspire us to look beyond failure even in our own lives, because God’s Word will in the end bear fruit despite failure; despite obstacles. 2) The readings also challenge us to open our heart so we may be nourished by God’s Word, so that God’s transforming power may work through us and bear fruit even in our weakness. 3) Despite apparent ineffectiveness, our efforts to be the best versions of ourselves will in the end bear abundant harvest for Christ because God is in charge.
©2011 John S. Mbinda