XV Sunday in ordinary time

XV Sunday in ordinary time

Mer, 08 Lug 20 Lectio Divina - Anno A

Isaiah 55: 10-11, Rm: 8: 18-23, Mt 13: 1-23

 

One of the most elaborate parables in the Gospel of Mathew is the parable of the sower. The parable is about the power of the Word of God. Isaiah has already visualized centuries before the coming of Jesus that God’s word when spoken shall not return empty but shall accomplish the purpose for which it has been proclaimed. A seed is the fitting symbol of the Word of God. Everything that a tree will become by way of weight, height, colour, the smell is engraved in the seed. The tree can become only what is inherent in the seed. The Word of God is like the seed. It has immense potentialities to grow and produce fruit. But the tree should have favourable conditions like the sunlight, manure, good soil and sufficient water.

 In the first reading prophet Isaiah says despite human resistance and indifference God accomplishes His will and his Word bears much fruit in abundance. Isaiah writes that God’s Word comes gently to soak the earth and to be drawn back toward God that is God’s Word will not return empty. God’s spirit is infused within the human beings where it brings forth divine fruits. According to Isaiah, God’s word is less a message and more an event, or better. An event perceived in the mystery of Israel’s salvation. The word of God is going out and returning to God subtly echoes the proclamation of the Servant’s success in Isaiah.

In the second reading, St. Paul speaks about the glorious destiny of Christians. Paul deals with the reality of suffering. He realizes that suffering in this life has its counterpart in the incomparable glory awaited by those who suffer. He stimulates them to submit to the painful condition of suffering, without which no one will enter the kingdom of God, by pointing out the immensity of the reward. This passage discusses the place suffering has in the lives of God's people. It is precisely for this reason Paul later moves on and discusses God's great plan of salvation and His love for us.

We find that the Christian will likely face difficult life situations. Along with the freedom of a new life also comes the transition period into this life. 

In other words, there is a parallel experience going on between creation and the children of God. There is the ultimate plan of freedom alongside the distressful life experiences. Although we are the Lord's, we still are affected by the sin-stained world. As Christians, we are caught in the frailty of our human bodies. They have not experienced redemption even though our souls have. Our real potential is hidden behind the weakness of our human bodies.

If creation is indeed in bondage, it shares a lot of humanity, so too the Christian, who suffers and is weighed down by the trials of this earthly life eagerly awaits the redemption of the body and the liberation from such condition. The justified Christian is called to this glorious destiny.

Today's parable is one of the best known and is about someone sowing seed. Here Jesus uses the experience of the Galilean farmer to teach us about the kingdom of heaven. Both parable and the explanation devote special attention to the variety of responses. The sowing appears indiscriminate with the seed falling on several unsuitable layers of the soil. The parable creates the impression that the harvest depends on the seed falling on the good soil despite any obstacle.

 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 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 explains 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. What began as a parable of encouragement now becomes a parable of warning.

 It is easy enough to be enthusiastic Christians when nothing much is demanded of us. But our commitment can be so superficial; it can't withstand the heat of temptations and the opposition of persecution. It is when the going gets rough in following Jesus that our shallow commitment will dry up and die.

And what about the birds of the air which eat the seed? These represent all the influences, which weaken our faith –the secular values of the world in which we live, bad company, unpleasant material on TV or the Internet, what we read. All these different influences can prevent the Word of God from taking root in our lives. For the Word of God to be fruitful in our lives it must be sown in good, receptive soil.

The parable itself is meant to encourage us. The latter explanation is meant to be a warning. When the going is 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. This is what asked of us in the present situation of Covid -19. Let us be confident that with the help of God we can overcome these difficulties too, Jesus warns us very clearly of the consequences of not being receptive to the Word of God.

The Gospel raises uncomfortable questions. Jesus urges us to examine our approach to God. We should draw encouragement from God's power and desire to overcome all the obstacles to a successful harvest. If we will let Him, He can make our barren lives fertile. We can also prevent this happy outcome. He can protect us from the weeds, which threaten to choke our Christian commitment, and from the pests and birds, which seek to destroy the Good News of the kingdom. Even amid the rapid spread of the Corona virus too let us confidently seek the kingdom of God and allow nothing to challenge our growth as followers of Christ.