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Sunday Scripture: Where the seeds fall and grow

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July 8, 2011

By Father Timothy P. Schehr

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23

Every summer we see the miracle of life in the gardens around our homes. We plant seeds and if conditions are right the seeds do all the rest. In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus takes this image to the spiritual level.

 

Crowds of people fill the shore along the Sea of Galilee. From a boat Jesus sows the word of the Gospel. Will the crowds receive the word and allow it to grow within their hearts? It is up to them. In a parable Jesus describes different responses to the word. Only the last one is ideal. But hearing about the less-than-ideal responses may give the people in the crowd the advantage they need to make the right choice.

 

Some seed falls on a path and birds immediately eat it up. In a similar way some people hear God’s word but never take it into their hearts. They are too interested in the enticements of this world to even care about things spiritual; the prince of this world has already won their devotion. Readers of the Gospel might be reminded of the royal house of Herod as they read about this seed.

 

Some seed fells on stony ground with little soil. Since the roots hardly have a chance to grow, the sun soon withers any growth. In a similar way some people willingly accept God’s word but do little to nourish it. When adversities come along, their loyalties vanish. Readers might be reminded of those followers of the Lord who drifted away because they found His message too challenging.

 

Some seed falls among thorns that eventually choke off any life. In a similar way some people hear God’s word but later lose their devotion to God in favor of worldly interests. Readers might be reminded of the apostle Judas who betrayed the Lord for 30 pieces of silver.

 

At last, some seed falls on rich soil and yields fruit. In a similar way some people hear God’s word and make every effort to nourish it within their hearts. Reader may be reminded of the apostles, the blind man, Bartimaeus, the Roman centurion, Cornelius, and so many others in the New Testament.

 

Isaiah would probably not have needed to ask for an explanation of the parable as the apostles did. As we can see from the first reading, this prophet spoke about the word of God in language very similar to the Lord’s. Isaiah understood the power of God’s word. He knew it would never fail to nourish people to life, just like the rain from heaven brings life from fields on the farm. But Isaiah also understood the resistance people gave to God’s word. Earlier in his oracles Isaiah included the image of a vineyard that failed to yield good grapes. This disappointing vineyard represented the people of Isaiah’s day who chose to ignore God’s word because their own pride got in the way. Their choices resulted in death and violence (Isaiah 5:1-7).

 

In his letter to the Romans the apostle Paul uses harvest imagery to describe the life of the faithful when he says they enjoy “the first fruits of the Spirit.” He understands that like himself his communities face suffering and hardship become of their devotion to the Lord Jesus. But Paul assures his readers that such hardships amount to nothing when compared to the glory they have as children of God.

Father Schehr is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

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