Psalm 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14
Matthew 13:1-23 or 13:1-9
With these days of hot summer in this part of the world, there is a great need for rain. Many parts of the United States and the world have been experiencing drought. The lawn around our little house must feel abandoned by Fr. Jim whose house-job it is to sprinkle. There is water rationing these days and so the green grass is turning slowly into a memory of spring.
Today’s First Reading uses the image of rain and snow falling on the earth as an image of God’s fidelity. We know it will rain some day, and certainly, snow will come next winter, but when and how much water will we get, we don’t know that. Parts of the world looks up at the skies each day and knows there will be no rain for a long time, if ever. The clouds are not faithful; they come and go in the whimsy of weather.
The image which Isaiah uses to conclude this section of prophecies about the consolations coming to Israel, speak to the intensity with which God intends to bring creation, including humanity, into a harvest of completion. The Word of God, about which Isaiah is speaking, is the entirety of all that the prophet has spoken in the previous fifteen chapters. He has consoled Israel with images such as a God Who would never abandon Israel even if a mother would neglect her child.
God has made promises and is committed to bringing them to fruitful fulfillment. The words of the prophet are like the rain and snow which have fallen and will not dry up or disappear until all growing things reach maturity.
In front of the church, here on our campus, is a fountain and there seems always to be a breeze which blows droplets of spray around. During these dry and hot days, the drops evaporate upon landing.
The prophecy of Isaiah proclaims the divine insistence upon bringing fruitfulness not from the land, but among the people, including ourselves. The parable in today’s Gospel does speak about a form of evaporation due to the cares and tribulations experienced in our hearts. The sower of the parable went that way but once and this is where the story limps. Jesus as Word has come to stay until the love of God has completed the Will of God. Our dryness, shallowness, fretfulness do cause evaporation, but do not turn off the Fountain.
The Gospel is long and our familiarity with it can dull its meaning. The sower, the seeds and the soil form a parable intended to catch the attention of those who have seen His works and heard the teachings of Jesus. A large crowd has gathered so that He gets into a boat and speaks to them in this agricultural image which they can easily picture. Seeds are scattered in various places. Some fall where birds can easily pick them up. Others fall on soil which can not support the roots and some fall among thorns which choke the growth. Ah, and then some fall into rich soil and great was the harvest.
A discussion then arises about why Jesus uses parables rather than coming right out and speak directly. He tells them even more clearly that those who have the ears and eyes of faith know very well what He is saying and those who do not, only want to argue and play at believing.
The explanation of the parable will get our attention. The Word of God, which is the relationship with Jesus, has come on to the earth and there are various groups who respond to Him. There is a cost to being a hearer and seer of Jesus. How deeply does the Word penetrate the human heart is the challenge.
We are the “rich soil,” but things grow slowly. Because we are “soil” or “earth,” we expect to grow as quickly as the fabled “Beanstalk” which Jack could climb. Do we have fear, tribulations, doubts? I hope so, because that is the nature of the “rich soil.” If we but long for growing, desire to be a part of the Kingdom, if we have any taste for the mysteries of God, then we are of the “rich soil” and the Fountain has been watering the Word within us.
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