Daily Reflection
July 20th, 2005

Robert P. Heaney

John A. Creighton University Chair
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Exodus 16:1-5, 9-15
Psalm 78:18-19, 23-24, 25-26, 27-28
Matthew 13:1-9

Probably one of the hardest things for most modern Christians to do is to take the humanity of Jesus seriously. We confess him to be God, so he can’t really have been much like us, except in appearances. It is an ancient heresy. Yet the Letter to the Hebrews insists that he was human like us in all things except sin. Even in Matthew’s time, when this Gospel was written, little more than a generation after the resurrection, Jesus’ divine nature had come to dominate community understanding. After all, it was the resurrected Lord that was the basis of their belief. So Parables like this one came to be allegorized. The rocky ground stands for this temperament; the weeds for that temperament; etc. And what kind of soil are we? Does the Word bear fruit in us?

Scripture scholars tell us that there was a simpler, more direct meaning, and that Jesus told this Parable in response to a challenge from his critics. Jesus then, as now, didn’t overwhelm people. He showed them what his Father was like and invited them to change their priorities. Some did, and followed Him – mostly hoping that He would somehow throw off the Roman yoke. Many got discouraged and dropped away. After an auspicious start, the movement seemed to be going nowhere. We read in St. John’s Gospel that “many walked with Him no longer.”

The challenge, from his critics, was in effect “How come you are not making any progress? How come you are losing followers as fast as You are gaining them? Some Messiah you are!” Jesus’ response was to use a familiar example from daily life. Fields were, apparently, sown exactly as described – indiscriminately (or so it would seem to us). Yet, Jesus says, despite the losses to the foot path and the rocks and the weeds “Look at the yield!” The only unrealistic part of the Parable is the yield – much more than His hearers would have expected. This is an eloquent expression of his absolute trust in his Father. The Father brings miraculous results out of seeming failures. The Kingdom will come in God’s time, in God’s way, through God’s power. That is what Jesus believed.

Trust, total reliance on God – right up to Calvary. Jesus was divine, yes, but fully human like us. As human, Jesus could not know; He had to trust.

We get discouraged, too, especially when we are working in the fields of the Lord. The problems the Church faces today are just one example. This parable is meant for us, not just because its words are reassuring, but precisely because Jesus himself believed it to be the way things are. It’s Jesus’ expression of trust in his Father – trust despite the faltering, apparently not very successful status of his attempt to call Israel back to its vocation. It must be our expression of trust, too.

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