XV SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
isaiah 55:10-11; romans 8:18-23; matthew 13:1-23 or 13:1-9
«i’m quitting!» said a priest companion as we were vesting for the eucharist! before a stunned me could respond, he said his province was quitting a missionary region because even after thirty plus years of ministry, they were not seeing the fruit of their labour. they planned to relocate in places where the people were more receptive.
it IS frustrating to work and not see the results of our labour. parents, teachers, mentors… we’ve been there and felt it. we want to throw our hands up and say: «that’s it! i’ve had enough.»
today’s word is addressed to those who want to give up: keep sowing… because GOD’s word is efficacious.
let’s situate today’s parable of the sower. the disciples are disheartened. JESUS has had very little «success». the pharisees are against him. the crowds come to him, but only to benefit from his power; they receive it and go away.
every israelite listening to the parable could identify with every detail: some seed necessarily fell on hard ground; much of the land in palestine was limestone and so beneath a few inches of soil there was rock; the soil which looked clean could have fibrous roots of weeds. every detail was commonplace except one: the size of the harvest! a farmer who reaped a fivefold harvest was considered fortunate. a sevenfold harvest was cause for celebration, a bounty attributable only to GOD’s blessing. a thirty fold harvest? unheard of. sixty fold, hundred fold? impossible!
when we sow GOD’s word, there will be miraculous success despite initial frustration.
the first reading gives us reason for confidence in an abundant harvest: just as rain inevitably brings forth fruitfulness, so it is with GOD’s word.
the sower knows soils are different. he accepts that the seed will grow differently. he sows anyway; he sows everywhere.
and so we ought. in an age that looks for quick results, we need to sow the seed with patience and in hope… that what we sow will—in the end—produce a harvest.
an anecdote (from william barclay) to end!
in the church where h.l. gee worshipped, there was an old man, thomas. when thomas died, gee assumed there would be no one for the funeral because thomas had outlived his friends and few knew him; gee decided to go.
it was a rainy day. at the cemetery gate, stood a soldier waiting. he came to the grave for the ceremony. when it was over, he stepped forward and swept his hand in a salute that might have been given to a king. as gee walked away with this soldier, the wind blew the soldier’s raincoat open to reveal the badges of a brigadier general.
the general said: «you are perhaps wondering what i am doing here! thomas was my sunday school teacher; i was a wild lad and a big trouble to him. he never knew what he did for me, but i owe everything i am or will be to old thomas. today i had to come to salute him.»
thomas did not know what he was doing. no parent, or teacher, or mentor, or any one ever does. it is our task to keep sowing the seed… because GOD’s word is efficacious. «sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well» (ecclesiastes 11:6).
will i keep sowing?