The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – 12 July 2020
Lectionary Readings: Isaiah 55:10-11; Ps 65:10-14; Rom 8:18-23; Matt 13:1-23
Theme: Graciousness or Wastefulness?
As I write this commentary, I am keenly aware of the lack of resources because the libraries are closed. So I am going to look at the readings through my own lens. There are two scenes in this gospel text. The first scene is Jesus, sitting on a boat, telling the parable to a crowd of people at the lakeside. The other scene is Jesus explaining the parable to his disciples privately. The conversation that ensued in private with the disciples presents a problem. If indeed they had understood what Jesus meant by the parable, then, it was not necessary for Jesus to explain it to them!
Now, I am impelled to ask, “What if I were one of the crowd who heard the parable without explanation? How might I have heard it?” How will I return to that space of naiveté so that I may hear the parable as if it is new?
If I were one of the people in the crowd, my initial reaction would be, “Why is the sower so wasteful?” Why does s/he sow indiscriminately? What do I know about ancient agricultural practices? In my experience with farmers, it seems to me that they treat the seeds with care. If I am reacting to the action of the sower, is this the space of challenge for me?
The carelessness of the sower teaches me to simply do the work that I am meant to do with generosity without calculations. Our foundress, Euphrasie Barbier said, “God does not ask of you success, only effort.” But of course, I want to be successful. So, there will be occasions that I will intentionally do only the tasks that would assure me of success, rather than dare and risk something else. Johnson describes the lesson accurately, “Jesus’ approach to mission is quite at odds with our play-it-safe instincts. He gives us freedom to take risks for the sake of the gospel. He endorses extravagant generosity in sowing the word, even in perilous places.”
Both Isaiah 55 and Psalm 65 speak of the action of God in the flourishing of the seeds or plants. The images of rain and streams in a parched land speak so much of a bountiful future beautifully described, “You adorn the year with your bounty.” (Ps 65:12) The assurance is in God’s hands not actually in one’s own calculations or efficiency. When we are able to leave the rest up to God, then, whatever it is that we hold less tightly, flourishes. Similarly, Paul in his letter also speaks of total reliance on God.
When we look at what is going on in today’s world, we get a sense of harshness; a great mess seems to have befallen humanity. We could be critical and suspicious about the way things are. But this is also the world that God loves beyond measure and it is this wastefulness of love that we must hold on to.
Today, I wish to acknowledge the birthday of a friend, who taught me to look at the world and not despair.