15th Sunday Of Ordinary Time- Year A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“An Abundant Harvest From A Difficult Soil”.
We are accustomed to see the immediate effects of publicity and advertising. We may then ask ourselves: why is the Gospel so slow in entering the hearts of people?
The word of God is a seed: not much use if left in the packet. It must be mixed into the earth. Scripture must be taken out of the paper and inserted into the earth of life. People deprived of Scripture are on a Third World spiritual diet. A priest who breaks the Bread but not the Word is only half a priest.
The first reading compares the Word of God to the rain that causes life to spring up.
The second reading says that the time for sowing is always a difficult one, it is a time of groaning and crying in pain, but it’s not the groaning and crying of death, it is the beginning of a New Life.
The Gospel states that this depends on the type of soil. In the first part Jesus assures us that even in the most barren of soils, in spite of appearances; it cannot resist the penetrating force of the seed.
Guide to ‘Live’ the Sunday Liturgy:
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
If at all possible, share this Bible Reflection time with a family member, a friend or someone you wish to bring to Christ. Jesus said in Mt. 18:20 – “For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.”
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests, bishops and Catholic theologians who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a ‘Prayer’ are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. With faith and perseverance, we will start to put into practice the Lord’s teachings; begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love, God’s will, and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator. Meditations and Prayer on the Reflections should be done daily – first thing in the morning and the last thing at night.
It may be necessary to pray and repeat the study of the Bible Readings and Commentaries more than once, or even on a daily basis, if you feel that you have not yet grasped the Lord’s special message for you.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden.
In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
The people of Israel had been exiled in Babylon for many years and were wondering if there would ever be a time when they could return to their homeland. One day amidst this exiled people, tired and disappointed, God raises a prophet who, speaking in the name of God, proclaims that liberation is at hand. The people get ready, but years go by, and nothing happens and of course the people fall into discouragement again. How is that the word of God has not become a reality? Is God now behaving like humans who fail to keep their promises?
The prophet gives them a comparison. The word of God, he says, is like the rain and snow: they come down from the heavens and do not return without producing the effects they were sent to produce. The water enables the soil to grow the grain seed and to foster growth of all types of trees. Also the word of God will bring about what it promises without fail. No difficulties or obstacles can prevent this fulfilment. Some years still go by, but then as the prophet foretold, the first group of Hebrews are permitted to leave Babylon.
Are we not often seized by a kind of mistrust and doubt when we don’t see the immediate realization of the word of God? For instance: our catechism has told us that if we want to be happy we must try to be just, loyal, love our neighbour and forgive. But we look around, it seems clear that the ones who are successful in this world are the wicked, the shrewd, the dishonest, and the corrupt. Then we begin doubting: can what God says be true? Can we really keep trusting him? Will his promises ever be fulfilled? God has a plan. A Christian’s faith confesses that this is true, and furthermore declares that it is a plan for salvation and not condemnation. The God who created this world and called it good will not leave it to fall into corruption and destruction. As the rain falls the seed is sown, so does the creative and live-giving Word of God come to us, achieving its end in due season. We must put our trust and hope in God, he is a long-term investor and his yield is always good.
In the creation story of Genesis, we are told that God “spoke” the world into being for six days and then retired. (We must always remember that God’s time is not our time). But Isaiah presents a God who stills speaks to this very day, who continues to will precious life and purpose into the events of history, the matter of creation. If we press our ear to the heart of the world, perhaps we can catch the rhythm of those words: let there be… let there be… let there be!
The Psalm is a thanksgiving hymn for the end of a drought. It links the Isaiah passage which compares God’s word to rain and Paul’s reflections about the place of creation in the divine plan. It speaks of God’s power and the image is exclusively concerned with the fertility of the earth and the miracle of growth.
Paul informs the Christians of Rome that God has long-term plans for humans and their world. Even though physical creation “was subjected to futility,” nevertheless it “will be set free from its bondage of decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Many are tempted to interpret these cries of sorrow and pain as signs that disaster is approaching: the world and is getting worse by the day and is fast approaching total destruction. Such an interpretation of the groan of creation is not a Christian interpretation because it carries no hope. Paul invites all Christians through the example of a ‘woman, who is about to give birth’ to have hope, despite the cries of pain which will soon turn into cries of joy. It is true that in the world there is a lot of suffering; Christians cannot pretend not to hear the cries of pain and sorrow and the groans of creation. We must not lose hope and be sure that, in spite of all the contrary appearances, a new creation will arise.
The Gospel reading is the familiar parable of the ‘Sower and the Seed’. The parable of the Sower has to do with sowing seeds in different types of soil. The Sower knows that the yield will be according to the quality of the soil where the seed is sown. If the soil is good, the yield will be good. If, however the soil is not good, the yield will not be good either. Poor soil will give a poor yield and a rich soil will yield abundantly.
In the explanation of the parable, we can read of the struggle of the Church. Many fall away because of their failure to understand the faith. They ignore the need to apply their head as well as their heart to their religion. Others never allow it to put down roots, allowing it to remain on the level of a child. What hope is there for the rest of us? Jesus’ parable functions as something of a map. It sets out ways that people respond to the ‘Good News’. But it also identifies factors that can shape our experiences on the journey of faith.
It alerts us to obstacles and dangers – indifference, challenging and difficult experiences, materialism, and inappropriate desires – which can render the seed fruitless. The various bad soils describe those who failed to grasp his message. Jesus’ parable depicts four ways in which people respond to hearing the word.
Seed sown on the path: those who give in to Satan-inspired indifference and inattention to the truth and live lives that do not show signs of the kingdom’s presence.
Seed sown on rocky ground: those who receive it instantly, but when the going gets tough (“tribulation and persecution”), they give up.
Seed sown among the thorns: those who get distracted by “worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things.” This chokes the word and it bears no fruit.
Seed sown on rich soil: those who resist all these latter pressures and thrive on faithful discipleship. They yield a huge return – some a hundredfold, others sixty fold and others thirty fold. The Gospel too shows that God truly expects a great payoff from his investment in humanity and in the universe. To ensure such a payoff, God takes ‘hands-on’ care of us and our world. He cares for us with love, patience and forgiveness.
When Jesus told this parable to his listeners he was reflecting his own experience as a teacher. His preaching had widely different results. Let us forget his enemies for a moment; think of those who were not hostile. Some of these listeners were idly curious; his message went in one ear and out the other. Some found him stimulating at first, but they were too shallow to accept his challenge and apply his words to their own lives. Others were just too busy to give him much attention. And then there were the ones whose minds were open; they recognized him for what he was, the greatest teacher of all time, and they took his lessons to heart. They weren’t any smarter or better educated than the others. The difference was not in their minds but in their hearts. They were open and ready for something new, something that would change their lives for the better.
We like to think that we belong to the last group. The fact that we are listening to the word of God, is a good indication that maybe we do. How committed are we to respond to Jesus’ call; the seed that he sows in our hearts? Is Jesus sowing in rich soil?
The interpretation of the parable tells us which difficulties the word of God encountered in the early Christian communities and still does in our modern communities. The little inroad that the Gospel has so far made in human hearts, the scarcity of the fruits does not depend either on the seeds or on the sower but on the type of soil that receives it.
‘In each of us we can find thorns, stones, rocky ground, hard paths and good soil’.
It is important to be aware of this and to improve the field in your heart, so that the Word of God may produce the good fruit that he expects. Let us start ‘enriching our hearts’ with the ‘word of God’.
Sow the Good Word this week in unlikely places. Use kindness where none is given. Speak hope into someone’s darkness. Through Jesus, witness your faith to a non-believer. You never know when and where a seed will take root.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the
Way, the Truth and the Life :
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the
15th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A, we reflect on …
Sun. …The first important lesson about God’s word in today’s first reading is that it is not merely content. It doesn’t just say something; it is also an event. It does something! God’s word is always effective, bringing about a result. God’s word has a purpose in bringing out his Divine Plan of Salvation. How does God’s word affect you?
Mon. … The second important lesson: just as human beings do not cause rain and snow and their outcomes to happen, so also human beings are not the cause either of God’s word or of the effect that God’s word produces. God is the primary agent of the productivity and fertility of the earth. God is also the primary agent of all the blessings that result from his word. It all happens through God’s will and not through human effort. Do we acknowledge this truth by always carrying out God’s will and not our own?
Tues. … The third important lesson: although God’s word is effective and comes through God’s initiative, it nonetheless involves some degree of human effort to produce the fullness of its results. The rain waters the earth and makes it fruitful and helps it to produce seed, but the farmer still needs to plant the seed in order to receive the grain to make his bread. Similarly, God’s word requires some degree of human collaborative effort if it is to bring the fullness of what God intends.
Wed. … All of creation, subject to time and decay, suffers the anguish of the passage of years and the loss of vigour. But we, who know ourselves to be children of God, appreciate that behind the waning of this life stands the life to come, a realized life that makes this one a mere shadow by comparison. Christians are made, not born. Do we regard ourselves as part of the family of God carrying out the difficult responsibilities that it may bring?
Thurs. … The word of God is a seed. It is not much use if it is left in the packet. It must be mixed into the earth. Scripture must be taken out of the paper on which it is written upon and be inserted into the earth (reality) of life. People deprived of Scripture are on a spiritual starvation diet. How does Scripture bring goodness to the soil of your life?
Frid. … Underlying the parable there is a telling confidence: in spite of all the obstacles present in the various types of soil, the ‘Good News’ is that the seed does succeed in growing a good harvest. The word of God preached by Jesus, despite apparent failure and repeated opposition, will indeed enjoy great fruitfulness. Will you be part of the good harvest?
Sat. … The word of God is still today scattered generously, with almost a throwaway style. God still risks his word, hoping that people will take to it, welcome it, and make it their own. How would we describe our responses to the word? Do we welcome it? Does it take root in us? Are we using it so that we may find the ‘Way’?
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, we pray that your ‘word’, the Seed that is Sown by Jesus will find root in our hearts and bear the Fruit from the Gifts that Your Spirit gave us at our Baptism. We pray that by the guidance of Your word and the Mystical Body of Christ we may always provide rich soil for Your work.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.