Wednesday, July 12, 2023

The Gospel Reading and Reflection for Sunday, July 16

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

13:1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.

13:2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach.

13:3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow.

13:4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up.

13:5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil.

13:6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away.

13:7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.

13:8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

13:9 Let anyone with ears listen!"

13:18 "Hear then the parable of the sower.

13:19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.

13:20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;

13:21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.

13:22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.

13:23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.

I love gardening. There's nothing more encouraging than to see seeds make it to maturity. It's also full of surprizes: seeds from a throwaway plant sprout and flower a year later. Who knows where these seeds will end up?! 

While the beginning of the reading tells of a sower throwing seed which lands everywhere, the parable comes in the explanation. The responses to the seed of the word are realistic, varied, and memorable.* The responses that Jesus describes could be considered valid for everyone who has ever heard the good news of the inbreaking kingdom of God. 

Available also in Mark and Luke, the story and its parable must have been very useful as well as popular among the earliest believers. Due to the crowds pressing in, Jesus delivers his message from a boat, away from the beach.

Maybe another, "this is the one" is in order, that of a mixture of all four responses. Each one can challenge the maturation of the word to fruition and completion. I can report seasons, weeks, even days, when I was all four of the seeds. As I write this today, one seems to dominate, that of lacking understanding because what was planted in the heart was lost or stolen.**

What robs your spirit of fruition and maturity? For me, the evil comes in my thoughts, ruminations, fears, terrors, and catastrophizing. The panic demands my attention. The long recovery lies in relearning how to think, pray, and breath again. I learn to focus my mind on taming the panicky thoughts, to pray the Examen, and to engage the practice of relaxing breaths. The outcome is that I am freer to respond to the Gospel, in all of its fullness. I have choices. 

A life-giving theology which teaches God's unconditional love in all circumstances not only promotes hearing with understanding, but also, to revel and wonder at the miracle of life sustaining life, to enjoy the outrageous generosity of the sower, who throws the seed with little regard for success. I learn to enjoy growing in love and charity with God and others in m y life. I Learn to celebrate small but real progress. I don't get weighted-down in hopelessness.

No, the parable does not allow me to pretend that wrong, injustice, and harm do not exist, but rather, to see things, myself, others, God, with a greater sense of hope, clarity, and insight. That hope is the implanted word of the coming rule and reign of God.

Where do you find yourself?

*"Understanding" has 163 appearances in Scripture and Apocrypha. See Oremus Bible Browser. Understanding comes from God but is also the fruit of study, meditation, and a gift of God. The way of understanding is the way of wisdom and wonder in God's world. "Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom." James 3:13
**The evil one is not capitalized in the text. Satan is translated also as Accuser. See Job 1-2, Zechariah 3:1-2. Self-hate, self-doubt, self-accusation, and hopelessness thwart our flourishing?   

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