15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)



Matthew 13: 1-23                                                   July 16, 2017

“The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower. All who come to him will have life forever.”

I remember the kids in our grammar school really enjoyed the biology class, because the teacher used to take her students out to their own vegetable garden and assigned a lot of the garden to each class. Each group was in charge of sowing a particular seed: tomato, lettuce, cabbage, and so on. In a label in front of each seed the boys and girls had to write the name and draw the picture of what would result of each seed. In addition to the biological process of sowing, sprouting and harvesting, the children witnessed one of the miracles of Mother Nature.

Today in his Gospel Jesus tells one of his educational parables, the parable of the sower going out to sow seed, which teaches us the secret power of the seed. With this parable starts a group known as the parables of the kingdom, followed by the parable of the weeds among the wheat, the parable of the mustard seed,  the parable of the yeast, then a treasure buried in a field, a merchant searching for precious stones, and a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. We will be reading these parables on the coming Sundays.

In our Gospel´s reading (Matt 13: 14-15) Jesus quotes Isaiah 6: 9-10, “You (people) shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them.”

Our question to this difficult passage is: “Was Jesus speaking in a literal or figurative way?” In the passive tense used in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, this Isaiah´s paragraph signifies that God does not intentionally harden people´s hearts. They themselves have become stubborn and closed their hearts to God´s voice. God does not have to harden their hearts because it is Israel which has done it themselves by their disobedience. The natural consequence of being disobedient was punishment, but God´s interest was his people´s salvation, not condemnation.

When Jesus told this story, it was a time when many people, even those among his listeners, were rejecting his teaching; so this parable speaks of the power of God´s word to find in a human heart the expecting results; like saying, “I toss lavishly the seed, and it is up to you to let it grow.” When the Palestinian sower spread the seed all over, the earth was plowed up, making the seed to land in different places: on the path, on rocky ground with little soil, among thorns, and finally on deep and rich soil. The image is obvious and clever: if there are not satisfactory conditions for the seed, there are not positive results for growth.

Normally parables do not need explanation; but it is Jesus himself who explains this first parable of the kingdom. His word could fall on hard hearts, or when welcomed for a time then is forgotten because of worries; it could grow strong but something could happen and is choked off for any reason; but if we are open to Jesus´ message, we allow it to grow, like the rain that brings about desired results in fertile soil. The teaching of the parable is a combination of the power and effectiveness of God´s word, and the human willingness to accept it. This parable continues to speak to us and challenges us today.

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Today: Sep 25, 2017