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Fifteenth Sunday – Year A – Ordinary Time
Readings: Isa 55:10-11; Rom 8:18-23; Mt 13:1-23
1/ Reading I: RSV Isaiah 55:10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
2/ Reading II: RSV Romans 8:18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
3/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 13:1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat there; and the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched; and since they had no root they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.” 10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: `You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. 18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
I. THEME: Results and benefits of God’s word
The word that comes out from a person’s mouth can cause different reactions from his audience: some pay a special attention and treasure it in their heart; some listen perfunctorily; some get it like “water poured on a duck’s head;” some sit there but listen nothing because their mind are wandering somewhere else; some listen critically to find faults of the speaker to criticize him. Depending on the way of listening, the speaker’s word can bring benefits or damages for the audience.
Today readings use many different images to emphasize people’s necessary attitude when they listen to God’s word. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah used the image of rain and snow that come down from heaven. Their purposes are to permeate the earth and to help seeds to germinate and to grow so that farmers may have more seeds and people have food to eat. Similarly with God’s word, once it comes out, shall not return to Him until it permeates human minds and brings benefits for people. In the second reading, God’s word reveals for people to know God’s plan of salvation so they understand their ultimate goal of life and firmly keep this hope as the basic guidance for all decisions of their life. In the Gospel, God’s word is compared as a seed which a farmer went out to sow. It can fall in a sidewalk, a rocky ground, a thorny bush or a good soil. Depending on the spot, a seed shall give different yields.
1/ Reading I: The prophet Isaiah emphasized on the continuity of God’s word.
1.1/ God’s word is liken as rain or snow which comes down from the sky: The prophet Isaiah listed out four benefits of rain and snow which every farmer can understand them.
(1) They permeate and fertilize the earth: If the soil has no water, it becomes dried and hard as a stone. Before farmers sow seeds, they must plow their field and then wait for rain or snow to fall down to soften it. If there is no water, no seed can germinate, not to mention of harvesting
(2) It helps seeds to grow and to bear fruit: If a seed is sowing in a well prepared field, it has a chance to germinate, to grow strong, and to bear fruit. Depending on the fertilization and water, a seed shall yield different results, little or plenty, sweet or sour, etc.
(3) It helps farmers to have plenty of seeds for their next season: In God’s providence, a seed has potential to give hundred or thousand other seeds. A farmer shall preserve them for his next sowing season.
(4) It helps people to have food: In God’s plan, seeds were created for people and animals to have food. If there are no seeds, there shall be no life on this earth.
These are at least the four purposes of rain and snow. They shall not return to the sky until they fulfill all of these purposes which God determines them to fulfill.
1.2/ The continuity of God’s word: Seeds can’t bear fruit if there is only rain or snow once; they need water continuously to grow and to bear fruit. Similarly, God’s word needs to be sowed in human mind many times before it can yield good results for people. The passage wants to emphasize the continuity of God in the process of influencing a person’s mind and heart so that he might believe in His word and act on it properly. God’s word might not have a good result the first time when a person listens to; but it permeates his mind day after day. Like a seed that germinates, it has potential to bear fruit.
God’s word can also be understood as Christ, the Logos. He is the word that comes from God right from the beginning, before the creation of the world, and shall not return to God until he finishes God’s plan of salvation.
2/ Reading II: “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Farming is the job that requires time, endurance and patience. The farmers must work hard to the point of sweating, from plowing and sowing to fertilizing and watering before they can have a bountiful harvest. If a farmer doesn’t pass through this process, he shall not have a good harvest. St. Paul used a different image for the whole process of a human being. According to him, the faithful must also go through a similar process which requires even more time, sacrifice, endurance and patience than farmers before they can reach the glorious result, the salvation, which Christ has prepared for them.
2.1/ The necessary of sufferings: To reach the glorious result, people must go through the way of suffering; the easy way only leads them to destruction. It is Jesus who revealed for us this principle; he set for us an exemplar by went through all terrible sufferings and death to bring salvation for many people.
Many people recognize life is an ocean of sufferings. St. Paul described the sufferings of humankind as follows, “The whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves.” This happens, not because of our willing, but God determines so. Therefore, no one can avoid the way of sufferings.
But what is the meaning or the purpose of suffering? There are many but we can only list out some of their main ones due to the limitation of the space. First, suffering helps us to recognize the love of people who sacrificed for us; for example, by looking upon the cross, we felt God’s and Christ’s love for us. Secondly, suffering helps us to evaluate right about the value of our life on earth. Lastly, suffering purifies people; it helps us to become God’s holy children. Since Christ sacrificed his life for us; we must also sacrifice our life for others to live.
2.2/ The glory shall be gained after sufferings: However, suffering is only temporal. St. Paul confirmed this when he wrote, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us; for the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” The most terrible suffering which people and all creatures must endure is the destruction; but even the destruction is only temporal, because all still have a hope that “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.”
The faithful don’t have to wait until the Last Day to receive their glorious salvation from God; they actually feel that even from this life. St. Paul described this reality as follows, “but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” To receive the Holy Spirit is to affirm our right to call God as our Father. He sows in us the Holy Spirit’s grace so that we can live righteously as God’s children from this present life.
3/ Gospel: Four kinds of field which God’s word is sowed in
Jesus explained clearly about the meaning of the Parable of the Sowing; we only need to pay attention to the reality of the faithful’s life.
3.1/ Sidewalk: is the image of those who listen God’s word perfunctorily without understanding; so the devil comes and takes it away as a seed is eaten by a bird. To gain benefits from God’s word, people need to be prepared carefully. They need to let their mind to settle down and to have time to pray with the Holy Spirit so that he can enlighten their mind to understand the true meaning of God’s word. Coming to the Mass late can be the sign of this kind of people.
3.2/ Rocky ground: is the image of those who first listen to God’s word, they welcome it happily; but they don’t let it permeate in their life, as the seed can’t take a deep root in a stony ground. These people shall be discouraged when they face suffering due to the practicing of God’s word, like a seed is withered when the sun comes out. To gain benefits from God’s word, people need not only to listen but also to meditate and to apply it in their life. God’s word has power to make their faith growing. If their faith isn’t strong, how can they stand firm before all strong winds and storms of their life?
3.3/ Thorny bush: is the image of those who let God’s word grow but can’t bear fruit because thorns suffocated it. The thorns can be their worries about what they need to eat, to drink, to wear and to enjoy. God’s word demands people to choose: either the temporal happiness of this life or the eternal happiness of the next life; they can’t catch fish with both hands.
3.4/ Good soil: is the image of those who listened well, understood and let God’s word guide their life. Depending on the level of understanding and living, they might bear a profit of thirty, sixty or a hundredfold. These people spent much time to prepare their soul before they listen to God’s word. They don’t let gaudy values of the world to prevent them from studying God’s word; but spent much time to study, to meditate day and night, and to find all opportunities to apply it into their life.
The following is the experience of a witness from Vietcatholic website. When he looked back at his past, he felt sometime likes:
(1) A seed on a sidewalk: This is the time when he was still under-aged, loving to play and looking for material enjoyments. God is absent in his life because he didn’t know him.
(2) A seed on a rocky ground: This is the time when he had to wander and to look for a job for his living. He sometimes felt God’s presence but he didn’t have much time for God because he had to spend so much time for working.
(3) A seed on good soil: This only happens a few years ago when his life was settled down and he didn’t have to work a lot. He has more time to dedicate for God and to study God’s word. He starts to bear fruit for God and others, not many but enough to offer for God as his thanksgiving offerings.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– To become good and useful is the process that needs time and effort as the process of a seed to become a tree and to bear fruit. Let God’s word permeate continuously our mind and heart until it becomes a fertile field.
– This process demands continuously God’s grace and His daily word, also our own contribution.
– The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist are equally important. The Liturgy of the Word prepares us to receive God Himself. If we don’t prepare our mind, it isn’t useful for us to receive Him. Therefore, we should never come to Mass late when God’s word was already announcing.