The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Isaiah 55:10-11 + Romans 8:18-23 + Matthew 13:1-23
July 12, 2020
“And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.”
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click HERE to hear Scott Hahn’s reflection for this Sunday (2:59)
click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this Sunday (5:57)
click HERE to read the homily of Monsignor Charles Pope for this Sunday
click HERE to watch the homily of Archbishop Charles Chaput for this Sunday (17:13)
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click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2017 Angelus address for this Sunday
click HERE to read Pope Benedict’s 2011 Angelus address for this Sunday
click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s August 23, 1997 World Youth Day homily
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references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church cited for this Sunday by the Vatican’s Homiletic Directory:
CCC 546: Christ teaches through parables
CCC 1703-1709: capacity to know and correspond to the voice of God
CCC 2006-2011: God associates man in working of grace
CCC 1046-1047: creation part of the new universe
CCC 2707: the value of meditation
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In this Sunday’s Gospel parable, “A sower went out to sow.” Now either this sower is foolish, or he knows something that we don’t know. If you were driving down a paved road and came up behind a farmer driving his tractor and drill, dropping seed for miles onto the asphalt, you’d be concerned. Doesn’t he know that he’s wasting his time, energy and money, in addition to ruining his drill?
But the sower in Jesus’ parable acts in a similar way: “… as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.” Later in the same chapter of Matthew, Jesus explains “the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.”
This is the first of four illustrations that Jesus paints in the parable. Three illustrate the sower laboring in vain because of the consistency of the path, rocky ground, and thorns. These three show three things for the Christian to avoid.
The first illustrates ignorance. It describes what results when we lack the understanding that the Word of God reveals. By contrast, to grow spiritually requires the knowledge which the Word of God shines upon two realities: the nature of God and oneself.
Knowledge of God is simple, because God is simple. God is Love. The Church recently, on Trinity Sunday, reflected on the mystery of the God who is divine Love. This reflection, of course, is meant to be like that of a mirror, not only a reflection upon one whom we adore. We reflect upon God as love because we, as His adopted children, are to be like Him, and so are meant to see ourselves in His reflection.
Self-knowledge is more complicated than knowledge of God because it has two contrasting parts. To be more specific, the fallen nature of man is divided, rather than being simple in the way that God created man “in the beginning”.
On the one hand is knowledge of oneself as a fallen person, as someone who has stumbled and fallen into the filth of sin. This is in addition to inheriting Original Sin, which leaves its traces even upon the baptized person.
On the other hand, there is knowledge of oneself as someone loved by God. One needs to know and reflect upon oneself as a person whom God has picked up out of sin, washed in the Blood of the Lamb, and raised to the dignity of His own child.
These three forms of knowledge, then—knowledge of God, knowledge of oneself as fallen, and knowledge of oneself as raised by God—are like three legs of a stool on which one sits. Without any one of these three, one inevitably falls. With all three, one resembles the fourth illustration that Jesus verbally paints in this Sunday’s Gospel Reading, where seed falls on rich soil and bears abundant life.
Yet as we seek this spiritual abundance, we must keep in mind two important truths. These two truths are summed up by the first half of this Sunday’s Gospel Acclamation: “The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower.” The Christian, in turn, is at heart receptive, for the Christian is meant to be like the good soil. Christ is the one who is active, like the sower. But He not only bears the seed of our spiritual growth, but is that seed, for the same Christ is the Word of God [see John 1:14].
That raises a doubt, though. If Christ is the sower, why does He waste seed (that is, why does He waste Himself) on the path and rocky ground and amidst the thorns? What does He know that we don’t know?
What God knows that you and I often don’t see is that the path and ground that’s strewn with rocks and thorns can be made hospitable to the Sower’s seed. No one is beyond redemption. No one is a waste of God’s love. No one is without the means to clear and work the ground of his life to open himself to the Sower’s seed.