Sunday Scripture Readings

fifteenth sunday

in ordinary time,

July 14

Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 65; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23

OUR GOOD NEWS: God's word is good as gold - he always does what he promises. The option of proclaiming the parable (Mt 13:1-9) without subse-quent allegorical interpretation (verses 10-23) is supported by scholarly opinion that the latter is secondary, not part of Jesus' original teaching but put into his mouth by subsequent tradition. Rather than you-were-there historical accuracy, Gospels are records of the Church's ongoing reflection on the mystery of Jesus, pulling out new and related truths. "One day a farmer went out sowing." In primitive agricultural practice, the farmer sowed his seeds upon unplowed land. Before he could turn over the earth, birds might gobble up seed exposed on a footpath's packed soil. Another problem was that subsurface rock impeded subsequent plowing and resulted in stunted, withered stalks. Finally, occasional patches of weed would sprout again to choke growing grain. Through it all the farmer remained undisturbed, assured that his was good acreage. Jesus concluded with an unexpected surprise: instead of usual tenfold yield, this farmer would gather a miraculous harvest of final-age plenty, "a hundred-, or sixty- or thirty-fold" yield. When Jesus first told this story the message needed no further explanation. The disciples were depressed, perhaps despairing. Nothing was going right. People weren't accepting Jesus; those who did tended to drift away. The parable tells them - and us - to relax, to take the long view of God's Kingdom. We need only do our small part, leaving the rest to God's way and his mysterious timetable. We're to imitate the farmer who doesn't lose sleep over a few seeds stolen here, a couple of rows lost there. Because God is in charge, things will ultimately turn out well, but not always according to our hopes. Relax! Reflections follow upon the deeper meaning of parables as used by Jesus. He didn't tell them to predict the future, to answer problems or to resolve difficulties. Instead, parables summon us to serious reflection and personal appropriation, demanding commitment through thoroughgoing change in our attitude and behavior. For those unwilling to work through them and face up to painful implications - the lazy, those blinded by prejudice or set in their ways and refusing to grow - it's like telling a joke to a grouch: just some dumb story. God. through Jesus, does all he can. We may refuse the invitation to repentance, to reordering our priorities - a willful, sinful, free decision with terrible results for eternity. When told to such people who will not hear, Jesus' parables become awesome instruments of judgment. Point-for-point allegorizing of the second half of parable (e.g., "The seed is the man who hears the message...") illustrates the early Church's application of Jesus' teaching to a later situation. Apostasy having become a scandalous fact, the community must be exhorted to daily perseverance. Backsliding also provoked the scandal of unbelief. Does rejection by some of the life-transforming Spirit imply that temptation can be too strong for divine grace? Prayerful reflection found the Lord's own answer at a deeper, allegorical level. This serious warning also comforts because Jesus reassures us that all is foreseen and dealt with.

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