Sunday, July 15, 2017
John M Hayes
Homily: Isaiah 55:10-13,Romans 8:1-11, Matthew 13:1-9,18-23 (Parable of Sower and Seed)
We’ve heard Jesus’ parables many, many times. They are comforting and familiar, maybe sometimes numbingly so. We might nod with recognition, oh yes this one again. But if we do, we are only hearing the parable at the surface level. If we try to penetrate its meaning, we find ourselves coming to the limits of our ordinary understanding and we find our reassuring familiarity crumbles. This is what the parable intends, to break open our ordinary way of seeing and break through to a new consciousness.
When in our ordinary mind we hear this parable of the sower and the seed, we set to thinking that we want to be the fertile good soil. We might want to do a little weeding of sin, a little more attention to prayer, but we can certainly be good soil with a little effort. Our ego mind so quickly thinks in terms of control and self-improvement.
No one wants to be shallow and rocky soil, or choked with thorny weeds, and unable to sustain life. Shallow, rocky soil cannot hold water and it cannot yield to the seed’s germination. The thorny weeds are the world, the flesh and the devil, the forces of evil that overtake our lives and crowd out life and wisdom. No one certainly wants to be the hard path that everyone walks all over and even the birds take advantage of.
The truth is that all of us are all of these simultaneously all the time. As surely as we have parts of ourselves that manage to be good soil, there are places in us that are hard and resistant to the seed of God’s word, defeating the work of God’s spirit within. There are unconverted parts of ourselves attached to our secret or not-so-secret idolatries.
The point of the story isn’t that we need to shape up and become nothing but good soil. That would be fine if it was possible, but we all know better. As much as we struggle with ourselves, we all know sin has a hold on us and the good we want to do we do not do. That’s the fallen human condition.
Don’t be discouraged. This is the parable of the sower and the seed. Its not about us. This is not the parable of the dirt.
Out of God’s bottomless seed bag of extravagant senseless love, the seed just keeps coming at us. It will keep coming for all eternity. God is never stingy with his seed. God showers us with seed, all of us, all the way down, the good, the bad and the ugly parts of us. God doesn’t go away in disgust. God doesn’t keep his seed for just the worthy.
The seed is God’s word that germinates, breaks open and takes root and flowers. The word of God is God’s own self, the seed of Christ sown in the human heart. As Isaiah has it: “…so shall my word be that does out from my mouth, it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose”.
God works on us from the outside and the inside.
There are parts of us that can receive the seed. Good soil we might remember is not inert dead stuff, but very much teeming with invisible microorganisms and bacteria that break down what is dead and decayed and transforms it into soil that receives seed and bears new life. We cannot make ourselves into good soil, but God can.
The Spirit of God works within us in just that way. Breaking down what is dead, breaking down what is hard and resistant, making fertile what was wasteland. In the reading from Romans we hear: “for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death…He who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwells in you”.
We should note that the abundance of the seed and the extravagance of the sower are matched by what God can accomplish in the human heart. Jesus says, ‘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”. If the seed is God’s word, indeed God’s very person, then what grows from that seed is God’s very life, God’s life for the life of this broken wicked world that God loves and tirelessly redeems.
May we all bear God’s seed in our hearts and God’s life for the world.