15th Sunday in Ordinary Time A. – July 16, 2023

 

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time A. – July 16, 2023

Isiah 55: 10-11; Romans 8: 18-23; Matthew 13: 1-23

 

Theme: Christians Should be Like the Rich Soils that Bear Good Fruits

In my homily of Sunday, June 18th, I mentioned that the evangelist Matthew recorded five large sermons of Jesus. They are: - The Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7), - The Mission Sermon (chapter 10), - The Mystery Sermon (chapter 13), - The Mercy Sermon (chapter 18), and – The Mount of Olives Sermon (chapters 24-25). Today’s Gospel is taken from the third sermon of Jesus called the “Mystery Sermon”. This sermon is a collection of Jesus’ seven parables. Today we read the first one, the parable of the Sower. To better understand it, it is important to know its context first.

After the “Mission Sermon” (chapter 10) that we read on Sundays, June 18th, 25th, and July 2nd, Matthew recounts in a big section (11: 2-13: 53), not the return of the apostles and the success of their mission as Mark and Luke do, but the opposition that Jesus met from Israel. In last Sunday’s Gospel passage, which was taken from the first part (11: 2 – 12: 50) of this big section, Jesus, on one hand, reacted to the opposition from the people who rejected his message. He called them the “wise” and “learned”, meaning those who are self-sufficient and unwilling to listen to the Word of God. On the other hand, he invited the “little ones”, (meaning those who are willing to listen to him) to come to him, take upon them his “yoke” (which is the Word of God) and learn from him. Now, in our parable of the Sower, which is taken from the second part (13: 1-53) of this big section, Jesus intends to teach his listeners and all of us that Christians who are willing to receive God’s Word are expected to bear fruits in abundance. The significance of “bearing fruit” is the key to better understanding this parable. Note that in Matthew’s Gospel, fruit is what everyone will bring to the final judgment as evidence that he or she is a disciple of Jesus.

It is important to understand some keywords that Jesus employs in this parable. The first keyword is the seed. In this context, the seed represents the Word of the kingdom. This seed also is the Word of God that we read and hear at Masses and at home. It is the value that parents and teachers teach children. The second keyword is the Sower which stands for God, Jesus, and anyone who is Jesus’s apostle today: priests, religious, deacons, nuns, catechists, parents, and teachers. Other keywords are the four types of soil where the seed falls. These different types of soil represent different stages in one person’s life. note that one person’s heart can change from one type of soil to another depending on how he/she deals with the difficulties of life that he/she faces every day. Let us analyze each type of soil one by one.

First, we act like the “path” when we hear the Word of God without understanding it, and when we let the evil one come and steal it in our hearts. The focus here is on our lack of understanding of God’s Word which allows the evil one to come and steal it away. To prevent it from happening, we need to find ways to help us understand the Word of God proclaimed at Masses and that we read at home. First, we need to love the Scriptures. Remember that this Gospel is in connection with that of last Sunday in which Jesus dealt with the people who deliberately rejected his Word. Likewise, today many Christians do not understand the Bible because they deliberately do not love it. If we love the Word of God, we will understand it very well. Second, we need to make ourselves available to God. Many of us have given up on Jesus to be with our friends, take care of business, and enjoy our hobbies. We do not have time for God as we should. Many of us, unfortunately, squeeze our schedules to find a little space for God. It should not be like that. God must be our priority. Remember, 24 hours and seven days belong to him. We need to spend enough time with our Lord. in Masses and spiritual activities to let his Word grow in our hearts and produce fruits. The more we spend time with God, the better we understand his Word. Third, we need to attend the Weekly Bible Study on Sunday’s Scriptures that I will start soon in our Church. This will help us become familiar with the Word of God we hear at Sunday’s Masses. Fourth, I encourage us to read and share the Bible at home with our family members. If we do all these things, our hearts will not be like the “path”, so, the evil one will not have the opportunity to come and steal the Word of God in our hearts.   

Second, we act like the “rocky ground” when we hear the Word of God and receive it at once with joy, but we do not produce any fruit because we are afraid of the tribulation and persecution that we face on our mission. When people critique, mock, discourage, and persecute us, many of us become afraid and denied Jesus before others by giving up Jesus’ mission. At this time, the Word of God sown in our hearts does not produce any fruit. In the Gospel of Sunday, June 25th, Jesus warned us that we, his missionaries, might encounter rejection, mockery, critics, and persecution because of his name. He asked us to speak in the light and proclaim on the housetop his Word without fear. (Matthew 10: 26-33). Let us not be afraid of anyone or anything that tries to prevent us from serving our God in our Church, families, and neighborhoods. Our hearts should not be like the rocky ground but like the rich soil.   

Third, we act like the” soil with thorns” when we allow our worries, anxieties, and lure of riches to prevent us from bearing fruits. Worries, anxieties, and the lure of riches are the results of when we do not accept suffering as part of our Christian lives. Our Christian faith tells us that there is no resurrection without the cross. In the Gospel that we heard on Sunday, July 2nd, Jesus said, “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10: 38). Jesus who sows the Word of God in our hearts and expects us to bear good fruits knows very well the “thorns”, sufferings that we go through. That is why, in last Sunday’s Gospel, he invited all of us who labor and are burdened to come to him and find rest in him. (Matthew 11: 25). We must not let our sufferings provoke worries, anxieties, and the lure of riches which chock the Word of God sown in our hearts. Rather, we need to face our sufferings with courage, faith, and hope because we believe that, as Saint Paul exhorts us in our second reading, “The sufferings of this present time are nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us”. (Romans 8: 18).

Fourth, we act like the “rich soil”, when, after hearing the Word of God, we bear fruits in abundance. In our first reading, Prophet Isaiah tells us that the Word of God is like rain and snow that come down and do not return till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful. (Isaiah 55: 10-11). This means, Jesus expects us who read and hear the Word of God, not to remain indifferent, but to bear good fruits.

This liturgy encourages us to always prepare ourselves before we read and listen to the Scriptures. We need to get rid of everything that transforms our hearts into paths, rocky grounds, and soils with thorns. Let us ask God’s grace in this celebration of the Eucharist that our hearts become like the “rich soil” so that we bear fruits and yield a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Amen.

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD

 

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