Thus says the LORD: Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.
Brothers and sisters: I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
Gospel Cycle Cycle A
On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.” The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them. “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. “Hear then 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. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
Today we reflect on the power of God’s Word. The first reading, from Isaiah, is a wonderfully beautiful description of the power of God’s word, using the comparison with the rain and the snow and their effect upon our earth. So also God’s Word can transform this world if we allow it to do so by becoming true servants of the Word.
The Gospel takes up this same theme, but at great length. We are told by Scripture scholars that only the first part of this Scripture reading would have been original, although that does not mean that the other words do not also come from the Lord in some way. Always we can remember that the formation of our Scriptures was a process. That process still allows us to believe that the Scriptures are inspired revelation and the authentic Word of God.
The point of the first part of today’s Gospel is simply that the Word of God brings an incredible harvest, in spite of all of the lost seeds, the seeds that don’t grow, the seeds the grow and then die. Normal sowing of seed would yield perhaps a harvest seven to ten times as much as the seed—at least some think that. To have a harvest of thirty, sixty or a hundred-fold is incredible and shows the miraculous power of God’s Word.
When a person is sowing in a field, all the attention is on the sowing and on doing it well. That is also how our Christian lives must be lived: with attention on living well and proclaiming the truth of God. It is very easy in our time to attract followers with all kinds of gimmicks. It is easy to make a good living on the Word of God today, not by being faithful to that Word but by using it for our own ends.
Remaining faithful to the Word of God implies that even if no one listens to us, even if our Church gets smaller and smaller, we simply strive to live the Gospel in its fullness and strive to give our lives over to Jesus Christ. This does not imply that we should not try to gain converts nor that we should not use any of the modern means of making the Word known. It only insists that our basic loyalty is to the Word of God as it comes to us in the Scriptures and in the Church.
God Himself will bring the harvest. God will make the Word fruitful. God will transform the world. So today God invites us to give ourselves over as servants of the Word for the sake of the Kingdom. God invites us to proclaim our faith and to trust that the divine presence will bring about all that is truly needed in our world. That takes a lot of faith! Will we trust in God?