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15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Sr. Nuala Cotter

Année liturgique 2016-2017 [A]

Seedtime and Harvest

This Sunday’s readings offer some images of a sower, seeds and seeding, as well as the promise of the coming harvest – fields of, as the song puts it, “amber waves of grain.” It’s summertime and things are developing in the great field that is the Kingdom of God. But there are some problems in this field.

If you look closely at all the places where the seeds fall in the field and listen at the same time to Jesus’ explanation about the fate of each, you can wind up confused. If you listen to his explanation about why he speaks in parables, you may be even more confused. So let’s try to get things clear. Maybe we can just look at the Sower, whom we might imagine to be God. But as it happens, that way leads to some very troubling questions, too.

The Sower broadcasts seeds across the whole field ; he doesn’t plant them one by one in patio pots. The seeds fly through the air and land where they land. That’s the place they have to grow – or not. 

Why does he do that ? Why is he so ready to let his seeds take their chances with earth that’s choked with thistles or littered with rocks ? Why hasn’t he spent time harrowing the field, breaking up the clods and spreading manure so that his seeds will have a better chance at making it ? And once he’s done, how come he doesn’t return once they germinate so as to weed the field and get rid of all the pests that threaten his tender plants ?

Tough questions. At first glance, this Sower doesn’t sound much like the Father who sent his only Son Jesus with the Good News. Of course, the image is of a sower using the broadcasting technique of First Century Palestine, but in other gospel stories and parables with agrarian themes, we see farmers taking a lot of care of their crops and orchards. This Sower seems just to sow and go. 

Surely the Father cares for his seed ground and his seeds more carefully than that ? 

Listening to this parable and to the allegorical explanation that Matthew adds to the earlier account given by Mark, we can get turned around by the allegory and imagine that it’s all up to the seed – and it sounds like the seed is each one of us. After all, we’re the people who’ve heard the Gospel. So if we let ourselves be breakfast for a bird or trodden underfoot, it’s on us. Tough stuff for sure.

Perhaps we have to be careful about reading this story so closely and so literally that we come to conclusions like these. 

It’s true, we can be choked by anxiety and worldly cares, we can lack understanding of the Good News, we can suffer persecution. And if it’s all up to us to deal with these tribulations, it’s likely that we’re going to die without fruit. 

But suppose we – who, after all, are not seeds, but rather, thinking, feeling, willed persons loved by the Father – suppose we ask for help ? Suppose we were to ask the Father, the Sower, to come to our rescue, to rake the manure in, to hoe the weeds out, to water us, even to prune us ?

Surely the Father, who knows whenever a sparrow falls, cares for his seed ground and his seeds as well ?

Sr Nuala Cotter, r.a.
Worcester, United States

Is 55:10-11 ; Ps 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14 ; Rom 8:18-23 ; Mt 13:1-23 or Mt 13:1-9

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