The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

July 16, 2023 This weekend I am away on vacation time with my family.

For the next three weekends we shall hear all of Chapter 13 from Matthew’s Gospel. That chapter has the greatest concentration of parables in the whole of Matthew’s Gospel. So, it is important to remember how parables work, and how to listen to them. This weekend, we ought to stay focused on the parable itself. Therefore, I suggest the shorter option for the day. Scholars believe that the discussion with the disciples and the allegorical interpretation that follows is likely a Matthew-added interpretation for the community first receiving this Gospel which was experiencing some stress over the growing numbers of gentile converts. The first Hebrew converts had a difficult time accepting and understanding how God could intend these gentiles to be part of the fold or the harvest. (Weeds or Wheat?)

Jesus sits for this parable assuming the position of a teacher. The opening line makes the sower the focus of the parable because that’s what Jesus always wishes to do, reveal the Father. In our times, with tractors opening up the soil, and with machines carefully and orderly dropping seeds in perfect rows, this parable’s image of a sower takes some imagination. The whole idea of throwing seed around everywhere makes no sense at all. Then the amount of the harvest is staggering, leaving us to be further amazed which is just exactly what a parable should do, surprise and amaze. Another side of parable telling is its use to compare or contrast two things. In the case of this parable, one part is obviously the Father. The other part is you and me. Forget about being the seed or whatever kind of soil you might want to think you are or should be. It’s a comparison between God and us.

As Jesus tell this parable to the crowds, he raises the question about how much we are like the Father in whose image we have been made. Sadly, for many of us, the comparison can make be disturbing. We are not always quite as generous with our gifts, with our time, or attention as the Father is who throws that seed everywhere. We like to measure out just how much we can spare or how much someone might deserve. We like to consider whether or not there will be a return on our “investment”, and if there is a risk, we are not likely to take it. And so, the purpose of this parable’s comparison is to give us pause to think again not just about how much like the Father we have become, but also to be reminded that even a little bit, or just a part of what we sow can produce an amazing harvest. It reminds us too that even though there may be failures and disappointments over the failure of what we have done or given to bear fruit, we can be sure that some will produce, and that it will be greater than we could ever imagine.

The parable then reveals something about God and calling for a comparison to check on how much of the divine presence, god-like behavior, and expectations have made their way into our hearts, our thinking, and shaped our behavior. Blessed are those who have ears to hear.

Father Tom Boyer