Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - July 12, 2020
“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...Whoever has ears ought to hear.’” (MT 13:1-9)
Today, on the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Prophet Isaiah and the Gospel of Matthew teach us not only about the effectiveness of God’s Word to make things grow and bring about change in us but also about the importance of being receptive to God’s Word, by hearing it, welcoming it, and seeking to understand it. Isaiah delivered God’s Word of hope to a people in exile and encouraged them to rely on God's Word and to trust that the Word would accomplish its purpose. Matthew presents Jesus’ parable of the sower that contrasts those who act upon Jesus' word with those who do not. Jesus’ description of the various kinds of soil or receptivity rang true in His day, and it rings true in our day. In today’s world, we are bombarded with voices: the voice of the media, the voice of the culture, the voice of our family and friends, the endless voices on social media, and so on. We all have ears to hear, but to whom do we choose to listen?
Repeatedly our Lord chose to teach the crowds in parables. Parables are stories, that, while fictitious, are designed to show comparisons between daily life and Christian truths, for example, the kingdom of God or God’s mercy. A parable is a figure of speech that stimulates, confronts, and provokes thought; it encourages us to reflect and so grow in understanding. Understanding is a gift from God, and, as Jesus says in today’s Gospel, it is given to the disciples and not the larger crowd. The lesson here is that, despite some opposition and indifference, the message of Jesus will have a tremendous impact: “the one who hears the word and understands it [is the one] who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” Through the Gospel parable, Jesus continues to teach disciples today. When we are open to the message of Jesus, receive it, and act upon it, it has a tremendous, and positive impact on our lives.
In our world, there are indeed endless voices competing for our attention, and it is not always easy or popular to follow Jesus' Word as we hear it in the Gospel. We believe that those who follow the words of Christ will have eternal life, and so we strive to ensure our ears, our hearts, and our minds are receptive to the one true voice of the eternal God. To paraphrase our response to today’s Responsorial Psalm 65, we pray that the seed of God’s Word will always find good ground in us and help us to yield a fruitful harvest!