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Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 10, 2011 (15A)
By Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S.
Someone quoted an amusing TV commercial for Chiffon margarine; Mother Nature was fooled by the sweet taste of the creamy spread and she mistook it for butter. At the end she thunders, "It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!" In some ways we’re always trying to outwit the natural world. The debates and discussions of global warming, technical and scientific achievements, as well as the morality of some pharmaceuticals, stem cell research, or other medical protocol - all point us toward this dynamic tension.
Today’s readings remind us that all of nature mirrors God and God’s marvelous concern for creation. Nature is also used to teach us about our response to God’s Word. The parable of the Sower and the seed begins the third great discourse that St. Matthew gives to Jesus in his Gospel. The core message is that the seed is nothing unless it lands in the right spot. A seed might be crushed underfoot, burnt up by the sun, or eaten by birds, but some might also nestle securely in rich, black humus that cradles it into greater life.
God plants his Word in each of our hearts with the hope that it sets down good, deep roots and matures and develops. But "It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!" The fact is we’re hard-wired for relationship. God has planted within each of us a deep desire -"A Holy Longing" - for intimacy with God and others. And God plants his Word in us to draw us outside of ourselves, out of our homes, our churches, our politics… and into our world.
The pages of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are filled with anecdotes of those who heard Jesus’ Word, but it simply fell on their hardened hearts (like some Pharisees) and died. Or they welcomed Jesus for a bit, and then got scared or insecure (like Peter sinking or the rich young man walking away sadly) and the Word got choked or burned up. But there are also those who welcomed the Word with delight (like Zacchaeus, the crooked little tax collector, or Bartimaeus, the shouting blind man who followed Jesus up the road).
What is the condition of your heart? Remember, the state of one’s heart influences the receptivity of God’s Word—acceptance or rejection. God confronts everyone with His truth. God confronts you with His truth. If one does not respond positively to the truths of God, then one will lose it. The longer one puts off salvation the more difficult it becomes to act in a positive manner.
The parable of the sower is plain. The seed sown is the word of God. The sower is our Lord Jesus Christ, by himself, or by his ministers. Preaching to a multitude is sowing the corn; we know not where it will light. Some sort of ground, though we take ever so much pains with it, brings forth no fruit to purpose, while the good soil brings forth plentifully. So it is with the hearts of men, whose different characters are here described by four sorts of ground.
Careless, trifling hearers, are an easy prey to Satan; who, as he is the great murderer of souls, so he is the great thief of sermons, and will be sure to rob us of the word, if we take not care to keep it. Hypocrites, like the stony ground, often get the start of true Christians in the shows of profession. Many are glad to hear a good sermon who do not profit by it. They are told of free salvation, of the believer's privileges, and the happiness of heaven; and, without any change of heart, without any abiding conviction of their own depravity, their need of a Saviour, or the excellence of holiness, they soon profess an unwarranted assurance. But when some heavy trial threatens them, or some sinful advantage may be had, they give up or disguise their profession, or turn to some easier system.
Worldly cares are fitly compared to thorns, for they came in with sin, and are a fruit of the curse; they are good in their place to stop a gap, but a man must be well armed that has much to do with them; they are entangling, vexing, scratching, and their end is to be burned. Worldly cares are great hindrances to our profiting by the word of God. The deceitfulness of riches does the mischief; they cannot be said to deceive us unless we put our trust in them, then they choke the good seed.
What distinguished the good ground was fruitfulness. By this true Christians are distinguished from hypocrites. Christ does not say that this good ground has no stones in it, or no thorns; but none that could hinder its fruitfulness. All are not alike; we should aim at the highest, to bring forth most fruit. The sense of hearing cannot be better employed than in hearing God's word; and let us look to ourselves that we may know what sort of hearers we are.