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July 16, 2017 - The Generous Sower

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

The use of parables to teach the lessons of life was one of the most brilliant strategies that Jesus used. Besides the fact that Jesus used imageries and analogies from the daily events to connect with his audience, parables by their nature are open ended. We can draw multiple meanings from parables. For that matter, a parable never runs out of meanings. The parable of the Sower and the Seed is one of the richest parables in the gospels. 

 Let me draw at least three meanings from the parable of the Sower and the Seed. 

  1. God’s Generosity. To draw out the first meaning of the parable of the Sower and the Seed, we must understand the agrarian practices of Jesus’ time. Scripture scholars tell us that there was a surprise element in the way Jesus narrated the parable. In his parable, the seeds fell on various kinds of soils. In real life, this in not what the Palestinian farmer would do. The typical Palestinian farmer was poor. He did not have seeds to waste. The farmer would be very careful that the seeds feel only on fertile soil that had been carefully prepared. Moreover, because the Palestinian farmer sowed the seeds with his hands, he would be careful not to let the seeds fall on infertile soil. He could only afford his seeds to fall on ground that would be yield the optimum fruit. The fact that Jesus makes the seeds fall on various kinds of soils in an insight into the generosity of God. In Jesus’ parable, the seeds fell on all kinds of soil. In another place in the same gospel, Jesus says that God makes the rain fall on the good and bad alike, and the sun to shine on the just and the unjust. Today in this church here, there as many kinds of soils as there are people. God’s words has fallen on all kinds of soils.  God has made no distinction between any of us. God is a good God and God’s generosity knows no limit. 
  1. Our Generosity Must Match God’s. There is a second meaning within the parable. A farmer does not sow seeds without expecting an yield. The meaning of today’s first reading where we hear Isaiah proclaim, “My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it,” is about intentionality. God’s words is intentional, God’s word is purposeful, and God’s word bears fruit - like the seeds a sower sows. A farmer, like God, does not sow seeds without expecting an yield. By being generous in allowing the seeds to fall on all kinds of soil, God is inviting us to be as generous in the same way that God is generous. In other words, God’s generosity must be reciprocated with our generosity. Hopefully, we will be generous toward God who is the giver of all good things. Hopefully, we will also be generous toward our fellow human being. Yes, not everyone may measure up to our standard. However, God lets God’s sun and rain fall on all. Hopefully, our generosity is bearing fruit a hundred fold. May be sixty-fold? Even thirty is fine if that is the best we can do. However, being fruitless does not respect the generosity of God.  
  1. Connectedness. There is a contemporary message for us in the parable of the Sower and the seeds. I do not come from a farming family or community. However, I do know this much - that farmers, particularly, have a deep sense of connectedness to the earth. In all the scripture readings today, in one way or another we see the integral connectedness between God, human beings, and the rest of creation. In today’s second Paul says, “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.” The interconnectedness of God, creation, and us is critical. It is critical for the sustenance of God’s creation. When Pope Francis issued his encyclical “Laudato Si” one of the main tasks he presents to the church was to see the connectedness of everything. He says, “Care for one another and creation includes understanding that “everything is connected” (no. 91) and that the economy, politics, community involvement, and technology all affect the future of the planet and humankind. It is tragic that care for the environment has become a contentious, disputed, and ideologically divisive issue. Our future and future of our kinds depends on us respecting the connectedness between God, creation, us. 

At every Eucharist we offer to God the “fruit of the earth and work of human hands” - the bread and wine. God transforms these offerings into something far greater and gives it back to us -the real presence of Christ. Every Eucharist is a celebration of the generosity of God. As we receive the real presence of Christ, may we replicate the generosity of God. 

- Fr. Satish Joseph