• 15th A Sunday of Ordinary Time

    Posted on July 11, 2020 by in Reflections on Sunday Gospels

    15th ASunday of ordinary time: “A”
    He spoke to them at length in parables.

    INTRODUCTION:  Today we arrive at the section of Matthew’s Gospel
    which is known as the Parable Discourse, chapter 13.  Matthew structures
    his gospel around five discourses: Sermon on the Mount, Discipleship,
    Parables, Church, End.  For the next three Sundays we will be hearing
    from this chapter, the parables (the kingdom in MYSTERY).  Today’s
    passage has three parts, the parable of the sower, an explanation of the
    purpose of the parables, and an explanation of the parable of the sower.

    HOMILY:  As we heard the Gospel today we first heard the parable of
    the sower, later we heard an explanation of the meaning of the parable.
    The parable is probably close to the words of Jesus, the explanation is
    probably the words of Matthew.  We will look at these two parts of the
    Gospel separately.  First the parable. Then Matthew’s explanation of the
    parable. Then we will try to apply the parable to our times and
    situations.

    First the Parable.  Matthew takes the parable from Mark’s Gospel
    with very few changes.  Perhaps the most significant change is that at
    the end of the parable Mark’s order of fruitfulness is 30, 60, 100.
    Matthew reverses the order 100, 60, 30. (I like that he put 100 first)
    In the parable there is a formal balance and contrast between 3
    situations of waste and failure and three situations of gain and
    success. There is a certain rhythm established: seed, situation the seed
    encounters, outcome.  The seed remains the same throughout.  The
    situation the seed encounters changes: path, rocky ground, thorns. In
    the first three encounters the seed fails to mature.  There is a
    progression in the growth of the seed: 1) the seed falls on the path, no
    chance, devoured before it puts roots out; 2) the seed falls on rocky
    ground, seems to be growing but withers under the heat of the sun; 3)
    the seed falls among the thorns, grows higher, buds but when it is
    almost ready. it is choked.  Finally the seed falls on good ground and
    yields grain.  In Palestine a good yield was considered to be 10 fold,
    7 ½ was average.  The 100, 60, 30 harvest then is not simply bountiful
    but truly extraordinary.  The message to the disciples is one of
    encouragement to not be faint?hearted or discouraged.  In spite of all
    failures, the Kingdom of God comes at last.  And when it comes it comes bountifully.
    After the disappointments and rejections of the previous chapters in
    Matthew, this was an important message for the disciples.  It is an
    important message for us too.

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    In Matthew’s Gospel we do not have the word parable until the l3th

    chapter.  This is the third of Matthew’s discourses: the Parable

    discourse.  Matthew has 7 parables in this section.  With Mark he only shares the

    parable of the sower and the mustard seed.

    In verse 8 Matthew reverses Mark’s order of fruitfulness, he starts with

    100, 60, 30.  In verse 10 those near to Jesus ask him:  “Why do you

    speak to them in parables?”  In Mark they ask for an explanation of the

    parable.  In Mark Jesus speaks in parables, in order that the people may

    not understand.  In Matthew Jesus speaks to the crowds in parables

    because they refused to see and hear or understand his clear message.

    In Matthew Jesus speaks in parables as a punishment for their non

    acceptance.

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        Second, explanation of the parable.  Here the emphasis is on the

    different kinds of hearing and what happens after.

    Dispositions of those who receive Jesus’ preaching:

    1) those who never accept the word of the kingdom, hear without

    understanding.

          Bad soil: lack of understanding, superficial hearing

          Obstacle to belief: evil one

    2) those who believe for a while but fall away because of persecution.

          Bad soil: superficiality, initial rootless enthusiasm

          Obstacle to belief: tribulation (setback) or persecution

    3) those who believe but in whom the word is choked by wordly anxiety

    and the seduction of riches.

          Bad soil: division within oneself.

          Obstacle to belief:wordly cares (anxiety) and desire for wealth

    (lure of money, seduction by wealth).

    4) those who hear, understand and respond to the word and produce fruit

    abundantly.

          Good soil: message of Jesus taken in and yields remarkable

    results.

    TRUE DISCIPLE: hear, understand, do (bear fruit, yield).

    WHAT KIND OF SOIL AM I?

        Third, application to us.  We have the promise that the kingdom

     of God will prevail over difficulties, even our failures: path, rocky, thorns, good.

    What kind of soil am I? do I hear but not understand, do I give up when

    trials or difficulties come, do I suffer from anxiety or the attraction

    of wealth and riches?  Do I really believe that God is able to change me

    from one kind of bad soil to good soil?

        If we look at a field we notice that the greater part of the field

    is the good ground, not the path, the rocky ground or the thorns.  Are

    we so focused on the negative in our life and the world that we can’t

    see the good ground?   The meaning of the parables is not immediately

    clear.  Parables are told to engage us, to get us wrestling with what

    they mean.  Am I willing to do this work in my life.  What kind of

    hearer am I?

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