Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A


Joseph L. Narog, O.S.A. 
Director of Vocations and Initial Formation
Province of St. Thomas of Villanova

Is 55:10-11
Ps 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14
Rom 8:18-23
Mt 13:1-23

With all the talk of sowing and seeds in today’s Readings, I was reminded of a man who’s driving down a country road, when he spots a farmer standing in the middle of a huge field. He pulls his car over to the side of the road and notices that the farmer is just standing there, doing nothing, looking at nothing. The man gets out of the car, walks all the way out to the farmer and questions him, “Ah, excuse me mister, but what are you doing?” The farmer replies, “I’m trying to win a Nobel Prize.” “A Nobel Prize,” asks the puzzled man, “how?” “Well,” the farmer responds, “I heard that they give the Nobel Prize to people who are…out standing in their field.”

Seriously, though, the Parable of the Sower in our Gospel passage from Matthew does raise the question: what are we doing out in the field? Are we simply waiting for things to happen, or are we continuing to make the effort to plant God’s Word by what we say and do? Perhaps we’ve become discouraged in a society that often seems to foster “worldly anxiety and the lure of riches.” Maybe we’re weighed down by the disappointments and tribulations in our own lives, or by making the same mistakes, over and over, thinking we see and hear, but then not following through.

Yet, as Jesus faced indifference, opposition, and even seeming failure, he didn’t become a grim-faced preacher of gloom and doom. For he knew well God’s promise that we heard in the 1st Reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah: “my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” Jesus the Christ’s message to us today then is one of encouragement – something we really could use in these times. Just as he pressed on to the cross, and beyond, Jesus calls us to work for and trust in a fruitful harvest; not merely standing out in our fields, but sowing the seeds of faith, justice, and compassion in our relationships, in our world, despite the obstacles and frustrations that inevitably arise. As St. Paul reminds us, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.”

In referring to the Gospel parable, our own St. Augustine says, “Here a sower went out to sow tirelessly. What concern was it of his, after all, that some fell on the path, some on rocky places, some among thorns? If he had been anxious about these difficult soils, he would never have reached the good soil” (Sermon 103, 3-4). Notice that all these types of soil can be present in the same field. And isn’t that really the story of our lives? For we’re not only the sower, but also the soil. In fact, the Gospel story could just as well be called the Parable of the Soils. Haven’t we all experienced times when God’s message bounced right off of us; or it took root quickly and then withered soon after, for lack of nurturing; or it got choked by the weeds, the thorns of our competing interests? Sure, we’d pray more or help that person in need, but there are so many other things we want to do.

The goal, of course, is to reach the good soil, to cultivate the good ground in ourselves, so that we can bear fruit in ways beyond imagining. Arguably, the most startling part of the parable is the yield: seed sown on the rich soil gets “a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” A bumper crop in Jesus’ time was at best twenty-fold. But with God anything is possible. We just have to believe it. And we must believe too that we do indeed have fertile soil in the midst of our sometimes mixed up, messy fields.

None of us likely will win a Nobel Prize, but we each have the capacity to be an outstanding part of God’s harvest. So today and in the week ahead, let’s pray especially for the grace to take the time ‘to see, to hear, and to understand;’ to not be discouraged, but to become the sower and the soil Christ knows that we can be – achieving the end for which he not only suffered and died, but also rose. Now isn’t that what makes the effort, the toil bearable and worthwhile? A yield greater than our greatest expectations!