Lector's Notes

by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

Lector, by now you have meditated on the gospel, and perhaps on the hope that your listeners become spiritually fertile for hearing God’s word. So it shouldn’t be hard to prepare to proclaim the first reading. Just realize it’s a single, seventy-word sentence. To make it sound right to the congregation, pause before “so shall my word be.” Then punch out each of those five core words slowly and loudly.

Second Reading

If we’ve interpreted Paul correctly, then he would have written this in an “Oh, wow!” frame of mind. God is reversing all of human and natural history! And we’re witnessing, participating and announcing it! The theological subtleties are hard to get across in oral interpretation, and are best left to your assembly’s preacher. But Paul’s enthusiasm for his subject is something you can convey with your voice. Read this dramatically, emphasizing the glorious freedom of the children of God.

Gospel Reading

Lectors, even if they’re not going to read the gospel publicly at mass, should prepare for their service by reading today’s gospel, since the first reading prepares the congregation to hear the gospel.

Introductions

by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

Exiles struggling to return home to Judea had only the promise of God’s word to go on. So the prophet compares God’s word to a powerful force well known to this desert people.

Second Reading

Saint Paul was so enthusiastic about God’s work in Christ that he saw it applied not just to human destiny but to all creation.

Gospel

The earliest Christians wondered why others did not understand and accept the message of Jesus. They recalled a saying of Jesus that gives a partial answer.

VIDEO SERIES

Study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Video Lessons on the “four pillars” of the Catechism

1ST READINGPSALM2ND READINGGOSPELLIFE MESSAGEFAITH SHARINGVOICESCHURCH FATHERSCATECHISM

Is 55:10-11

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The power of God’s Word

FIRST READING—Isaiah celebrates the power of God’s Word to achieve its goal. God’s Word is compared to rain and snow. Just as water and snow soak into the ground, making the earth upon which they fall fertile and fruitful, so too can God’s Word make the human heart on which it falls fertile and fruitful. God’s Word does not return back to him void, but achieves the end for which he sent it. In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about the different kinds of soil on which God’s Word falls.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

The Word of God is never lost

FIRST READING—Isaiah uses the picture of the water cycle to speak of God’s Word. Rain falls, the earth is watered, seeds are nourished, the sun calls the water back in clouds ready to be given again. This image tells us that the Word of God is not lost. God continually pours it forth for all. This prodigality reminds us not to be anxious about whether we are successful or not as disciples. It’s God’s work. All we are asked to do is to co-operate with the grace of God according to our abilities.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

God’s word holds power and effectiveness

FIRST READING—Second Isaiah (Chapters 40-55) was addressed to a people still in the Exile of Babylon. God addresses to them a word of hope and of restoration. If God says so, they will be returned to their land. The word of God is equivalent to the deed of God. What God says he will do is already as good as done. In the sixth century before the Common Era, this unnamed prophet in the tradition of the great Isaiah of Jerusalem (who lived before the Exile) reassures the people that their repentance has been seen by God the Most High. They are forgiven and will be restored to their homeland. Returning to the land also meant returning to the Lord in obedience and in total self-surrender. God is not powerless. The people know about the power of rainfall. It will produce crops. So will God’s word produce a revival of the nation of Israel. When the word of God was spoken in human flesh in Jesus Christ (John 1), he did not return to the Father empty-handed. He brought all the redeemed with him.

©2020 Father Clement D. Thibodeau. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

God’s Word is far from human control

FIRST READING—As the “Book of Consolation” (Isaiah 40-55) comes to an end, the author known as Second Isaiah presents God inviting everyone to come to the waters that are the real — and free — source of life. The first verses of Chapter 55 present God’s word as rich, nourishing food: “Listen to me and you shall eat well.” Then, Isaiah describes the word as the source of life for any who will “incline” their ears.

The next few verses promise that the listeners will become witnesses to others. Verses 8-9 remind the people that although God’s word is near and nourishing, it is far from their control; when they enter into conversation with God, it is not between equal dialog partners. That’s the immediate background to the two verses of today’s first reading.

When Isaiah compares God’s word to rain and snow, he reinforces the idea that God’s word comes from beyond the earth, far from human control. God sends the word. Unlike the plant that grows once a farmer plants the seed, the advent of God’s word is entirely dependent on God’s will. Isaiah goes on to say that God’s word always fulfills its purpose. This is a rather different idea from that which Jesus will present in the Gospel with his parable of the sower and the seed. How can Isaiah say that the word of God will inevitably be effective?

There are multiple ways to think about the question of how God’s word works. On one hand this reading refers to Genesis 1 where we hear that God did no more than speak a word to bring each phase of creation into being. The Genesis creation narrative offers our first theology of the word. In the beginning God’s word is performative; effecting what it says. But, Genesis goes beyond the creating power of God’s word to explore its dialogical dimension. In Genesis 1, we are told that from all of creation, it was only to the human beings that God addressed a word, only with humans did God enter into the conversations that would lead to covenants. In Genesis 2, we see that Adam was surrounded by wonders and could name them all, but still remained lonely until he was given someone who could reply to his words. With these stories, Genesis presents the word as the power that bonds human beings and God. It suggests that the ability to communicate via the word is an essential part of what constitutes human beings as images of their creating God.

Isaiah says that God’s word, like rain and snow, cannot but have an effect. It is as if he were saying that once God addresses humanity, a door has been opened, a possibility proffered, and whether or not it is accepted, the very offer has irreversibly altered the human horizon. Once God has spoken to humanity, humanity’s options are no longer limited by materiality and mortality. The very fact of having the option to commune with God changes everything, whether or not that option is accepted.

The word of God addressed to humanity makes us free to accept or reject the love of God. We do not generate the word any more than we command the rain. It comes to us unbidden, opening a fruitful horizon that we are free to explore or ignore. Whatever our response, the word has fulfilled its inviting function.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 2017 Reflections2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Further Study

Verse by verse Commentary

Until the eighteenth century it was presumed that Isaiah of Jerusalem wrote all 66 chapters of the book under his name. At that time scholars maintained that chapters 40 through 66 were written by a different author who lived some 150 years after Isaiah, during the Babylonian exile.In the late nineteenth century a scholar put forth convincing arguments for yet a third author for chapters 56 through 66. Our reading for today comes from the concluding chapter of what is now referred to as Deutero- (or 2nd) Isaiah: the chapter which has been titled “Conclusion to the Book of Comfort.” Almost every major theme within chapters 40 through 54 is blended into this chapter with verses ten and eleven (our reading for today) being a concluding announcement of salvation.

10 For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, 11 so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return tome void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

The word comes gently from God, never intended to remain suspended like clouds in midair, butto soak the earth and to be drawn back toward God like plants and trees. God’s spirit is infusedwithin human beings where it brings forth divine fruits.

Source: Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

The  goodness of God’s Word

FIRST READING—The prophet uses comparisons that were meaningful to an agrarian society in an arid climate to describe the power of the divine word of God and the salvation that it promised. He told the people that the seeds of faith planted by God’s prophets would not return to Him empty and barren. God’s words would take root in receptive hearts and flourish when nourished by the good deeds of those who heard His words and obeyed His commandments.

Comparisons meaningful to an agrarian society

10 Thus says the LORD: Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, 11 so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

In verses 10-11, the eighth century BC prophet Isaiah uses comparisons that were meaningful to an agrarian society in an arid climate to describe the power of the divine word of God and the salvation that it promises.  Like the rain and snow that come down from Heaven to nourish the earth and make it fruitful, so does the word of God come down from Heaven to take root in fertile hearts.  God’s divine word will not return to Him empty and barren; His words will take root and flourish, nourished by the good deeds of those who hear and obey His commandments, achieving the end for which I sent it by setting the hearers and doers on the path to salvation.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

Ps 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—The use of agricultural imagery continues in today’s psalm illustrating God’s providence. The response: “The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest” connects the psalm to the Gospel.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

What has happened to the Lord’s promises of old?

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—This psalm is an appropriate reflection on our first reading. It reflects the point of view of an unnamed king who is a descendant of David. It begins as a great hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God for all that God has done for Israel, particularly in making a covenant with Israel and then with King David and David’s descendants. God promises to never forsake David’s dynasty. Then the psalm becomes lamentation. This king is encountering defeat, disaster, insult and shame. He wonders where God’s promises have gone. Yet, he ends his psalm with an expression of praise: “Blessed be the Lord forever! Amen, amen!” He keeps faith that, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, God will fulfill His promises.

©2020 Father Clement D. Thibodeau. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Further Study

The seeds of faith

PSALM—The psalmist presents God as a divine farmer who controls the rain and the fertility of the earth. The abundant rainfall causes the dried-up furrows of the earth to soften and to be ready to receive a planting that yields a fruitful harvest. The Fathers of the Church compared the way God nourishes the earth with rain to bring about an abundant harvest with the Gospel message of salvation in Jesus Christ. He is the Living Word of God come down from Heaven to refresh the hearts of men and women and to save all who respond to Him with the “living water” of the Sacrament of Baptism through spiritual rebirth in water and the Spirit. As the prophets promised, God’s Word, Jesus Christ, does not return to Him empty and barren, but everything He taught becomes fruitful when nourished by the good deeds of those who heard obeyed His teachings. We help to fulfill Christ’s mission when the Word of God becomes visible in our lives.

Introduction to the Psalm

This Psalm is entitled: “For the leader. A psalm of David: a song.” The Psalm begins with a hymn declaring that the God of Israel takes care of the earth. Then, the psalmist lists the reasons why we should praise God. Verses 11-14 appear to be a description of the agricultural year beginning with the fall rains that soften the hard, sun-dried ground (verses 10-11). The psalmist presents God as the divine farmer who controls the rain and the fertility of the earth. The abundant rainfall causes the dried up furrows of the earth to soften and to be ready to receive the seeds that will produce a fruitful harvest (verses 12-14).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The Fathers of the Church

The Fathers of the Church compared the way God nourished the earth with rain to bring about an abundant harvest with the Living Word of God come down from Heaven to spiritually nourish the hearts of men and women, Jesus Christ. He is the eternal Word of the Father who comes down from Heaven to save humanity with the living water of the Sacrament of Baptism. By water and the Spirit, those who respond to Jesus receive a new spiritual life as children in the family of God. His word does not return to Him empty and barren. The good deeds of the faithful who hear and obey His teachings nourish the word of God that takes root in the lives of men and women of every generation. Put into practice, the Word of God fulfills His purpose for the good of humanity. However, when not put into practice, the hearts of men and women can wither and remain barren like the parched earth without water.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

Rom 8:18-23

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The joy that awaits us in heaven

SECOND READING—Paul seeks to reassure his readers that their present sufferings, difficult though they may be, are nothing compared to the joy that awaits them in heaven. The hope and promise of eternal happiness are intended to help all of us to persevere and ideally be transformed in and through our sufferings. Our sufferings are like birth pangs as we await the birth of a new being in us.

Paul further speaks of creation as also awaiting transformation. Creation, just like humans, was wounded by the Fall and now looks forward to its redemption. We catch glimpses of this each year when trees lose their leaves in autumn and winter, then sprout new leaves in spring, and once again produce beautiful blossoms in summer. These recurring changes in nature are reminders of a far greater transformation being effected by God in those who welcome the Word, listen to it, and allow it to bear fruit in their lives.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

Our efforts bear fruit in God’s time

SECOND READING—Paul’s image of all creation groaning in labour for the new to be born encourages us to accept the pain and disappointment that might be part of our discipleship, our efforts will bear fruit in God’s time.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

God will turn our struggles and pain into glory

SECOND READING—From last Sunday through the 18th Sunday of the year, we read from Romans 8, a chapter which has been called by many the most important in the whole Bible. There, Paul lets go with all he has to extol the effects of the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the redeemed. Just before today’s passage, Paul has been speaking of the meaning of Christ’s suffering: his passing to glory. It is the same with the suffering of Jesus’ disciples: for us,too,suffering is a path to redemption. Now, he will set the context and perspective for a Christian understanding of human suffering: The sin of Adam pales in comparison with the gift of redemption which it obtained. Christ is the “new Adam”in that he reversed the consequences of the sin of our first parent. The glory which Christ has inaugurated in his suffering will outshine that which was lost through sin.

©2020 Father Clement D. Thibodeau. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si’

SECOND READING—This selection from Romans, a rather unusual digression into the condition of creation, nearly begs us to read it alongside Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si’, On Care For Our Common Home.” Paul’s concern is not precisely the care of the earth but a vision of the new creation emerging as part of God’s eternal plan. Laudato Si’ offers a perspective from which we can consider the imperatives of our moment in the light of Paul’s description of the future God has in store for us.

Paul states that creation has been made subject to futility. Pope Francis elaborates on that idea saying that the earth cries out because of the harm we have inflicted on her. Francis lays the blame on the fact that we have acted like masters “entitled to plunder her at will,” saying that the violence of our own hearts has sickened the soil, water, air and all forms of life (LS 2).

Paul speaks of creation’s slavery to corruption and its hope of being set free. What Paul labeled as corruption, Francis names more precisely as pollution, waste and the throwaway culture that neglects to take the needs of future generations into account (LS 20-22). He speaks not just of decay, but notes that the earth’s resources are being so plundered that entire species, inherently valuable as part of God’s creation, are becoming extinct as a result of human activities: “Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence” (33). Francis sees another facet of corruption in the unhealthy city growth that spawns pollution, waste of energy and water, lack of green places, and the privatization of spaces that restricts people’s access to areas of beauty (43-45).

Like Paul, Francis mentions all of this not to incite guilty lamentation but as a call to hope. Paul says the sufferings of this present time cannot compare with the glory to be revealed in all of creation. Francis points out that God can bring good out of the evil we have caused. He says: “The Holy Spirit … [possesses] infinite creativity … which knows how to loosen the knots of human affairs, including the most complex and inscrutable” (LS 80).

Francis teaches that the glory of creation is inherent in the mystery of the universe. He says, “In the Judaeo-Christian [sic] tradition, the word “creation” has a broader meaning than “nature” for it has to do with God’s loving plan in which every creature has its own value and significance” (LS 76). He points out that while “God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things” (77), we still have responsibility. Human beings, he says, “have the duty to cultivate their abilities in order to protect [nature] and develop its potential” (78). This is what will allow us to cooperate with the Creator in leading all creatures back to the Creator (80, 83).

We might say that both Paul and Francis are writing as mystics and prophets who are profoundly affected by an inner sense of where God is leading the universe and who feel impelled to communicate that to others. They both challenge us to evaluate what we do in the light of the fact that we and our entire universe are on a trajectory toward union with God. Paul reminds us of our destiny to give us a perspective on suffering. Francis reminds us that we share that destiny with all of creation. Together, they call us to action built on our Christian vision.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Further Study

Verse by verse Commentary

Last week we heard Saint Paul tell us that Christian life is lived in the Spirit and is destined for glory because Christian life is empowered by the Spirit. This week this theme is continued as he begins to describe our future glory.

18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.

Be rational. Don’t lose sight of the rewards which have been promised to those who are faithful. Although suffering is a sign of the authentic Christian experience, it is only a transition to the assured glory that awaits us in the end.“

It is fitting for us, meditating upon the glory of this splendor, to endure all afflictions andpersecutions because, although the afflictions of the just are many, yet those who trust in God aredelivered from them all.” [Saint Cyprian of Carthage (ca. A.D. 250), Letters 6(2)]

19 For creation awaits with eager expectation

This is material creation apart from human beings. Created for human beings, the world was cursed as a result of Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:17). Since then the material creation has been in a state ofchaos; of abnormality and frustration; being subject to corruption and decay.

the revelation of the children of God;

Saint Paul sees the world sharing in the destiny of humanity, somehow freed of its proclivity todecay. This recalls Yahweh’s promise to Noah of the covenant to be made “between myself and youand every living creature” (Genesis 9:12-13).

20 for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one whosubjected it,

The frustration of material creation is its inability to realize its goal as it should. Before Adam’s sin,material creation was subject to him, just as he was subject to God (Genesis 1:28). Man’s sindisrupted this subordination and introduced abnormality and futility. God cursed the ground because of Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:17).

in hope 21 that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in theglorious freedom of the children of God.

God, though he cursed the ground because of Adam’s sin, still gave it a hope of sharing in man’sredemption. Redeemed humanity will live in peace with God in a world transformed by His Spirit.This condition is an aspiration of all creation.Freedom not just from moral corruption, but the lawof physical decay found in nature as well; the reign of dissolution and death. For Paul, the createdphysical universe is not to be a mere spectator of man’s triumphant glory and freedom, but is toshare in it. When the children of God are finally revealed in glory, death will no longer havedominion over them and the material world will also be emancipated from this “last enemy” (1Corinthians 15:23-28).

“Paul means by this that the creation became corruptible. Why and for what reason? Because ofyou, O man! For because you have a body which has become mortal and subject to suffering, theearth too has received a curse and has brought forth thorns and thistles (see Genesis 3:18). … Thecreation suffered badly because of you, and it became corruptible, but it has not been irreparablydamaged. For it will become incorruptible once again for your sake. This is the meaning of “inhope.” [Saint John Chrysostom (ca. A.D. 391), Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans 14]

22 We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now;

This compares the rebirth of nature to a woman’s labor. It groans in hope and in expectation, butalso in pain

23 and not only that, but we ourselves,

Not only material creation bears testimony to the Christian destiny, but Christians themselves do soby the hope that they have; a hope based on the gift of the Spirit which is already possessed.

who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,

The Spirit is compared with the first fruits of the harvest, which when offered to God, betokened the consecration of the entire harvest. “First fruits” was also often used in the sense of a “pledge orguarantee” of what was to come.

we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

The second testimony to Christian destiny is the hope that Christians themselves have of it; the firstbeing the hope that material creation has. With the first fruits of the Spirit, the Christian looksforward to the full harvest of glory, the redemption of the body.“

The adoption as sons is the redemption of the whole body.” [Saint Ambrose of Milan (ca. A.D.380), Letter to Priests 52]

Source: Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

The Christian destiny of glory

SECOND READING—St. Paul writes that the work of Christ is not only to redeem humanity from the separation with God caused by our original parent’s sin of rebellion but to provide the means for the renewal of all Creation. Paul reveals that all Creation is “groaning” in its longing for the Second Coming of Christ and the promised transformation and glorification, which will return Creation to its original state. The natural world suffers from disorder and chaos, but this is not the way God established the Creation of the world when the Holy Spirit divided the waters of chaos and seven times pronounced all of creation “good.” God intended the natural world to be the perfect home for humankind, where they could live in perfect communion with their Creator. This perfect communion between God, humans, and nature is the re-created order Jesus promises to restore when He returns to inaugurate a new Heaven and earth.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
All creation will be renewed and transformed

The work of Christ is not only to redeem humanity; it is also to provide the means for the renewal of all of Creation.  All Creation is anticipating the fulfillment of God’s plan for salvation history (see CCC# 1042-1050; 2 Pt 3:13; Rev 21:1-5).  At the end of time, as we know it, Christ will return, and He will establish His Kingdom in its fullness “on earth as it is in Heaven” (the Lord’s Prayer).

God has promised that the earth, all living beings, and the entire cosmos will be renewed and transformed, and the just will reign with Christ forever.  The righteous will be glorified in body and soul, just as He will renew and transform the material world (1 Cor 15:28).  In the new Creation, God will establish His dwelling among men (Rev 21:5).  All humanity, the visible cosmos, and the earth are destined for a transformation and return to the state in which God first created it.  This restoration will happen, as St. Irenaeus wrote at the end of the second century, “so that the world itself resorted to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just” (Against Heresies, 5.32).  At that time, all Creation will share in the glorification of Jesus Christ (see CCC# 1047).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Creation's groanings

22 We are well aware that the whole Creation, until this time, has been groaning in labor pains.

In Romans 8:22, Paul reveals that all of Creation is longing, “groaning” for the return of Christ and the promised transformation and glorification, which will return Creation to its original state.  Paul compares this “groaning” to the labor pains of a woman in childbirth.  God did not intend that Creation should be a place of chaos and disorder (see Gen 2:4-6 and 3:16-19).  Perhaps this is a new way to look at the “groaning” of the world in natural disasters like hurricanes, which also bring the “groaning” of suffering to humanity.  The natural world suffers from disorder and chaos.  This condition is not the way God first set out the Creation of the world when the Holy Spirit divided the waters of chaos (Gen 1:2) and seven times pronounced all of creation “good” in Genesis 1:4, 10, 13, 18, 21, 25, and 31.  God intended the natural world as a home for humankind, where they could live in perfect communion with his Creator.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Our own groanings

23 And not only that: we too, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we are groaning inside ourselves, waiting with eagerness for our bodies to be set free.

In Romans 8:23, Paul writes that we are also “groaning.”  The “firstfruits of the Spirit” refers to the first generation of Christians who experienced a spiritual rebirth through the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Christian Baptism.  Paul’s point is that all of us who belong to Christ long for union with the Most Holy Trinity in our final redemption and the hope of living the glory of the beatific vision.  We also look forward to the promise of our second resurrection when we receive our glorified bodies (our first resurrection was in our Baptism).  This great hope is almost too much to be able to comprehend in our limited natural state.   However, God the Holy Spirit helps us, prays with us, and intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings (Rom 8:26) to receive this final and eternal gift.  Every child who truly loves his family longs to be at home with his family.  Our “family” is the Most Holy Trinity, and our spirits long to be at home with Him in Heaven to fulfill the destiny for which God created us.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

Mt 13:1-23 or 13:1-9

Jean-François Millet (1814–1875) first gained widespread notoriety with his iconic pastel painting of a sower shown at the 1850/51 Paris Salon.
Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Jesus’s parable of the sower

GOSPEL—Chapter 13 in Matthew’s Gospel is sometimes called “the day of parables.” He presents us with seven parables that are all focused on the Kingdom of God. They are parables seeking to give us a glimpse into the nature of the Kingdom that Jesus is inaugurating.

Parables have been called “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” Jesus tells a story and then challenges the listener to figure out the message for himself. On the other hand, parables can, in the words of William Barclay, conceal truth from those who are eit her too lazy to think or too blinded by prejudice to see.It puts the responsibility fairly and squarely on the individual. It reveals truth to those who desire truth; it conceals truth from those who do not wish to see the truth (Commentary on Matthew, Vol.2, p.13).

Today’s parable of the sower is very much based on the everyday experiences of the audience. They often see sowers sowing seed. The main point of the parable is God’s offer of his Kingdom (salvation) to all. God is the Sower and we are the soil – of different types. If the seed falls on good soil (an open heart), it will likely produce an incredible harvest. Jesus encourages his audience to be good soil, receptive to his message. Jesus’ offer of the Kingdom to all people would have stretched the mindset of those who believed that only the Jews belonged in the Kingdom. The parable invites each listener to look into his/her heart to see what kind of soil he/she is and to see how open and responsive he/she is to Jesus and his message.

In section two (verses 10-17) of today’s Gospel, Jesus responds to the question as to why he teaches in parables. This is one of the most difficult sections in the whole of Matthew’s Gospel because in it Jesus appears to be saying that God deliberately blinds the eyes and hardens the hearts of some from hearing and understanding his Word. Of course, the truth is that Jesus wants everyone to hear, understand, and follow his message. But, unfortunately, that does not always happen because of the spiritual condition of people’s hearts.

Those who have open, receptive hearts will hear and understand and bear much fruit. These are also the people to whom ‘more will be given.’ They will be given more as they grow in openness and receptivity to God’s Word.

On the other hand, those with unreceptive hearts, those with closed and hardened hearts, will miss the message of the parables and so the little they have will be taken from them.

Jesus then says that Isaiah had the same problem as he has. He too had to deal with people who closed their minds to his message. Then Jesus calls attention to the great privilege the disciples have in hearing and understanding what righteous men and women in the past longed to see and hear.

In the third and final section of today’s Gospel (verses 18-23), Jesus speaks about the various kinds of soil on which the seed falls and the factors that prevent the Word from bearing fruit abundantly. The Evil One may come and steal the Word. Also, the Word may not take root because of persecution, preoccupation with other things, including the loss of riches. Even though four types of soil or persons are envisioned, it is more realistic to understand each seed as belonging to all of us. At one time or another, each of us can lose the Word to the Evil One. We can be enthusiastic but not persevering, and we may allow the pursuit of material things to distract us from paying attention to our soul. But then at some time, the Word may bear abundant fruit in our lives.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

People respond differently to the Word of God

GOSPEL—We could call today, Seed Sunday. The readings are about that ordinary yet wondrous thing, the seed. To look at an acorn and image the 100year old oak is impossible. To look at each other and imagine our beginnings as seed, is awe inspiring.

There was once a bag of seed. A farmer took it and began to walk across his field broadcasting the seed to left and right. Some landed on the path, a gift to the birds that were following closely behind the farmer. some fell on the stony ground at the corners of the field, the warmth germinated the seed but as the ground was too hard the little shoots perished after a day.

Some seed fell in the thorn bushes, they were sheltered for a time but the stronger thorns soon choked the wheat. Much seed fell in the good soil, there it flourished and was fruitful.

A good parable is a gift. We are meant to take it and wrestle with it. Its like a hard centred chocolate, it lasts and goes on releasing sweetness. A story has us asking questions. What was that? Why? How?

In a long explanation Matthew describes what he understood the parable meant for his community. It might not mean the same for us. The seed is the word of God, offered freely to the people by Jesus, without distinction.

The gift of God is offered freely, so why don’t people hear it and respond? The community of Matthew were challenged by the mystery of acceptance and rejection. Why do good people, religious people shut their hearts to the movement of the Spirit preferring the security of the old ways. Something of their dilemma faces Christians today as young people seek to return to old ways which are a kind of perpetual childhood. There are leaders who even encourage such movements.

The gospel story uses metaphor to show how different people encounter and respond to the Word of God.

  • The hard-hearted cannot hear, they believe in their own righteousness.
  • The shallow-hearted, embrace the new but don’t seek a deep of understanding.
  • The crowded-hearted hear but don’t discern.
  • The open-hearted hear the Word of God and recognise that real hearing requires transformation and action. They recognise that the Word of God is active, it reaches out to proclaim Good News, to inspire, and to serve. Even among the disciples there will be differences in the passion with which they respond.

What is pictured for us is a typical mixed community; in fact any parish, anywhere, anytime. People join a group for a variety of reasons. People stay in groups for other reasons. People followed Jesus because they liked him, some enjoyed the supportive fellowship, some thought it was a revolutionary movement, only a few grasped the vision of the reign of God. They recognised that they were called to be more than followers, they were called to be other Christs.

It shouldn’t surprise us that our groups are similar. We need to remember another parable about seeds, let God attend to the harvest we are the labourers.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permision.
Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau's Reflection

God’s word will bear fruit if we welcome it

GOSPEL—The Catholic Church, through the agency of the Pontifical Biblical Commission in Rome, accepts that there were at least three stages in the formation of the Gospel texts: (1) What Jesus actually said and did; (2) How this was articulated in the preaching and teaching of the first generation of the Church; (3) What was eventually written down for the benefit of the various communities at the end of the first century and beginning of the second.

This parable probably went through the same three-stage development. (1) Jesus must have spoken the very first part about the generosity with which God sows his word in whatever kind of soil. And how this word will produce its results no matter what! (2) We are not too clear as to how the first teachers of the faith reported this parable in their oral rendition of Jesus’ teaching. They had perhaps already begun to develop it in its applications to the receptivity or non-receptivity of the hearers. (3) Surely, by the time Mark (circa 60s CE)and Luke & Matthew (circa 80s CE)came to write their versions of the parable, the emphasis had really shifted to the mode and quality of hearing the Gospel rather than to the inevitable effectiveness of the word of God.

Jesus knew how to address people with an agricultural background. They knew all about the practices of sowing and plowing and of the growth of the seed. Unlike farmers of today, those in ancient Palestine sowed seed everywhere first, giving no heed to footpaths or to rocky ground. After having sowed, they then plowed, hoping that good soil would be found everywhere, no matter what the previous condition of the soil had been! Jesus seems to have meant that God is both the sower of the seed and the plower of the fields. No wonder there is sure to be a harvest, with little consideration given to the original condition of the soil. But when Mark, Matthew,and Luke get hold of this material, the problem of human receptivity has begun to happen. Some in their communities are not very receptive to the word of salvation. So, they shift the emphasis to those who hear rather than to the inherent power of the seed as Jesus must have intended it. The parable becomes a call to a proper response on the part of the Christian community. Already, some have not been able to survive the persecutions and the opposition.

In the Bible,we do not find the later distinctions made between the will of God and the freedom of those who hear God’s word. It appears as if God wills their rejection of the Good News. The community later developed its understanding of human freedom to choose.

©2020 Father Clement D. Thibodeau. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

What it takes to receive the Word of God

GOSPEL—Matthew tells us that the parable discourse we are about to hear began on the same day that Jesus declared that everyone who does God’s will is mother, brother and sister to him. According to Matthew, after speaking like that to a group of “insiders,” Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea where a great crowd gathered to hear him.

Although the parable of the sower, seed and soil is quite long, Matthew copies it almost without change from his source in Mark. (Luke condenses it a little and changes more vocabulary than Matthew.) Matthew does make one significant addition. In verses 14-16 he elaborates on the citation of Isaiah 6:9-10, explaining that knowledge of the kingdom of heaven is granted only to some. As Ben Witherington explains in The Gospel of Mark: “The parables give insight to the open-minded but come as a judgment on the obdurate…listening intently is the necessary prerequisite to understanding because no one has this knowledge already within them.”

Aside from the explanation that Jesus himself gives, this Gospel hints much more at what it takes to receive the word of God. The key to the whole story is that the good soil was receptive. We see what that means by looking to the disciples who admitted that Jesus had confused them. “Why do you speak to them in parables?” was a question that really meant “We don’t get it!” That was exactly the attitude they needed for Jesus to be able to break through to them, for the seed of his word to go deep into the interior space they opened with their questions.

Just as the planting and harvesting were ongoing activities, so too the word of God comes again and again, begging a hearing. When it comes to having ears to hear, this Gospel assures us that questions are more fruitful than answers.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Further Study

Verse by verse Commentary

Jesus is conducting His public ministry in Galilee. Between our reading of last week andtoday, Jesus has plucked ears of grain on the Sabbath, healed the man with the withered hand, andtaught that His true relatives are those who are in the covenant with Him: “Whoever does the willof my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Now He begins teaching in parables.13:1

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.

Jesus prefers to teach in the outdoors. It may be that by this time, his followers have gotten to beso numerous that they won’t all fit into an indoor setting.

2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore.

The crush of the crowd has gotten so intense that Jesus moves to a boat. Picture Jesus in a boatwhile the hillside within earshot is covered with people – sort of a natural amphitheater. Sitting isthe normal posture of an oriental teacher.

3 And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.

A sower is a farmer. The followers are simple folk; there are probably many who can identify withthe rigors of farming. This parable is a simple description of the process of plowing in Palestine,the type of ground upon which the seed is sown, and of the usual results.

4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.

It fell not on a road, but soil trampled in hard paths through the fields. The soil could not be plowedso the seed lay on the surface, where birds could get at it.

5 Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.

The fields were sown throughout, even the edges and corners where the limestone base lies very near the surface. Much of Palestine is rocky, and the topsoil is often quite thin. The seed sprouts toosoon, unprotected by deeper soil, unable to sink roots.It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,

6 and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.

In the blaze of the Palestinian sun, the sprouts burn up and shrivel.

7 Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.

Wild thorns are the most common weed in the country. They are not cleared before plowing butturned under by the plow. The soil is sufficiently deep, but the weeds are powerful enough to chokethe new sprouts.

8 But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. 

When the seeds fall on deep, unencumbered soil, they bear abundantly, though not in equal measure. Oddly, the Greek text does not actually use the word for seed, sperma, anywhere in the parable.

8 Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

This is a common refrain in Matthew (11:15; 13:43). It constitutes an invitation to the listener tothink reflectively on the human application of the figure. The audience must participate if the parable is to have its desired effect.

10 The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 He saidto them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has beengranted to you, but to them it has not been granted.

The disciples’ question intrudes upon Jesus’ address to the crowd. If we take the setting in theopening verses seriously, the crowd too must hear Jesus’ depressing answer. It is most likely thatthe sacred writer has inserted a theological consideration at this point.The Greek word mysterion,translated here as “mysteries” corresponds to the Latin word sacramentum which refers to the oaththat binds a covenant. Those outside the covenant have not yet understood what is necessary toreceive it.

12 To anyone who has,

Who is in the covenant.

more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will betaken away.

Those who are outside the covenant, those Jews who do not recognize the fulfillment of the OldCovenant, will lose their position as the chosen people who have received the revelation of God.

13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’

The harshness of this saying reflects the ambiguity which is implicit in Hebrew and Aramaic whichdo not distinguish grammatically between purpose and result. The sacred writers could not conceiveof a divine purpose which did not achieve its result nor of the result of a divine action that was notfrom a purpose. God is in ultimate control and will win out in the end.

14 Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see. 15 Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hearwith their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with theirears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.’

This is the longest explicit quotation in Matthew. It is Isaiah 6:9-10 and follows the Septuagintexactly except for one word. It is God’s positive intent to save the Jews if they will turn back toHim and His new covenant. He will work toward this intent right up to the end.

16 “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. 17 Amen, Isay to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it,and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

This beatitude expresses the privileged role of the disciples as eyewitnesses.

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 The seed sown on the path is the one who hears theword of the kingdom

This is the seed of the parable.

without understanding it,

This doesn’t signify intellectual apprehension, but the full acceptance of the gospel.

and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.

The evil one easily snatches away the message of God’s reign in the person who is not prepared toreceive it.

20 The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once withjoy. 21 But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecutioncomes because of the word, he immediately falls away.

This second class are opportunists who can not meet the challenges of suffering or persecution.

22 The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety andthe lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.

This third class hears and accepts, but is distracted by secular interests.

23 But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeedbears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

This final class hears, understands, and performs

Source: Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

Jesus’ parable of the Seed and the Sower

GOSPEL—Jesus tells the Parable of the Seed and the Sower.  In His parable, the Sower casts his seeds in every direction and into every kind of soil condition.  It was a typical farming technique in which the farmer expected most, but not all, of the seed to produce healthy plants.  It was a method that was like Jesus’ teaching.  Jesus “broadcasted” the “good news” of God’s message of salvation in every direction: to the receptive faithful, to those looking for entertainment by a Galilean rabbi who performs miracles, to skeptics, and to those who were hostile to His message.

Chapter 13 signals a turning point in Jesus' ministry

Matthew Chapter 13 signals a turning point in Jesus’ ministry when He begins to speak in parables.  In this third great discourse in St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus teaches seven parables.   Biblical scholars call them the “Kingdom Parables.”  Jesus will use the word “kingdom” twelve times (Mt 13:11, 19, 24, 31, 33, 38, 41, 43, 44, 45, 47, and 53) as He describes His future Kingdom.  It is for this reason that the parables in chapter 13 are called “the seven Kingdom Parables.”
There were two reasons why Jesus began teaching in parables:

  1. When the disciples asked Jesus why He was teaching in parables, He told them, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven has been granted to you, but to them, it has not been granted” (verse 11).
  2. Then verses Mt 13 and Mt 34-35 explain the other reason was to fulfill what had been said through the prophets.
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Meaning of the word 'parable'

The Greek word for “parable” is parabole.  In the usual sense in Greek literature, a parabole presents a comparison to inspire more profound thought.  The Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament uses the word parabole to translate the Hebrew word masal.  In the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, masal is the designation given to a variety of literary forms, including allegories, axioms, proverbs and similitudes (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 5, “Parable,” page 146).  In the New Testament, parables are primarily stories intended to illustrate a certain truth.  Jesus uses parables that are comparisons between the truths of His teachings and the events of everyday life.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The symbolism in Jesus' parable
Jesus’ first parable is about sowing seeds in different kinds of soil.  Every element in the parable is symbolic:
The Sower The Seed Different kinds of Soil
Jesus planting seeds of faith The word of God: the Gospel message of salvation that is broadcast to every person within the scope of Jesus’ teaching (see Lk 8:11) The different kinds of human response to Jesus’ message of salvation in the coming of the Kingdom.

The more complicated part of the parable concerns the comparison of the four different kinds of soil where the seed falls. In Scripture, the number four represents the world. Jesus will explain the meaning of the parable in verses 18-23. One of the keys to understanding the parable is that the production of “fruit” is far beyond a normal yield (verse 8).

The four types represent four kinds of human response:
1. the seed sown on the path This person hears the word of the kingdom without making any effort to understand and embrace the truth.  Since he has failed to understand, Satan can separate him from the truth and his place in the Kingdom.
2. the seed sown on rocky ground This person receives the word of God with joy, but he has not applied it to his life.  He has no internal stability (“roots”).  In a time of hardship, he abandons his faith in God.
3. the seed sown among the thorns This person hears the word but does not love God above all else.  The secular world pulls him away from the faith, and he bears no good fruit/works.
4. the seed sown on fertile soil This person hears the word, understands it, applies it to his “heart”/life, and bears the fruit of the good works of faith in abundance.
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The generosity of broadcasting the seed

When the Sower in Jesus’ parable casts his seed, he casts it in every direction and into every kind of soil condition.  It was a common farming technique in which most, but not all, of the seed was expected to produce healthy plants.  The technique used up a large amount of seed, but the generosity in broadcasting the seed assured the area was well covered and that many plants would spring up resulting in a fruitful harvest.  This method of sowing seed is similar to Jesus’ teaching.  Jesus “broadcasts” God’s message of salvation in every direction: to the receptive faithful, to those only looking for entertainment from a Galilean rabbi who performs miracles, to skeptics, and to those who are hostile to His message.  His focus is the harvest of souls for His Kingdom.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Failure of some to produced good fruit

Jesus attributes the failure of some to produce the good fruit of repentance and conversion to:

  1. the activity of Satan (verse 19)
  2. personal shallowness (verses 5, 20-22)
  3. the ambition for worldly pleasures and wealth (verse 22)

The use of the phrase the word of the Kingdom in verse 19 is a technical term Jesus uses for the Gospel message of salvation and prepares us for subsequent references to “the word.”  Notice that Jesus uses “the word” six times in this passage (in verses 19, 20, 21, 22 twice, and 23), and consider what Jesus refers to as “the word.”  See Mt 13:19 and the document “The Significance of Numbers in Scripture,”   In the symbolic meaning of numbers in Scripture, six is the number of man, created on the sixth day of the Creation event.  “The word” refers to the Gospel message of salvation manifested in Jesus’ Kingdom on earth and in Heaven: the Church.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

Life Messages

by Fr. Anthony Kadavil

We need to assess our use of the word of God

We need to read the word of God every day, starting with a prayer to the Holy Spirit for the gifts of attentive reading and the ability and willingness to apply the message we receive to our daily living. When we listen to the word of God as read and preached in the Church during the Holy Mass, we need to pay full attention to the message given by God Who uses the priest as His instrument. We also need to ask God’s special grace to remove all types of blocks, like laziness, anxiety, worries, and the burden of unrepented sins, any of  which can prevent the word of God from influencing and transforming our lives.  When we receive Jesus, the Word of God and the Source of the word of God, in Holy Communion we need to ask him to transform our lives so that we may see Jesus in all of us (for we are all brothers and sisters in Him), and share with each of them Jesus’ unconditional love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.

We need to keep our spiritual soil fertile and prepared for the word of God

We need to keep our hearts open to the word of God instead of closing it with pride, prejudice, fear, or laziness. We have to remove from our hearts the weeds like evil habits and addictions, evil tendencies, hatred, jealousy, fear, and greed. We should not allow the trials and tribulations of this world, the cares of this world, our ambitions, or our desires for worldly success and happiness to choke out the messages that God gives through His word.

A challenge for examination of conscience

The questions we need to ask ourselves are: Am I merely hearing God’s word without understanding it? Does God’s word meet with a hard heart in me?    Am I too anxious about money, security, provision for retirement or old age?   Is God’s word taking root in me? Converting me? Transforming me? Enabling me to sacrifice? And what about the “fruits” that we are being invited to produce:   justice and mercy, hospitality for the immigrant and those with AIDS, the dispossessed, the unborn, the single mother?  By refusing to consider these things, we may be missing the healing that the Word of God can bring into our lives. The parable of the sower challenges us to see how deeply the word of God has taken root in our lives, how central God is to the very fabric of our day-to-day life.  Jesus also invites his followers to embrace the Faith of the sower: to trust and believe that our simplest acts of kindness and forgiveness, our humblest offers of help to anyone in need, may be the seeds that fall “on good soil” and yield an abundant harvest.

What kind of soil are we? 

How do we respond to the Word of God and to the various Acts of God in our lives? Do we allow the trials and tribulations of this world to overwhelm the tender seed growing within us?  Do we pull back when people harass us because we are believers?  Do we decide, because things are not working out the way we think they ought, that God doesn’t care for us, or that He is powerless, weak, and not to be heeded? Do we allow the cares of this world, our ambitions, or our desires for success and happiness, to choke out the messages that God sends us through the various events of our daily lives and through the various people we encounter? How we respond to the Word of God is the key to how fruitful the Gospel is going to be in our lives. Unlike the situation in nature, we can, as it were, change the kind of soil that we are. God allows the seed to land on the hard paths, on the rocky ground, and in the thickets of our lives in the hope that in those places it will find a place to mature and bear fruit, that those things which impede growth will be removed, and that the soil may be just a little deeper than it at first appears to be in those rocky places. Jesus challenges us in the parable of the sower to sow seeds of encouragement, joy, and reconciliation regardless of the “soil” on which it is scattered, and to imitate the seed’s total giving of self that becomes the harvest of Gospel justice and mercy.

Visit Fr. Tony’s Homilies each week for an introduction to the Sunday readings, scripture lessons, homily starter anecdotes, a summary of each of the scripture readings, and Gospel exegesis. Fr. Tony’s Life Messages have be used with permission.

Praying with the Word

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

Jesus, you seek to sow your Word in my heart in many ways. Help me to be more attentive and responsive to your Word.

Reflection/Study Questions

Three sets of questions suitable for individual or group use (from general to in-depth).

Faith Sharing Questions

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

1. Turn to the person next to you and share what word/s or image/s in the readings caught your attention. Did they comfort or challenge you or touch you in some way? Which part of the Passion story speaks to you most this year? Why?

2. Who or what sowed God’s Word in your life? When did your love for Scripture begin to blossom?

3. In the second reading, Paul speaks about creation as “groaning in labor pains.” What might be groaning in you at this time seeking to be born?

4. What can hinder or help us from being good soil for God’s Word?

5. What are simple ways that you can be a sower of God’s Word in the lives of others?

6. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Discussion Questions

by Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau

1. How effective has the word of God been in your life as a Christian? Have you heard the word of salvation in ChristJesus spoken to you personally? How has that word come to you? Through family? Through the ministries of the Church? Through the events and occurrences of your life?

2. What obstacles and impediments are there to God’s word today in the particular world in which you live? Does opposition come from optional or non-optional sources? (Do you have a choice about those persons or situations by which the word of God is opposed in your life?) What can you do to make the soil of your life more receptive to God’s word?

3. Do you hear the word of God effectively proclaimed by the Christian community or parish to which you belong? In what ways does the community facilitate the hearing of the word? In what ways does the community stand in the way of your hearing the word? What can you do to improve the situation?

© 2017 Rev. Clement D. Thibodeau. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Scripture Study Questions

by Vince Contreras

1. In the 1st Reading, what does the prophet Isaiah tell us about the effectiveness of God’s word? How does this relate to the Gospel Reading?

2. How does the 2nd Reading convey the reality that the Kingdom of God is “now present” but “not yet”?

3. What is a parable? What do they accomplish that simple and direct speech lacks?

4. What four types of soil does Jesus mention? What characterizes each? What happens to the seed in each type of soil?

5. What does Jesus’ explanation of the parable (vv 18-23) reveal about the seed? About the various soils? The fruit? The Sower?

6. How does Jesus’ challenge in verse 9 help explain verses 11-12? How does faith open you up to more and more spiritual insight?

7. What deep “roots” help to prevent a Christian from falling away? What gives you roots?

8. What worries can choke your growth in Christ? How can you free your life from these “thorns”?

9. What “crop” does Jesus want Christians to yield? What can you do to increase your productivity?

© 2017 Vince Contreras. Used with permission.

Responding to God’s Word

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

Spend some time thinking about how the Word can bear more fruit in your life. Also, think of how you can be a sower of the Word this week.

Closing Prayer

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

Loving God, We thank you for sending your Son Jesus to sow the seed of your life-giving word in our hearts, so that it might do your will and achieve your purpose in our world. Open our hearts to receive this word.Increase our desire to live it out wholeheartedly. Amen.

SUNDAY VOICES

Video by Larry Broding. Visit Word-Sunday.com website for detailed commentary and other resources regarding the readings for this Sunday.


Introduction to 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time readings

INTRODUCTION — Today’s readings focus on the power of God’s word for those who actually embrace it. This theme begs several questions for us who have heard the word proclaimed many times over. Does what we hear change our thinking or our actions in any way? Is the problem with the proclaimer or the homilist, or is it really with us? The promise is that God’s word can make a difference in our lives … if we are open to it.

PENITENTIAL ACT

Lord Jesus, you spoke in parables about those who hear God’s word: Lord, have mercy. Christ Jesus, you taught that God’s word has power for those who hear it: Christ, have mercy. Lord Jesus, you invite us to be open to receive what we hear from you: Lord, have mercy,

NCR SUNDAY RESOURCESJoan DeMerchant


Parable of Triumph or Tragedy

EXCERPT – We will never succeed in all of our projects and goals. We will never fulfill all of our hopes and dreams. We will never remain connected to all of the people who we love… Instead of lamenting about all the things in our life that did not happen, this parable calls us to rejoice in the things that did happen—in the goals we were able to achieve, in the hopes that we were able to realize, in the relationships that still support us to this day. They are God’s gifts to us. There might be many of our hopes and dreams that did not materialize, but the ones that did are enough to provide a bountiful harvest, a rich life.

BUILDING ON THE WORDFr. George Sigma


Can scripture help us cope with despair?

EXCERPT — This year has been extremely difficult for so many people. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic turned the world upside down, halting everyday life in an unimaginable way and causing many people to suffer and die from the virus. Likewise, the murders of Breonna Taylor in March and George Floyd in May by police officers added two more names to the list of the many black people who have died at the hands of cavalier law enforcers. We have seen the sadness, frustration and rage that Floyd’s murder in particular sparked. The visual confirmation of a murder in broad daylight showed the world yet another example of inhumane treatment and outright disregard for black life. As a black woman, I feel despair. Can Scripture help? I hope so.

AMERICA MAGAZINEJamie Waters


The work of evangelization

EXCERPT – The Church, you and me, are now responsible for the sowing and for the harvesting. What that means is that our families and our parishes are responsible for that work… The local parish, the faith-sharing group to which you belong, the family within which you live, all are agents of evangelization, of seed-sowing and of harvesting. Every Christian community needs to be an apostolic community, one that bears the Word toothers in some way. We are never limited by our personal or corporate inadequacies. The word of God will accomplish the purposes for which it was sent. Ours is only to spread it far and wide and to leave the rest to the Lord.There will surely be obstacles to the growth. Pray that we ourselves do not become those obstacles.

ECHOING GOD’S WORDRev. Clement D. Thimbodeau (1932-2017)


How can I tell if I am “hard hearted”?”

EXCERPT – Resistance to God’s call to change our ways is “hardness of heart.” A modern example would be resistance to the Church’s teachings on faith and morals (such as contraception, abortion, euthanasia, and capital punishment). Sometimes the seeds of the Church’s teachings just fall on rocky ground, or on the barren path of our hearts. The Evil One is very active today!

MASS HOMILIESDeacon Joseph Pasquella (Confraternity of Penitents)


The problem of evil

EXCERPT – On the paths of life, unrooted, our freedom is pecked at by passing birds. For others, the freedom dries and withers. Still others choke their choice in fear and worldly anxiety. But then, others take it all in. They embrace the limit of life, the gift of being good but not God. They cherish the gift of dependence as creatures. And they bear fruit a thousand times more splendid than the bounty of trees.

SUNDAY WEB SITEFather John Kavanaugh, SJ

CATENA AUREA

by St. Thomas Aquinas

The Catena Aurea (or, Golden Chain) is a compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels and contains passages from the Church Fathers. In this masterpiece, Aquinas seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Fathers to provide a complete commentary on all four Gospels.

List of Church Fathers

Here are some of the Church Fathers that Aquinas uses:

Third Century

  • Origen  – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian  – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius  – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius  – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary  – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose  – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome  – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius  – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine  – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom  – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine  – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus  – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea  – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium  – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea  – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus  – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium  – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria  – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin  – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian)  – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus  – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great”  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra  – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great  – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius  – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch  – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus  – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus  – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita  (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great  – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore  – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople)  – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh)  (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch)  – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus  – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius  – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.)  – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene  – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin  – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt)  – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople)  – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus  – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre)  – monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus  – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact  – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm  – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus  – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc)  – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria
Click on banner above to show/hide an annotated list of the Church Fathers that Aquinas compiled in his multi-volume commentary of the Gospels.

Matthew 13:1–9

  • 1. The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.
  • 2. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
  • 3. And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
  • 4. And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
  • 5. Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
  • 6. And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
  • 7. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
  • 8. But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
  • 9. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

CHRYSOSTOM. When He had rebuked him that told Him of His mother and His brethren, He then did according to their request; He departed out of the house, having first corrected His brethren for their weak desire of vainglory; He then paid the honour due to His mother, as it is said, The same day Jesus went forth out of the house, and sat down by the sea side.

AUGUSTINE. (De Cons. Ev. ii. 41.) By the words, The same day, he sufficiently shews that these things either followed immediately upon what had gone before, or that many things could not have intervened; unless indeed ‘day’ here after the Scripture manner signifies a period.

RABANUS. For not only the Lord’s words and actions, but His journeyings also, and the places in which He works His mighty works and preaches, are full of heavenly sacraments. After the discourse held in the house, wherein with wicked blasphemy He had been said to have a dæmon, He went out and taught by the sea, to signify that having left Judæa because of their sinful unbelief, He would pass to the salvation of the Gentiles. For the hearts of the Gentiles, long proud and unbelieving, are rightly likened to the swelling and bitter waves of the sea. And who knows not that Judæa was by faith the house of the Lord.

JEROME. For it must be considered, that the multitude could not enter into the house to Jesus, nor be there where the Apostles heard mysteries; therefore the Lord in mercy to them departed out of the house, and sat near the sea of this world, that great numbers might be gathered to Him, and that they might hear on the sea shore what they were not worthy to hear within; And great multitudes were gathered unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat down, and all the people stood on the shore.

CHRYSOSTOM. The Evangelist did not relate this without a purpose, but that he might shew the Lord’s will therein, who desired so to place the people that He should have none behind Him, but all should be before His face.

HILARY. There is moreover a reason in the subject of His discourse why the Lord should sit in the ship, and the multitude stand on the shore. For He was about to speak in parables, and by this action signifies that they who were without the Church could have no understanding of the Divine Word. The ship offers a type of the Church, within which the word of life is placed, and is preached to those without, and who as being barren sand cannot understand it.

JEROME. Jesus is in the midst of the waves; He is beaten to and fro by the waves, and, secure in His majesty, causes His vessel to come nigh the land, that the people not being in danger, not being surrounded by temptations which they could not endure, might stand on the shore with a firm step, to hear what was said.

RABANUS. Or, that He went into a ship and sat on the sea, signifies that Christ by faith should enter into the hearts of the Gentiles, and should gather together the Church in the sea, that is in the midst of the nations that spake against Him. And the crowd that stood on the sea shore, neither in the ship nor in the sea, offers a figure of those that receive the word of God, and are by faith separated from the sea, that is from the reprobate, but are not yet imbued with heavenly mysteries. It follows; And he spake many things unto them in parables.

CHRYSOSTOM. He had not done thus on the mount; He had not framed His discourse by parables. For there were the multitudes only, and a mixed crowd, but here the Scribes and Pharisees. But He speaks in parables not for this reason only, but to make His sayings plainer, and fix them more fully in the memory, by bringing things before the eyes.

JEROME. And it is to be noted, that He spake not all things to them in parables, but many things, for had He spoken all things in parables, the people would have departed without benefit. He mingles things plain with things dark, that by those things which they understand they may be incited to get knowledge of the things they understand not. The multitude also is not of one opinion, but of divers wills in divers matters, whence He speaks to them in many parables, that each according to their several dispositions may receive some portion of His teaching.

CHRYSOSTOM. He first sets forth a parable to make His hearers more attentive, and because He was about to speak enigmatically, He attracts the attention by this first parable, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow his seed.

JEROME. By this sower is typified the Son of God, who sows among the people the word of the Father.

CHRYSOSTOM. Whence then went out He who is every where present, and how went He out? Not in place; but by His incarnation being brought nearer to us by the garb of the flesh. Forasmuch as we because of our sins could not enter in unto Him, He therefore came forth to us.

RABANUS. Or, He went forth, when having left Judea, He passed by the Apostles to the Gentiles.

JEROME. Or, He was within while He was yet in the house, and spake sacraments to His disciples. He went therefore forth from the house, that He might sow seed among the multitudes.

CHRYSOSTOM. When you hear the words, the sower went out to sow, do not suppose that is a tautology. For the sower goes out oftentimes for other ends; as, to break up the ground, to pluck up noxious weeds, to root up thorns, or perform any other species of industry, but this man went forth to sow. What then becomes of that seed? three parts of it perish, and one is preserved; but not all in the same manner, but with a certain difference, as it follows, And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside.

JEROME. This parable Valentinus lays hold of to establish his heresy, bringing in three different natures; the spiritual, the natural or the animal, and the earthly. But there are here four named, one by the wayside, one stony, one thorny, and a fourth the good ground.

CHRYSOSTOM. Next, how is it according to reason to sow seed among thorns, or on stony ground, or by the wayside? Indeed in the material seed and soil of this world it would not be reasonable; for it is impossible that rock should become soil, or that the way should not be the way, or that thorns should not be thorns. But with minds and doctrines it is otherwise; there it is possible that the rock be made rich soil, that the way should be no more trodden upon, and that the thorns should be extirpated. That the most part of the seed then perished, came not of him that sowed, but of the soil that received it, that is the mind. For He that sowed put no difference between rich and poor, wise or foolish, but spoke to all alike; filling up his own part, though foreseeing all things that should come to pass, so that He might say, What ought I to have done that I have not done? (Is. 5:4) He does not pronounce sentence upon them openly and say, this the indolent received and have lost it, this the rich and have choked it, this the careless and have lost it, because He would not harshly reprove them, that He might not alienate them altogether. By this parable also He instructs His disciples, that though the greater part of those that heard them were such as perished, yet that they should not therefore be remiss; for the Lord Himself who foresaw all things, did not on this account desist from sowing.

JEROME. Note that this is the first parable that has been given with its interpretation, and we must beware where the Lord expounds His own teachings, that we do not presume to understand any thing either more or less, or any way otherwise than as so expounded by Him.

RABANUS. But those things which He silently left to our understanding, should be shortly noticed. The wayside is the mind trodden and hardened by the continual passage of evil thoughts; the rock, the hardness of the self-willed mind; the good soil, the gentleness of the obedient mind, the sun, the heat of a raging persecution. The depth of soil, is the honesty of a mind trained by heavenly discipline. But in thus expounding them we should add, that the same things are not always put in one and the same allegorical signification.

JEROME. And we are excited to the understanding of His words, by the advice which follows, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

REMIGIUS. These ears to hear, are ears of the mind, to understand namely and do those things which are commanded.

Matthew 13:10–17

  • 10. And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
  • 11. He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
  • 12. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
  • 13. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
  • 14. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
  • 15. For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed: lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
  • 16. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
  • 17. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) The disciples understanding that the things which were spoken by the Lord to the people were obscure, desired to hint to Him that He should not speak in parables to them. And his disciples came to him, and said, Why speakest thou to them in parables?

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom, xlv.) Wherein it is worthy admiration, that the disciples who desire to learn of Him, know when they ought to ask Him, for they do not this before the multitude. This Matthew declares, when he says, And they came to him; (Mark 4:10) and Mark more expressly says, that they came to him when he was alone.

JEROME. We must enquire how they could come to Him at that time when Jesus was sitting in the ship; we may understand that they had at the first entered into the ship, and standing there, made this enquiry of Him.

REMIGIUS. The Evangelist therefore says, came to him, to express that they eagerly enquired of Him; or they might indeed approach Him bodily, though the space between them was small.

CHRYSOSTOM. And observe moreover their goodness, how great their thought for others, that they enquire about what concerns others, before what relates to themselves. For they say not, ‘Why speakest thou to us in parables?’ but to them. And he answered and said unto them, Because it is given to you to know the mystery of the kingdom of heaven.

REMIGIUS. To you, I say, who adhere to Me, and believe in Me. By the mystery of the kingdom of heaven, He intends the Gospel doctrine. To them, that is, to them that are without, and who would not believe on Him, the Scribes namely and Pharisees, and to the rest who continue in unbelief, it is not given. Let us then, with the disciples, come unto the Lord with a pure heart, that He may think us worthy to interpret to us the evangelic teaching; according to that, They who draw near to his feet, shall receive of his doctrine. (Deut. 33:3)

CHRYSOSTOM. In saying this, He does not imply any necessity or fate, but shews at once, that they, to whom it is not given, are the cause of all their own miseries, and yet that the knowledge of the Divine mysteries is the gift of God, and a grace given from above. Yet this does not destroy free will, as is manifest from what follows, for to prevent that either these should despair, or those be remiss, when they hear that to you it is given, He shews that the beginning of all lays with ourselves, and then He adds, For whoso hath, to him shall be given, and he shall abound; and whoso hath not, from him shall be taken what he hath. As much as to say, Whoso has the desire and the zeal, to him shall be given all those things which are of God; but whoso lacketh these, and does not contribute that part that pertains to him, to him neither are the things which are of God given, but even those things that he hath are taken from him; not because God takes them away, but because he hath made himself unworthy of those that he has. Wherefore we also, if we see any hearkening carelessly, and having exhorted him to attend, he do not heed us, let us be silent; for should we persevere in urging him, his sloth-fulness will be the more charged against him. But him that is zealous to learn, we draw onwards, pouring forth many things. And He well said according to another Evangelist, That which he seemeth to have; (Luke 8:18.) for, in truth, he has not even that he has.

REMIGIUS. He that has a desire to read, shall have given to him power to understand, and whoso has not desire to read, that understanding which by the bounty of nature he seems to have, even that shall be taken from him. Or, whoso has charity, to him shall be given the other virtues also; and from him who has not charity, the other virtues likewise shall be taken away, for without charity there can be nothing good.

JEROME. Or, To the Apostles who believe in Christ there is given, but from the Jews who believed not on the Son of God there is taken away, even whatever good they might seem to have by nature. For they cannot understand any thing with wisdom, seeing they have not the head of wisdom.

HILARY. For the Jews not having faith, have lost also the Law which they had; and Gospel faith has the perfect gift, inasmuch as if received it enriches with new fruit, if rejected it subtracts from the riches of ancient possession.

CHRYSOSTOM. But that what He had said might be made more manifest He adds, Therefore speak I unto them in parables, because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. Had this been a natural blindness, He ought to have opened their eyes; but forasmuch as it is voluntary, therefore He said not simply, ‘They see not,’ but, Seeing they see not. For they had seen the dæmons going out, and they said, He casts out dæmons by Beelzebub; they heard that He drew all men to God, and they say, This man is not of God. (John 9:16) Therefore because they spake the very contrary to what they saw and heard, to see and to hear is taken from them; for they profit nothing, but rather fall under judgment. For this reason He spake to them at first not in parables, but with much clearness; but because they perverted all they saw and heard, He now speaks in parables.

REMIGIUS. And it should be noted, that not only what He spake, but also what He did, were parables, that is, signs of things spiritual, which He clearly shews when He says, That seeing they may not see; but words are heard and not seen.

JEROME. This He says of those who were standing on the shore, and separated from Jesus, and who because of the dashing of the waves heard not distinctly what was said.

CHRYSOSTOM. And that they should not say, He slanders us as an enemy, He brings forward the Prophet declaring the same opinion, as it follows, That there might be fulfilled in them the prophecy of Isaiah, who said, With the hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand, and seeing ye shall see and shall not behold. (Is. 6:9)

GLOSS. (non occ.) That is; With the hearing ye shall hear words, but shall not understand the hidden meaning of those words; seeing ye shall see My flesh indeed, but shall not discern the divinity.

CHRYSOSTOM. This He said because they had taken away their own sight and hearing, shutting their eyes, and hardening their hearts. For not only did they not hear at all, but they heard obtusely, as it follows, The heart of this people is waxed gross, and they have heard hardly with their ears.

RABANUS. The heart of the Jews is made gross with the grossness of wickedness, and through the abundance of their sins they hear hardly the Lord’s words, because they have received them ungratefully.

JEROME. And that we should not suppose that this grossness of the heart and heaviness of the ears is of nature, and not of choice, He adds the fruit of their own wilfulness, For they have shut their eyes.

CHRYSOSTOM. Herein He points out how extreme their wickedness, how determined their aversion. Again to draw them towards Him, He adds, And be converted, and I should heal them; which shews that if they would be converted, they should be healed. As if one should say, If he would ask me I would immediately forgive him, this would point out how he might be reconciled; so here when He says, Lest they should he converted and I should heal them, He, shews that it was possible they should be converted, and having done penitence should be saved.

AUGUSTINE. (Quæst. in Matt. q. 14.) Otherwise; They have shut their eyes lest they should see with their eyes, that is, themselves were the cause that God shut their eyes. For another Evangelist says, We hath blinded their eyes. But is this to the end that they should never see? Or that they should not see so much as this, that becoming discontent with their own blindness and bewailing themselves, should so be humbled, and moved to confession of their sins and pious seeking after God. For Mark thus expresses the same thing, Lest they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. From which we learn, that by their sins they deserved not to understand; and that yet this was allowed them in mercy that they should confess their sins, and should turn, and so merit to be forgiven. But when John relating this expresses it thus, Therefore they could not believe because Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them, (John 12:39) this seems to be opposed to this interpretation, and to compel us to take what is here said, Lest they should see with their eyes, not as though they might come to see after this fashion, but that they should never see at all; for he says it plainly, That they should not see with their eyes. And that he says, Therefore they could not believe, sufficiently shows that the blindness was not inflicted, to the end that moved thereby, and grieving that they understood not, they should be converted through penitence; for that they could not, unless they had first believed, and by believing had been converted, and by conversion had been healed, and having been healed understood; but it rather shews that they were therefore blinded that they should not believe. For he speaks most clearly, Therefore they could not believe. But if it be so, who would not rise up in defence of the Jews, and pronounce them to be free from all blame for their unbelief? For, Therefore they could not believe, because he hath blinded their eyes. But because we must rather believe God to be without fault, we are driven to confess that by some other sins they had thus deserved to be blinded, and that indeed this blinding prevented them from believing; for the words of John are these, They could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes. It is in vain then to endeavour to understand it that they were therefore blinded that they should be converted; seeing they could not be converted because they believed not; and they could not believe because they were blinded. Or perhaps we should not say amiss thus—that some of the Jews were capable of being healed, but that being puffed up with so great swelling pride, it was good for them at first that they should not believe, that they might understand the Lord speaking in parables, which if they did not understand they would not believe; and thus not believing on Him, they together with the rest who were past hope crucified Him; and at length after His resurrection, they were converted, when humbled by the guilt of His death they loved Him the more because of the heavy guilt which had been forgiven them; for their so great pride needed such an humiliation to overcome it. This might indeed be thought an inconsistent explanation, did we not plainly read in the Acts of the Apostles that thus it was. This then that John says, Therefore they could not believe, because he hath blinded their eyes that they should not see, (Acts 2:37) is not repugnant to our holding that they were therefore blinded that they should be converted; that is to say, that the Lord’s meaning was therefore purposely clothed in the obscurities of parables, that after His resurrection they might turn them to wisdom with a more healthy penitence. For by reason of the darkness of His discourse, they being blinded did not understand the Lord’s sayings, and not understanding them, they did not believe on Him, and not believing on Him they crucified Him; thus after His resurrection, terrified by the miracles that were wrought in His name, they had the greater compunction for their great sin, and were more prostrated in penitence; and accordingly after indulgence granted they turned to obedience with a more ardent affection. Notwithstanding, some there were to whom this blinding profited not to conversion.

REMIGIUS. In all the clauses the word ‘not’ must be understood; thus; That they should not see with their eyes, and should not hear with their ears, and should not understand with their heart, and should not be converted, and I should heal them.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) so then the eyes of them that see, and will not believe, are miserable, but your eyes are blessed; whence it follows; Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.

JEROME. If we had not read above that invitation to his hearers to understand, when the Saviour said, He that hath, ears to hear let him hear, we might here suppose that the eyes and ears which are now blessed are those of the body. But I think that those eyes are blessed which can discern Christ’s sacraments, and those ears of which Isaiah speaks, The Lord hath given me an ear. (Is. 50:4)

GLOSS. (ord.) The mind is called an eye, because it is intently directed upon what is set before it to understand it; and an ear, because it learns from the teaching of another.

HILARY. Or, He is speaking of the blessedness of the Apostolic times, to whose eyes and ears it was permitted to see and to hear the salvation of God, many Prophets and just men having desired to see and to hear that which was destined to be in the fulness of times; whence it follows; Verily I say unto you, that many Prophets and just men have desired to see the things that ye see, and to hear the things that ye hear, and have not heard them.

JEROME. This place seems to be contradicted by what is said elsewhere. Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad. (John 8:56)

RABANUS. Also Isaiah and Micah, and many other Prophets, saw the glory of the Lord; and were thence called ‘seers.’

JEROME. But He said not, ‘The Prophets and the just men,’ but many; for out of the whole number, it may be that some saw, and others saw not. But as this is a perilous interpretation, that we should seem to be making a distinction between the merits of the saints, at least as far as the degree of their faith in Christ, therefore we may suppose that Abraham saw in enigma, and not in substance. But ye have truly present with you, and hold, your Lord, enquiring of Him at your will, and eating with Him.1

CHRYSOSTOM. These things then which the Apostles saw and heard, are such as His presence, His voice, His teaching. And in this He sets them before not the evil only, but even before the good, pronouncing them more blessed than even the righteous men of old. For they saw not only what the Jews saw not, but also what the righteous men and Prophets desired to see, and had not seen. For they had beheld these things only by faith, but these by sight, and even yet more clearly. You see how He identifies the Old Testament with the New, for had the Prophets been the servants of any strange or hostile Deity, they would not have desired to see Christ.

Matthew 13:18–23

  • 18. Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.
  • 19. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
  • 20. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
  • 21. Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
  • 22. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
  • 23. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) He had said above, that it was not given to the Jews to know the kingdom of God, but to the Apostles, and therefore He now concludes, saying, Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower, ye to whom are committed the mysteries of heaven.

AUGUSTINE. (De Gen. ad lit. viii. 4.) It is certain that the Lord spoke the things which the Evangelist has recorded; but what the Lord spake was a parable, in which it is never required that the things contained should have actually taken place.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) He proceeds then expounding the parable; Every man who hears the word of the kingdom, that is, My preaching which avails to the acquiring the kingdom of heaven, and understandeth it not; how he understands it not, is explained by, for the evil one—that is the Devil—cometh and taketh away that which is sown in his heart; every such man is that which is sown by the way side. And note that that which is sown, is taken in different senses; for the seed is that which is sown, and the field is that which is sown, both of which are found here. For where He says carrieth away that which is sown, we must understand it of the seed; that which follows, is sown by the way side, is to be understood not of the seed, but of the place of the seed, that is, of the man, who is as it were the field sown by the seed of the Divine word.

REMIGIUS. In these words the Lord explains what the seed is, to wit, the word of the kingdom, that is of the Gospel teaching. For there are some that receive the word of the Lord with no devotion of heart, and so that seed of God’s word which is sown in their heart, is by dæmons straightway carried off, as it were the seed dropped by the way side. It follows, That which is sown upon the rock, is he that heareth the word, &c. For the seed or word of God, which is sown in the rock, that is, in the hard and untamed heart, can bring forth no fruit, inasmuch as its hardness is great, and its desire of heavenly things small; and because of this great hardness, it has no root in itself.

JEROME. Note that which is said, is straightway offended. There is then some difference between him who, by many tribulations and torments, is driven to deny Christ, and him who at the first persecution is offended, and falls away, of which He proceeds to speak, That which is sown among thorns. To me He seems here to express figuratively that which was said literally to Adam; Amidst briers and thorns thou shalt eat thy bread, (Gen. 3:18) that he that has given himself up to the delights and the cares of this world, eats heavenly bread and the true food among thorns.

RABANUS. Rightly are they called thorns, because they lacerate the soul by the prickings of thought, and do not suffer it to bring forth the spiritual fruit of virtue.

JEROME. And it is elegantly added, The deceitfulness of riches choke the word; for riches are treacherous, promising one thing and doing another. The tenure of them is slippery as they are borne hither and thither, and with uncertain step forsake those that have them, or revive those that have them not. Whence the Lord asserts, that rich men hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven, because their riches choke the word of God, and relax the strength of their virtues.

REMIGIUS. And it should be known, that in these three sorts of bad soil are comprehended all who can hear the word of God, and yet have not strength to bring it forth unto salvation. The Gentiles are excepted, who were not worthy even to hear it. It follows, That which is sown on the good ground. The good ground is the faithful conscience of the elect, or the spirit of the saints which receives the word of God with joy and desire and devotion of heart, and manfully retains it amid prosperous and adverse circumstances, and brings it forth in fruit; as it follows, And brings forth fruit, some a hundred-fold, some sixty-fold, some thirty-fold.

JEROME. And it is to be noted, that as in the bad ground there were three degrees of difference, to wit, that by the way side, the stony and the thorny ground; so in the good soil there is a three-fold difference, the hundred-fold, the sixty-fold, and the thirty-fold. And in this as in that, not the substance but the will is changed, and the hearts as well of the unbelieving as the believing receive seed; as in the first case He said, Then cometh the wicked one, and carrieth off that which is sown in the heart; and in the second and third case of the bad soil He said, This is he that heareth the word. So also in the exposition of the good soil, This is he that heareth the word. Therefore we ought first to hear, then to understand, and after understanding to bring forth the fruits of teaching, either an hundred-fold, or sixty, or thirty.

AUGUSTINE. (De Civ. Dei, xxi. 27.) Some think that this is to be understood as though the saints according to the degree of their merits delivered some thirty, some sixty, some an hundred persons; and this they usually suppose will happen on the day of judgment, not after the judgment. But when this opinion was observed to encourage men in promising themselves impunity, because that by this means all might attain to deliverance, it was answered, that men ought the rather to live well, that each might be found among those who were to intercede for the liberation of others, lest these should be found to be I so few that they should soon have exhausted the number allotted to them, and thus there would remain many unrescued from torment, among whom might be found all such as in most vain rashness had promised themselves to reap the fruits of others.

REMIGIUS. The thirty-fold then is borne of him who teaches faith in the Holy Trinity; the sixty-fold of him who enforces the perfection of good works; (for in the number six this world was completed with all its equipments;) (Gen. 2:1) while he bears the hundred-fold who promises eternal life. For the number one hundred passes from the left hand to the right; and by the left hand the present life is denoted, by the right hand the life to come. Otherwise, the seed of the word of God brings forth fruit thirty-fold when it begets good thoughts, sixty-fold when good speech, and an hundred-fold when it brings to the fruit of good works.

AUGUSTINE. (Quæst. Ev. i. 9.) Otherwise; There is fruit an hundred-fold of the martyrs because of their satiety of life or contempt of death; a sixty-fold fruit of virgins, because they rest not warring against the use of the flesh; for retirement is allowed to those of sixty years’ age after service in war or in public business; and there is a thirty-fold fruit of the wedded, because theirs is the age of warfare, and their struggle is the more arduous that they should not be vanquished by their lusts. Or otherwise; We must struggle with our love of temporal goods that reason may be master; it should either be so overcome and subject to us, that when it begins to rise it may be easily repressed, or so extinguished that it never arises in us at all. Whence it comes to pass, that death itself is despised for truth’s sake, by some with brave endurance, by others with content, and by others with gladness—which three degrees are the three degrees of fruits of the earth—thirty-fold, sixty-fold, and an hundred-fold. And in one of these degrees must one be found at the time of his death, if any desires to depart well out of this life.

JEROME. (vid. Cyp. Tr. iv. 12.) Or, The hundred-fold fruit is to be ascribed to virgins, the sixty-fold to widows and continent persons, the thirty-fold to chaste wedlock.

JEROME. (Ep. 48. 2.) For the joining together of the hands, as it were in the soft embrace of a kiss, represents husband and wife. The sixty-fold refers to widows, who as being set in narrow circumstances and affliction are denoted by the depression of the finger; for by how much greater is the difficulty of abstaining from the allurements of pleasure once known, so much greater is the reward. The hundredth number passes from the left to the right, and by its turning round with the same fingers, not on the same hand, it expresses the crown of virginitya.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000

CATECHISM EXCERPTS

“By using the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the homilist can help his people integrate the word of God, the faith of the Church, the moral demands of the Gospel, and their personal and liturgical spirituality.” From the Homiletic Directory
  • CCC 546: Christ teaches through parables
  • CCC 1703-1709: capacity to know and correspond to the voice of God
  • CCC 2006-2011: God associates man in working of grace
  • CCC 1046-1047: creation part of the new universe
  • CCC 2707: the value of meditation

Christ teaches through parables

The proclamation of the kingdom of God

543 Everyone is called to enter the kingdom. First announced to the children of Israel, this messianic kingdom is intended to accept men of all nations.251 To enter it, one must first accept Jesus’ word:

The word of the Lord is compared to a seed which is sown in a field; those who hear it with faith and are numbered among the little flock of Christ have truly received the kingdom. Then, by its own power, the seed sprouts and grows until the harvest.252

544 The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to “preach good news to the poor”;253 he declares them blessed, for “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”254 To them – the “little ones” the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned.255 Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst and privation.256 Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom.257

545 Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”258 He invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in word and deed his Father’s boundless mercy for them and the vast “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents”.259 The supreme proof of his love will be the sacrifice of his own life “for the forgiveness of sins”.260

546 Jesus’ invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching.261 Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything.262 Words are not enough, deeds are required.263 The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word?264 What use has he made of the talents he has received?265 Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to “know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven”.266 For those who stay “outside”, everything remains enigmatic.267

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Capacity to know and correspond to the voice of God

MAN: THE IMAGE OF GOD

1701 “Christ, . . . in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, makes man fully manifest to himself and brings to light his exalted vocation.”2 It is in Christ, “the image of the invisible God,”3 that man has been created “in the image and likeness” of the Creator. It is in Christ, Redeemer and Savior, that the divine image, disfigured in man by the first sin, has been restored to its original beauty and ennobled by the grace of God.4

1702 The divine image is present in every man. It shines forth in the communion of persons, in the likeness of the unity of the divine persons among themselves (cf. chapter two).

1703 Endowed with “a spiritual and immortal” soul,5 the human person is “the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake.”6 From his conception, he is destined for eternal beatitude.

1704 The human person participates in the light and power of the divine Spirit. By his reason, he is capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator. By free will, he is capable of directing himself toward his true good. He finds his perfection “in seeking and loving what is true and good.”7

1705 By virtue of his soul and his spiritual powers of intellect and will, man is endowed with freedom, an “outstanding manifestation of the divine image.”8

1706 By his reason, man recognizes the voice of God which urges him “to do what is good and avoid what is evil.”9 Everyone is obliged to follow this law, which makes itself heard in conscience and is fulfilled in the love of God and of neighbor. Living a moral life bears witness to the dignity of the person.

1707 “Man, enticed by the Evil One, abused his freedom at the very beginning of history.”10 He succumbed to temptation and did what was evil. He still desires the good, but his nature bears the wound of original sin. He is now inclined to evil and subject to error:

Man is divided in himself. As a result, the whole life of men, both individual and social, shows itself to be a struggle, and a dramatic one, between good and evil, between light and darkness.11

1708 By his Passion, Christ delivered us from Satan and from sin. He merited for us the new life in the Holy Spirit. His grace restores what sin had damaged in us.

1709 He who believes in Christ becomes a son of God. This filial adoption transforms him by giving him the ability to follow the example of Christ. It makes him capable of acting rightly and doing good. In union with his Savior, the disciple attains the perfection of charity which is holiness. Having matured in grace, the moral life blossoms into eternal life in the glory of heaven.

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God associates man in working of grace

MERIT

You are glorified in the assembly of your Holy Ones, for in crowning their merits you are crowning your own gifts.59

2006 The term “merit” refers in general to the recompense owed by a community or a society for the action of one of its members, experienced either as beneficial or harmful, deserving reward or punishment. Merit is relative to the virtue of justice, in conformity with the principle of equality which governs it.

2007 With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.

2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

2009 Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God’s gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us “co-heirs” with Christ and worthy of obtaining “the promised inheritance of eternal life.”60 The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness.61 “Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due. . . . Our merits are God’s gifts.”62

2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

2011 The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.

After earth’s exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone. . . . In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself.63

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Creation part of the new universe

VI. THE HOPE OF THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW EARTH

1046 For the cosmos, Revelation affirms the profound common destiny of the material world and man:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God . . . in hope because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay. . . . We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.639

1047 The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, “so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just,” sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ.640

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The value of meditation

MEDITATION

2707 There are as many and varied methods of meditation as there are spiritual masters. Christians owe it to themselves to develop the desire to meditate regularly, lest they come to resemble the three first kinds of soil in the parable of the sower.5 But a method is only a guide; the important thing is to advance, with the Holy Spirit, along the one way of prayer: Christ Jesus.

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