15th Sunday of Ordinary Time (12 July 2020)

Isa 55:10-11; Rom 8:18-23; Matt 13:1-23

This week, the readings highlight two different truths: God gives us the freedom to choose our actions and in particular to decide whether we will heed His call to us to live as His children and advance His Kingdom on Earth; but whatever our choice, God’s will will be done. It is thus our great loss if we choose not to answer His call.

The first reading reminds us that in our physical world we see pictures of the eternal truth about God. Isaiah’s picture is that of the elements of nature. The rain and snow come down from the heavens. They are providential, coming from God and they are sent to us for a purpose – to provide water to the earth so that it may yield and give growth producing seed for the sower and in turn, bread for us to eat. Isaiah compares this cycle to the Word of God. In the same way, His Word is providential, given for a purpose and when it leaves the Mouth of God, it will only return having achieved His purpose. God is sovereign and whatever He decrees will be done.

Where the first reading emphasizes God’s sovereignty, St Paul’s message in the second reading focuses on our response to the situations we face in our lives. Paul is acutely aware of the sufferings we will endure in this life, as he himself had endured for the sake of spreading the Gospel. But he urges us to remain hopeful in spite of the suffering because God has promised salvation to the faithful. We therefore must live in the hope of the freedom and glory that is our due as the children of God, even when we feel burdened and oppressed by the sufferings in our lives.

Jesus connects the two readings in the Gospel passage about the parable of the sower. The seeds fall in different types of soil and they respond differently. Some never take root but are swiftly eaten by the birds as soon as they have fallen on the path. Others start promisingly but their roots are not deep and when it gets challenging, they wither away. The weeds choke others. But some take root well, and they produce a great crop and a wonderful return for the farmer. The story of the sower and the seeds gives us a perfect picture of the message from this week’s readings. God sows the seeds in each of our hearts. His plan will be done because there will be some who will respond with rich devotion and produce a crop even a hundredfold. Those who choose to heed His call will find God’s power unleashed in their lives. But because He has given us the freedom to choose our response, some will allow their faith lives to be choked to death by the cares and preoccupations of this world; while yet others will simply never listen though they hear His loving call.

We are sure to face challenges and difficulties in our lives. This is true for Christians as it is for those of other beliefs. But it is in our response to these challenges that we manifest our innermost convictions about God and how we relate to Him. God gives us free will and allows us to determine for ourselves how we will respond to His call to us to love Him and to live as His children. If we respond faithfully, He will empower us with His Holy Spirit to produce a rich crop; but if we turn away from Him, we will lose our heritage; but God’s work will nonetheless be done and His plan realized.

Some points for reflection as you read the passages:

  1. Think of the many ways in which the water, which falls from the heavens, is part of God’s plan to help us. How has He asked you to be like this water?
  2. Have you seen God’s presence and His work in the sufferings you have endured? How might it help you to actively seek Him when you are suffering?
  3. Can you relate to being each of the different types of seed at different points in your life? Are you in a settled state of being like the seed in the rich soil today?