Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Parable of the Soils. Homily for Matthew 13:1-23

4th Sunday after Pentecost
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 13:1-23

The Lectionary Gospel reading for this morning brings to our attention the famous Parable of the Soils. Here we have Jesus presenting a description of how his Kingdom offer will actually be received, and why many will miss the offer of the hidden Kingdom and the incognito King.

This is a time of popularity for Jesus. In fact the people following him were so large in number at this point of his ministry that he is forced to sit in a boat and to teach those who crowded the shore.

Curiously, he teaches by parables, which in general are short stories that illustrate a universal reality. However, we could think of the parables of Jesus as riddles concerning the Kingdom, which was now present to the people and being offered by the King himself -- Jesus the Messiah.

In today's parable we are asked to imagine a sower of seeds going about his daily work. He broadcasts the seed all around him, some on the path, some on rocky ground, some among the thorns and some on good soil.

The disciples, troubled by this parable approach to spreading the Kingdom confront Jesus and ask, 

"Why do you speak to them in parables?”
To which Jesus replies: 
"Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted." 
That is, you have ears to hear, but many, most, do not.

From this we should notice that not all soils are the same. Later on in the reading Jesus explains the mystery of the parable as he describes the heart-soils of his hearers:

"The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. 
The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.

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

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

The question confronting his hearers concerned the reception of the Kingdom:  Did their heart contain good soil to receive the message and messenger of the Kingdom, or not? 

The question confronting us is similar: Does our heart contain the good soil of credible discipleship, or is our heart-soil thorny, or hard, or grown-over with the weed-cares of this life?

Unless I am sadly mistaken, in one sense all of us could answer, "It depends upon the day," but in another sense, if we look at the cultural-captivity that plagues all of our hearts -- and by this I mean how we share a divided loyalty in our hearts -- all of us have hearts focused on "worldly anxiety and the lure of riches [that] choke the word and [we] bear no fruit."

We might in protest say, "We have some fruit, or at least a little fruit," but all of us could also probably confess that our life of discipleship does not bear the fruit we wish it would, or that for which we hoped.

But, maybe not. Perhaps I am merely speaking for myself here, and you and yours are monstrously successful on the Jesus-way. If so, you may comfortably dismiss the next few moments of my homily. But, if you are like me, and time seems to running out, and you wish for more true life and true humanity in this new life you have been given in the Christ, then I invite you to think about the soil of your heart as it stands open and naked before the Holy Spirit this morning.

First, the way we know the seed of the Word has fallen on good soil in our hearts is simple:

We hear the word and understands it... 
We bear fruit that yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold...

For the moment forget about the past failures in following the ways of the Christ, and think instead about this existential moment, this moment which is all we really have to us.

Let us now hear the word and understand it. 

Let us understand that the Christ is calling for our entire life, our entire future, our entire power of volition -- that is the power of our choices. 

Let us understand that the good soil must be cultivated by daily decisions, even moment-by-moment choices we make each day. 

Let us daily choose to come under the promptings and power of the Spirit's leading, refusing to carry on as if we are the captains of my own fate where we reserve space for GOD only on Sundays or Holidays?

Let us also strive to bear fruit that continues the reality of Christ's Kingdom. 

Let us look beyond our own ease, our own needs and wants and desires -- what I call the self-life -- and let us see this world brutally at war with itself as our primary focus and all-pervasive calling!

Let us see our community as Jesus saw his. 

Let us weep for our community as Jesus wept for his -- as those who have no shepherd, as those left out of the party and as those needing an invitation to be included. 

Let us, in the all too brief time allotted to us on this earth, go out into the highways and alleys and compel them to be part of the party. To accomplish this we ourselves must drop the false belief that promises true life with next possession. 

Let us instead disgard our consumerism-as-religion, knowing this belief only and always ends in despair. 

No, let us show our community a different way to live! Let us take the unantiseptic risk and rub shoulders with those not like us. Let us stand in love and not judgment beside those whose hearts have been shattered by the numbing addiction of the post-modern experience. Let us live-out the fruit of the Spirit controlled life as we are led and empowered to love in the Jesus-way. This is fruit-bearing; this is true, new life and the path to a true humanity. 


Matthew 13:1-23