15th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

The first reading is chosen to be complementary to the Gospel. In this case, it is pretty clear that our theme is the word of God. In the first reading the Prophet Isaiah notes how the word of God acts like the rain and the snow, which waters all the earth making the land fertile and fruitful. So it is with God’s word which also goes over all the earth. Isaiah confidently predicts, “My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”
Yet, in the Gospel we have a less confident version of the fate of the word of God. It seems to depend on the random fling of a sloppy sower. Some lands on rocky ground, amidst the thorns or on the path. Some flourish but only briefly in thin soil. It is only the lucky seed that lands of rich soil that can yield a hundred, sixty or thirtyfold. So which is it? Does the word of God always work or only randomly?
First, let me say with everything in my heart, that I believe that the Word always works. Like love and friendship, it always has an impact. But there is no doubt that the impact can be blunted by how it is received. The Word might change you, but if we are truly open, it will transfigure us.
Let’s compare it to the phrase, “I love you.” It is a powerful thing. For some of you, you have experienced it at its most potent. You have heard I love you and you were willing and able to enthusiastically say, “I love you too.” And life is never the same. But perhaps you have been in a different conversation. Someone has said I love you, and your first thought was that I would rather be anywhere else in the world. It is not the best moment ever. It is only the most awkward.
I know the Mary Tyler Moore Show was on forty years ago, but it is still one of my favorite shows. There is one episode where Murray after years of working beside Mary decides that suddenly he loves her. Mary is given the heads up – and when Murray summons all his courage to say, “Mary, I love you,” Mary goes up to Murray playfully and in a sing songy voice says, “And I love you too.” It is not exactly what Murray was looking for.
But if there is ever a time we want to say I love you too and mean it, shouldn’t it be in our response to God’s love. Well, Jesus is saying that our response to the invitation to divine love will be dictated by the soil we live in. It will only prosper in the richest of soil. How do we make our soil fertile and fruitful?
First we must know we are blessed. We must trust that the soil God has given us is capable of flourishing. We are often very good at cataloguing our deficiencies and failures. We are expert at looking at ourselves precisely the way God never does. God counts on us to count our blessings. We need to know our soil is rich and that seed that is sprouted will thrive. The best way to do this is to be among those that love you for they point out and witness your beauty long before you glimpse it.
Our soil must be nourished as well. Service feeds and waters our barren soil. The Word of God unless exposed to the sunlight of others will merely wither on the vine as love that is not shared will surely disappear. I think of eight young people and their two chaperones who went to Workcamp this week and fixed homes in Schoharie and Schenectady. They were part of a group of over 400 young people from across the country who did the work of God in the name of Christ. Or the large group that came from Newtown, Connecticut and worked at the Catholic Worker House this week. Yes, they made a difference in the lives of those they helped. But how much deeper is their soil now to say yes to God whenever God calls.
And we are best when we are planted in a community of faith. When the patch of richness grows wider and stronger because of what we believe and what we do together. We have people in this Church who would never agree on politics or root for the same team. Yet, these differences melt away in the light of Christ. Suddenly, the many are one and we are on the same team believing one thing. We are no lonely fruit surviving on its own, but a people of God, a garden of hope for the world.
Still, it cannot be simply enough to care for ourselves. We must invite others to join us. We must say to others whose lives are choked by the thorns of addiction, loneliness and depression and say come here and you can be free to grow as you were meant to. We must say to those who struggle in the dry cracked ground to join our patch of the garden and drink in the Word that feeds and sustains us. Some are on the path that leads by the idea of faith without even a shrug, bypassing that which seems to them to be outdated and superstitious. We must take them on another path where they will know they have not yet begun to imagine what this Word can do and how much they are loved.
Let us plant ourselves in the deep rich soil of the Word of God and be so convincingly loving that others will seek to share our health and our fruitfulness. Let us dare to grow thirty, sixty or a hundredfold.

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