Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday in the 16th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
The Soil, the Seed and the Sower

Readings: Exodus 20:1-17; Psalms 19:8, 9, 10, 11; Matthew 13:18-23

There is great power in the word of God. Like the seed in today’s gospel, it has the potential to yield even a hundredfold harvest. Quite incredible! But whether or not that actually happens depends to a large extent on the receptivity of the soil. Today’s gospel makes it quite clear that however powerful the seed might be, it can still be prevented from reaching its full potential by resistance on the part of the soil. Good seed but poor soil still result in a poor harvest. We seem then to find ourselves grappling with the same issue we faced yesterday. What to do when, for some reason, we find ourselves resistant to God’s word? What to do when, perhaps because of bad experiences in the past, our hearts have become coated with a thick layer of doubt or despair, of skepticism or cynicism, making it difficult to listen to and to trust in the power of God’s word? What to do, when the powerful seed seems to be rendered impotent by the stubborn soil?

Perhaps at such times, we might benefit by extending our attention beyond the seed to the sower. Consider the first reading today. We are all familiar with the Ten Commandments. How do we feel when we listen to them? Taken on their own, they can sound quite off-putting, especially to ears conditioned by the modern emphasis on individual freedom. Why must we be told what to do and what not to do? Why should we listen? And yet, it’s important to appreciate when and by whom these words are spoken. It’s important to remember that the Ten Commandments do not stand in isolation. We have been listening to a story, the story of the Exodus, a story of how a people in slavery were liberated by a God as powerful as God is loving, a story of how this same God wishes to form these one-time slaves into a glorious nation, set apart for eternal happiness in God’s sight, a God who wants nothing but what is best for the people. Isn’t this why the first reading begins with this reminder: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…? And this is our story too. We are the ones enslaved by various forces, both without and within us. And God desires to free and form us. God is the prodigal sower who flings the precious seed to the mercy of the different types of soil. God is the powerful, all-compassionate One, the Creator of all things, who humbly begs entrance into our hearts.

What difference might it make for us if, even for a brief moment, we might ponder the wonder-working presence not just of the seed but also of the sower today?

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