Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time A & Reflections July 13,2014
The Word of God comes down from the heavens like rain that falls to water the earth, “making it fertile and fruitful.” God’s Word is the source of life itself. “Creation awaits with eager expectation” for what it cannot give itself, but what it needs in order to be complete, fulfilled and happy. We are waiting for the work of the Word. The seed the sower sows is the Word of God. All depends on how receptive one is to this Word. Will we disregard the Word when it comes our way? Will we receive it in a shallow way? Will we let worldly concerns choke it off? If we “groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption,” that is, as we wait for the Word to take root in us, we will be assured of the hundredfold.
Dear Jesus, We always pray that you will bless us with your abundant grace as the crops drink in the nourishing rains. Lord, allow us to live in the Father’s love as do flowers soak in the warmth of the sun. We pray to live generously the fruitful life of giving life, sustaining life, and caring for life in all its forms, from earliest beginnings to latest endings. Lord Jesus, make us always attentive to You (Your Word and all Your teachings). Lord, bring out God’s goodness out of our Good Soil. In your Mighty Name, we pray. Amen.
Is 55:10-11 – The rain makes the earth fruitful
Please click this link to watch the video on Reading 1 Is 55:10-11 – The rain makes the earth fruitful by Cardinal Chito Tagle
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,
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.
The word of the Lord.
Ps 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14
R. (Lk 8:8) The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful
You have visited the land and watered it;
greatly have you enriched it.
God’s watercourses are filled;
you have prepared the grain.
R. The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.
Thus have you prepared the land: drenching its furrows,
breaking up its clods,
Softening it with showers,
blessing its yield.
R. The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.
You have crowned the year with your bounty,
and your paths overflow with a rich harvest;
The untilled meadows overflow with it,
and rejoicing clothes the hills.
R. The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.
The fields are garmented with flocks
and the valleys blanketed with grain.
They shout and sing for joy.
R. The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.
Rom 8:18-23 – Creation awaits the revelation of the children of God.
Please click this link to watch the video on Reading II Rom 8:18-23 – Creation awaits the revelation of the children of God by Cardinal Chito Tagle
Brothers and sisters:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us.
For creation awaits with eager expectation
the revelation of the children of God;
for creation was made subject to futility,
not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it,
in hope that creation itself
would be set free from slavery to corruption
and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now;
and not only that, but we ourselves,
who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
we also groan within ourselves
as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
The word of the Lord.
Mt 13:1-23 – A sower went out to sow.
On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
The disciples approached him and said,
“Why do you speak to them in parables?”
He said to them in reply,
“Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven
has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.
To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich;
from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because
they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.
Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You shall indeed hear but not understand,
you shall indeed look but never see.
Gross is the heart of this people,
they will hardly hear with their ears,
they have closed their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their hearts and be converted,
and I heal them.
“But blessed are your eyes, because they see,
and your ears, because they hear.
Amen, I say 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.
“Hear then the parable of the sower.
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 Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection 1: Good Soil Listens, Understands and Acts on the TRUTH
This Sunday’s parable is a reminder to everyone that God’s Word can only take root in fertile ground; in a receptive heart which is righteous, docile and ready to hear what He has to say. It is a heart God empowers to positively ACT on His Word to bring the Truth it embodies to the ends of the world. He bears the truth no matter what the circumstances may be.
There are many needful measures for one to listen to God’s Word but they all center on man’s willingness to act on it based on the real Truth and not on the truth that man has concocted to satisfy personal plans for man’s greater fulfillment. Happy are we, if we listen, act and abide by the underlying Truth in God’s Word.
We ought to take heed of the things that will hinder our profiting from God’s Word, lest we hear carelessly, lest we add our prejudice to what we hear; lest we lose what we have received. We can only bear fruit from God’s Word if we use them for the good of our brethren, for God’s greater glory! It is not enough to hold the truth in righteousness but we should desire to hold forth the word of life, to shine and to give light to all around by the truth we carry in all our personal and communitarian affairs.
The big challenge that is upon all of us is to be able to receive His Word in good ground, in fertile soil, so we can be honest, noble and of good heart; so we are able to bring forth God’s TRUTH and bear the right fruit, a thousand fold.
Great encouragement is given to those who prove faithful hearers of the Word, by being doers of the work, never circumventing, never concealing or even giving out half-truths. Christ is Truth and He owns the truth which we need to share. Our minds and hearts should be raised above moral earthliness so our sinful hearts will not be bent on worldly desires and plans that satiate our quest for power but rather on the attainment of wisdom, holiness, righteousness, justice and fairness. Hearing God’s Word and understanding it means expressing the Truth, the truth that sets us free, the Truth that enables us to rest in our Lord’s embrace.
The Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. However, that power is affected not only by one’s ability’ to hear the Word, for the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, as they are beyond his understanding, and are foolishness to him, for they have to be spiritually discerned.
With God’s grace, we can be good ground out of diverse paths of life, who not only hear the Word, but keep it, understand it and act on it according to His will, and rest on it.
With utter self-abandonment we can share the Light and the Love of God by bringing consolation, comfort, encouragement and hope through God’s Word; words that take away fear, shame, and guilt; words that reconcile, unite, forgive, and heal; words that bring peace and joy, inner freedom and deep gratitude. They carry God’s love on their wings, words that become flesh in our own lives and the lives of others, words rooted in our hearts, sincere and honest, not as words of “people pleasers” who say the right words to please others but whose words have no roots in their interior lives.
If we allow God’s Word to take control, the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. It shall not return to Him void but shall do His will, achieving the end for which He sent it and shall bear fruit and yield a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold if we are good ground and act on it. Then only then can we rest in God and bear fruit.
“Whoever has ears ought to hear.” Beware those whose hearts are so jaded and insist on their own concocted words as Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: “You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them.”
Today, let us pray that we may live a life worthy of the Lord; a life that is true, noble and right; a life that is pure and lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy so we please Him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.
“Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
“LISTEN” carefully to this. To you the mystery of the reign of God has been confided.” Always think deeply about what God speaks to you in the silence of your heart and apply it to your life.
Heavenly Father, your words are spirit and life. Bless my soul with the words of eternal life. In Jesus, I pray. Amen.
Reflection 2: New Evangelization
A journalist was interested in writing about prison life. He began interviewing the inmates. He asked one prisoner, “Do you watch television here?” ”Yes, but only in the daytime,” the inmate replied, “because at night we are not anymore allowed to get out of our cells and so we don’t get to see any television.” “Oh, what a pity,” the reporter said, “But I think it is right in letting you watch TV only in the daytime.” “What do you mean?” the inmate asked. “Because there is more trash in the daytime shows. And that is part of the punishment.”
We are now living in the age of television. Whether we admit it or not, our thinking, behavior and way of life have been somehow influenced by it. Many of us, in fact, have made television not only as the source of information, but also as the standard for human behavior. When we watch TV, we just sit on the couch and everything – news, entertainment, and commercials – is delivered to us. There is nothing we need to do. We are passive spectators. And when we do not like the show, we just change the channel or we simply turn it off.
Sad to say, many of us apply this kind of attitude to our relationship with God. We treat Him just like television. We listen to God’s word, but we don’t see the need to do something about it. We remain passive and uninvolved spectators and listeners. More than that, we expect to always hear pleasant things and to be entertained. We avoid hearing the hard and bitter truths of the Gospel. And if we do not get what we wanted or expected, we walk away and look for another church, or we simply turn God off from our lives.
These times, then, call for a more effective and better ways of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. This is what moved Pope Benedict XVI to establish the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. He said, “To proclaim Jesus Christ the only Savior of the world seems more complex today than in the past; but our task remains the same as at the dawn of our history…The crisis being experienced bears in itself traces of the exclusion of God from people’s lives, of a generalized indifference toward the Christian faith itself, to the point of attempting to marginalize it from public life.”(Address to members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization on May 30, 2011).
This Sunday, the Gospel talks about evangelization. The parable of the Sower could be more precisely called the Parable of the Seeds. The focus of the parable is not on the sower but on the seeds. Jesus compared the word of God to the seeds sown in different kinds of soil. These will grow and bear fruits if the conditions and dispositions of the soil are right. From this parable, we get two important lessons.
First, the word of God will grow and bear fruits only when it is planted on good soil. But a good soil does not happen by chance. It is the product of the toil and sacrifices of the farmer who pulls out the weeds, plows the land, cultivates it and nourishes it with nutrients and fertilizers. Similarly, if we want the word of God to grow and bear fruits in us, we must work hard in rooting out sins from our hearts, cultivating our soul with the practice of Christian virtues and nourishing it with the graces of God and the sacraments. In other words, this is what St. Paul admonished: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12).
Second, Jesus likened the word of God to a seed. This is to underscore the truth that God’s word does not come to us as a finished product. Its seed is planted in our soul, and we have to do our share in nurturing it and bringing it to fruition. This is the reason why Jesus did his ministry for only three years. And after that, before he went back to his heavenly Father, he instructed his disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the good news of salvation.” In short, he did not finish the whole thing. He commissioned all his followers to continue what he had done. He planted the seeds of salvation; it is up to his followers, aided by the Holy Spirit, to continue and finish the job.
Hence, before we leave the Church, the priest tells us, “The Mass is ended. Go in peace.” It is not really a dismissal, but a commissioning. We are being sent on a mission, to make the word of God bear fruit in our daily life. It cannot remain static and passive. It has to bear abundant fruits through our lives suffused with the Gospel values.
Through the prophet Isaiah, therefore, God said, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My Word the goes out from My mouth. It will not return to me empty” (Is 55:11). God has sown the seed. It’s our turn to make it grow and bear fruits for the salvation of souls and the whole world. The New Evangelization begins with us (Source: Fr. Mike Lagrimas, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Palmera Springs, Camarin Road, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1423).
Reflection 3: The “seed” of God’s word in human hearts
Purpose: A homily based on today’s readings can appropriately have two main purposes: first, to encourage self-examination on the part of listeners, and the preacher himself: How receptive to the seed of God’s word is the “soil” in my own heart? (Is it shallow? Are there rocks, thorns, or weeds there that need to be pulled out?) The second aim can be to bring out the relevance of this parable for that “new evangelization” of our secularized western culture, which all recent popes have stressed as a top priority. How can we believers become more effective and fruitful, not just as receivers of God’s word, but also as its sowers in the human “field” we live in?
Readings: Is 55:10-11 ● Rom 8:18-23, 11-13 ● Mt 13:1-23
Today’s Gospel—the Parable of the Sower—is probably the most “mission-oriented” of all Jesus’ parables: it is directly linked to the great mandate of his “last will and testament” revealed at the Ascension: “Go, and make disciples of all nations!”
The preceding Scripture readings place the parable in its existential context. We hear “bad news” in the second reading, wherein St. Paul laments that through the primordial calamity of sin, the whole creation has been “made subject to futility,” is now “in slavery to corruption,” and finds itself “groaning in labor pains even until now.” The good news, however, is that labor pains are fruitful—they end in the joy of welcoming a new creature made in God’s image! That message of hope is more explicit in the first reading: The seed of God’s word, once sown, has an innate power and fecundity even under adverse circumstances. It “will not return to him void.”
The Gospel parable itself confronts us with a sharp, penetrating, personal question. Everyone in the pews today has already received the seed of God’s word in, at least, some minimal way. So we are challenged to examine our conscience: Which of the different types of “soil,” mentioned by Jesus, best describes my own heart at this time? Might it even be the first category—the hard pathway where the seed of faith has simply been “snatched away”? Surveys indicate that even some regular Mass attendees are unbelievers—for instance, some who come just to accompany a Catholic family member. A little new seed sown on this seemingly inhospitable surface will sometimes start to germinate. For instance: “Perhaps, someone here today really doesn’t believe in God. That’s a pity, because God believes in you! He surely wants to tell you that he’s there, he loves you tremendously, and he wants to come into your life. Why not take some time to reflect on that? Give God a chance!”
Our Lord explains that the seed falling in shallow soil on rocky ground refers to those timid or superficial believers who fall away out of human respect or fear when discrimination or persecution for the faith comes their way. There has been a sharp and dramatic increase in hatred and persecution of Christians since the new millennium began, especially in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. We need to pray daily for our brothers and sisters in the faith who are often showing heroism in the face of either jihadist fanaticism, or North Korean-style cold, merciless, tyranny. At the same time, those of us in relatively free, Western societies should be stimulated to follow their example; for militant and intolerant secularism is constantly chipping away at our own religious liberty. We find ourselves under ever-increasing legal, social, and economic pressure—all in the name of “tolerance” and “diversity”—to keep silent about, and even deny, our deepest, conscientious convictions about God’s plan for authentic marriage and family life. Let’s ask ourselves: “Have I been too timid to speak out for my Catholic faith and moral convictions? Do I even know how to defend Church teaching on these hot-button issues? If not, should I be studying my faith more seriously?”
The parable then speaks of seed that falls where it must compete with a lot of thorns and weeds. More humdrum and subtle than outright hostility and persecution, but perhaps even more corrupting over time, is the constant drip of worldly concerns (work, recreation, ambition, money, comfort, personal relationships) that may be good in themselves, but often eventually crowd out and displace the Kingdom of God as that which we “seek first.” Perhaps, the most important single question to ask ourselves in this context is: How is my prayer life and sacramental practice? Perfunctory and intermittent? Or devout and regular? Taking out some quality time each day to truly open our heart to the Lord, as well as regular reception of the Eucharist, and Penance, is essential to a faithful observance of the First Commandment.
If our prayer and sacramental life is regular and serious, chances are that the seed of the word has already found reasonably fertile soil in our hearts, and that we are bearing some of the fruits of charity, and the other virtues, that Jesus has in mind. However, his words leave us no room for complacency. Are we bearing fruit “thirty-fold”? Fine, but in the same breath, the Lord speaks of “sixty” and “a hundred-fold”! At a time when the Church is stressing, as never before, the need for Catholics to re-evangelize our spiritually barren, post-Christian culture, that further fruit Jesus wants us to produce will consist largely in our own transformation: from receivers of the word into new sowers. Many surveys show that evangelical Protestants are far more up-front in sharing their faith with others than the average Catholics. We can, and should, learn from their zeal, while avoiding their erroneous interpretations of Sacred Scripture.
Read the source text: http://www.hprweb.com/2014/06/homilies-for-july-2014/
Reflection 4: The Word of God
“All men by nature desire to know.” This is how Aristotle begins his Metaphysics. After he has shown that the physical world itself demands the existence of a spiritual God, Aristotle comes to examine what things that are not material are like. He relates that this desire of all men to know stimulate them to search for the one explanation that could explain the whole world. They “wondered” about the causes of the world and were led by the truth of things themselves to discover God. But his discovery of God was not enough. The dynamism of knowledge led them to want to know God in himself, but “no man can see God and live.”
In order that men might be finally fulfilled and happy, a further knowledge of God was necessary. God chose to reveal his very inner nature, first in the Old Testament and then in the New Testament. In a progressive and marvelous way, God called us to divine communion and then progressively enlightened us with knowledge from above, a knowledge that is not open to human reason left to itself.
This is the “word which goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it” (Is 55:11). The final sending forth of this world is the revelation given to us in our Lord Jesus Christ. Vatican II exclaims that Christ is “the Mediator and fullness of All Revelation” (Dei Verbum, 2).
The origin of this knowledge is supernatural – directly from God – and the nature of this knowledge is the same; thus this knowledge is a grace. “Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 153). The only human response to grace is assent born not from our understanding, but from faith. Isaiah compares revelation to the rain coming down on the earth that returns to heaven after watering the earth. This “return” is the human response born of grace of assent to God’s Word by the virtue of faith.
“Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 150). Faith is the only kind of knowledge that involves both the intellect and the will because we can never reduce God to someone we can totally understand. The response of faith then demands that, when the Word of God is sown in our hearts by grace, we cooperate in bringing it to perfection. God who created us will not redeem us without our willing assent. Without God, I can’t; without me, God won’t. This is because God never acts against the nature he has created and our nature is to be free.
Christ speaks about our own preparation for the growth of faith in our hearts in the parable of the seed and the sower today. The same seed, the Word of God, was sown in many different souls. In three cases it did not bear fruit and in the fourth case it did. What was different in these cases? Not the seed. It was the same. The difference was in the preparation of the soul to receive the action of the seed.
Preparation is both exterior and interior. Exterior preparation involves the proclamation of revelation. There are two equal means by which the one Word of God is proclaimed. Scripture is the Word proclaimed by writing; tradition is the Word proclaimed by preaching. Both aid and support each other and both are equally necessary. Christ and the Holy Spirit are the source of both in different ways, and Christ guarantees that these means will contain truth by the institution of the magisterium, the pope and together with the bishops.
Certainty of the truth is not enough by exterior means. The person must take this to heart; faith works through charity, for “we ourselves, although we have the Spirit as first fruits, groan inwardly while we await the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:23). The redemption of our bodies demands self-restraining love, which is developed by our everyday desire to root our faults and grow in the virtues.
The desire of all men to know can only be completed in the vision of God in heaven. This is begun on earth through faith, hope and charity. The fascinating thing about the seed and the sower is not that the seed died in the unprepared soil. No farmer in ancient Palestine would have found this odd. It is the marvelous yield of the prepared soil. What was reaped was thirty to sixty to one hundred times what was sown – perhaps impossible given ancient agriculture. The soul who returns to God through faith and charity develops a supernatural attitude toward ordinary life. Even the smallest work done through faith and charity reaps an eternal reward.” Let everyone heed what he hears” (Mt 13:9). (Source: Rev. Brian T. Mullady. “Homilies on the liturgies of Sundays and feasts,” Homiletic & Pastoral Review. Vol. CVIII, No. 9. New Jersey: Ignatius Press, June 2008, pp. 35-37; Suggested reading: