Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
MT 13:1-23
July 16, 2017

Trying to write with a broken pencil is pointless!

This was one of a number of little riddles that a friend recently forwarded to me via e mail. Frankly, it’s the only one I remember…and one of the few in the lengthy litany that I really didn’t have to think too long on before I found the humor.

Actually, when I first opened the message, I was in a rush and almost hit “delete.” But, having read and “solved” the first, I moved forward…groaning at how silly some of them seemed, but challenged by a few that, at first glance, stumped me. I actually felt a bit of excitement when I solved one of the more obscure…cleverly hidden, and was encouraged to continue reading. For the most part, I smiled, giggled to myself, or laughed out loud as I made my way down through the list of little brain teasers. I was glad that I had taken the time to read through them. The exercise slowed me down, relaxed me, and lightened my mood. I actually sent on a “Thank You!” note to my friend.

Jesus often taught in parables. Matthew reports this particular farm parable, but the majority of the Gospel on this 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time is The Lord’s explanation to His disciples of why The Lord chose to address “such a large crowd” in this manner. It’s easy to imagine the scene, and even to place oneself there in the enormous and diverse crowd, observing the various reactions to His “spirit teasers.”

Some passersby, happening on the spectacle, might well have hurried away without even stopping. Being too busy to spend even a moment listening to The Word of God spoken by The Living Word of God, they suffered a tragic loss of opportunity!

Sprinkled throughout the crowd, there were probably a few scribes, Pharisees, leaders from the Temple in Jerusalem and area synagogues…maybe even a few Roman soldiers standing by to keep the peace…surrounding The Prince of Peace! These were the kinds of people the Lord described as “the wise and learned.” Can’t you just see them scoffing at the simplicity of Jesus’s teaching? Can’t you almost hear them GROAN? Their arrogance left them blind to the beauty of Jesus’s teaching and deaf to the empowering and life-changing lessons He brought. GROOOOAAAANNNNS…especially from “the wise and learned,” tend to be contagious. Influenced by this haughtiness, many who might otherwise have stayed to listen ended up elbowing their way out of the crowd to resume their day…unchanged.

In spite of their skepticism or inability to unlock the parable, some people, for whatever reason, hung in there. Their commitment was greatly rewarded with an AAAHH! moment. At some point, they got it! They understood. They were able to apply the message to their own lives. They discovered answers they were searching for. A sense of peace replaced a troubled mind. Feelings of hope pushed despair to the background. They were excited! They wanted more.

Finally, there were people in the crowd like you! You wouldn’t be reading this reflection if you weren’t the rich soil in which The Gospel is able to root deeply, be nourished in, and produce an abundant harvest. The Good News lightens your spirits, even as my friend’s email lightened my mood. People of faith find rest, refreshment, and wisdom in the Word of The Lord!

Still, these days, the GROOOOAAAANNNNS of the arrogant seem to be getting louder and more determined than ever to influence those eager to hear the Good News…anxious to see what God has ready for those who love Him. When we gather in our parish churches, we see the empty places. People are “too busy,” ”too preoccupied,” “too distracted,” ”too influenced” by people and things to commit to stopping to hear what God is saying to them through the Gospel. Things really aren’t that different than the day when Jesus used a small fishing boat as His pulpit.

There can be dangerous fallout contaminating the rich soil if we don’t resist. And so it’s especially important to unpack the Second Reading (Romans 8:18-23). While we live in the flesh, there are people and things that try to persuade us that our beliefs are “false Good News” and that our faith life is “futile!” In a very real way, our Church, The Body of Christ, is experiencing a period of great suffering. This is nothing new. Things really aren’t that different than the day when Jesus used a small fishing boat as His pulpit.

But the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. With these hopeful assurances, the First Reading becomes less of a riddle. While it might seem to us that God’s Words are being ignored, or worse, the reality is in God’s time, it will achieve the end for which God sent it. In other words, things really aren’t that different than the day when Jesus used a small fishing boat as His pulpit. God is in control.

As for you… the rich soil…continue to listen and see what God has ready for those who love the Lord. And remember, trying to live a Christian life without the Living Word of God is as pointless as trying to write with a broken pencil. Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise.