Mission with our hopeful God, the generous and stubborn sower

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XV Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A – Sunday 10.07.2011

Mission with our hopeful God, the generous and stubborn sower

 

XV Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A – Sunday 10.07.2011

 

 

Isaiah  55:10-11

Psalm  64

Romans  8:18-23

Matthew  13:1-23

 

Reflections

Few things in nature are as small and almost invisible – though so full of power and surprises as seeds. There are so many of them, of every kind, and they get everywhere: we tread on them or they stick to our clothes without our being aware. They seem really not to matter, and yet they are tough, can stand up to all sorts of things, and can grow beyond all measure. Every tree and plant in our woods, our fields, our orchards and gardens – every single one of them comes from a handful of seeds: in them Nature has concentrated an almost limitless power to grow and develop. In today’s parable, usually called the parable of the sower (Gospel), Jesus, as the skilled Teacher and acute observer of nature that he is, weaves his familiar yet extraordinary teaching beginning precisely with seeds. This parable can be considered from three angles: the sower, the seed, and the different kinds of soil – and all three in a way that opens out onto the whole world.

 

In the first place, the sower surprises us by his prodigality. He goes about his work in an apparently unskilled way, throwing the seed all over the place, as if he does not even care where it finishes up: on the path, among the rocks and thorns, and then finally in the good soil. This sower speaks to us of hope: spes in semine, as they say. He is the image of the God of life, hope and mercy, immeasurably generous and stubborn in the way he distributes his gifts: he loves everyone, and wants his word to reach everyone, longing for “all to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth” (1Tim 2:4). And that is really how things are in the experience and the cultures of peoples everywhere, even if they have not yet received the Gospel: everywhere there are gifts and values which have their source, and find their fullness, in the God who is the Father of all and the giver of ever good thing.

 

The seed is the Word of God, Jesus himself, gift of the Father, God in human flesh, and fullness of the Kingdom. The proclamation of the Good News of Jesus in mission calls the values already present in the different cultures to grow and develop, to be purified, and to reach their fulfilment. St Justin (+165) was right when he called such values “seeds of the Kingdom”. Jesus, the Father’s powerful Word, is like the rain (1st Reading) which descends from heaven to bathe the earth and render it fruitful again (v. 10). This divine Seed has unbounded potential: this salvation is offered to all, and there are no barriers capable of preventing it from reaching every last corner of the world, every person, even those sunk most deeply in despair. In the world, which is the Father’s field and so is always beautiful to behold (Responsorial Psalm), there is no person, no situation, which cannot be saved. This is the foundation of our Christian optimism, which is tenacious beyond every resistance. This is the hope that sustains the missionary: he believes in the amazing potential of the Word which he sows; he always hopes that the Word he sows will bear fruit; he puts his life at stake to save himself and others. Pope Benedict XVI explains this very well in his encyclical Spe Salvi. (*)

 

God has chosen to let Himself be conditioned by the different kinds of soil. He offers his salvation generously to everyone, but he does not force anyone, rather respecting all and handing himself over to our human freedom. Each different kind of soil, each individual person, can welcome or reject the seed. This is the drama of our human existence: we can choose between being path, rock, thorns or good soil. And even the last, the good soil, will have different levels of response and fruitfulness: thirty-, or sixty- or one hundred-fold. In the labyrinth, which is the human heart, the Spirit (2nd Reading) is at work, present in creation which groans and suffers as it waits eagerly for the full salvation of God’s children (v. 23).

 

In the history of the missions and of the work of evangelisation, we often make the happy discovery of treasures of holiness and grace where everything might at first seem arid and stony. In deepest Darfur (in western Sudan, and still torn by endless violence), for example, God drew out the brightness of an ex-slave, St. Bakhita. In the midst of the horrors of the civil war in Congo (1964), God lit the light that was Blessed Clementina Anuarite, a martyr of chastity and forgiveness. Among the other recent witness to the reality of the good soil, we can recall Maria Goretti, Gandhi, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and many others best known in their own local Churches. The different kinds of soil also remind us that history has its ups and downs, times of openness, of refusal, and of renewal… Today the Church rightly invites us to ask the Father to grant us, by the power of the Spirit, “the readiness to welcome the seed of your word, which you continue to sow in the field of humankind, so that it may bear fruit in works of justice and of peace” (Opening Prayer).

 

 

The Pope’s Words

(*)  “Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too. As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well”.

Benedetto XVI

Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, 30.11.2007, n. 48

 

In the steps of Missionaries

- 10/7: Bl. Emmanuel Ruiz and his Blessed 10 companions who suffered martyrdom (8 Franciscan missionaries and 3 siblings, laymen of the Maronite church); they were killed for their faith by Muslims in Damascus (Syria) in 1860.

- 11/7: St. Benedict of Norcia (480-547), Abbot, “Father and Patron of Europe”, founder, patriarch of the monks in the Western world.

- 13/7: St Henry II (973-1024), Holy Roman emperor and king of Germany; with his wife St Cunegonda, he spread the faith throughout Europe, founding new monasteries and dioceses.

- 13/7: Bl. Mariano de Jesus Euse Hoyos (Colombia 1845-1926), diocesan priest, exemplary for his simplicity, integrity and apostolic zeal in his parish activities.

- 13/7: Bl. Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago (1918-1963), layman, first Puerto Rican to be declared Blessed, apostle of the young, dedicated to liturgy and catechesis.

- 14/7: St Camillus de Lellis (1550-1614), Italian priest, dedicated to the service of the incurably ill; founder of the Ministers of the Sick (Camillians).

- 14/7: St Francis Solano (1549-1610), Spanish Franciscan, missionary in Panama, Peru and Argentina.

- 14/7: Bl. Ghebre Michael (Ethiopia, 1791-1855), Vincentian; converted from the Coptic Orthodox Church, he suffered persecution and martyrdom; the first Ethiopian priest of the Vicariate of Abyssinia.

- 15/7: St Vladimir (+1015), prince of Kiev in Russia, he was converted (988) and became the founder of Christianity in the Ukraine.

- 15/7: Bl. Ignacio de Azevedo, priest, and his thirty-eight Spanish and Portuguese Jesuit companions, killed by sea pirates (near the Canary Islands, +1570), as they travelled to Brazil.

- 15/7: Bl. Anna M. Javouhey (1779-1851), French, a fiery missionary, foundress of the Sisters of S Joseph of Cluny, for the needy and the missions.

- 16/7: Our Lady of Mount Carmel, where the prophet Elijah took refuge and which became the birthplace of the Carmelite Order.

- 16/7: Bl. Andreas de Soveral, Brazilian Jesuit, and Bl. Domingos Carvalho, killed during the celebration of the Mass (+1645) at Cunhaú, near Natal (Brazil).

 

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Compiled by Fr. Romeo Ballan, mcci - Comboni Missionaries (Verona)

Translated by Fr. David Glenday MCCJ

Website:  www.euntes.net  “The Word for Mission”

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