Reflections

FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, JULY 12, 2020

BEARING ABUNDANT FRUIT
1. The Seed of the Lord
2. A Generous Sower

Greeting
The word of God is alive and active:
it is the living person of Jesus our Lord.
May he continue speaking his Word to you,
May you open your hearts to it,
and may the Lord Jesus be always with you. R/ And also with you.

Introduction
1. The Seed of the Word
It is heartening to see that many families respect and venerate the Word of God so much that they keep a Bible in their homes. It is hoped that they also read it and apply it in their everyday lives. God’s Word is powerful, yet it is at the same time so humble as to beg us to receive it well and put it into practice. We ask the Lord Jesus who is here with us to let his mighty and humble Word move us.

2. A Generous Sower
When we look at living beings in nature, plants and animals of all kinds, we see how much seed is generously sown. There is plenty of it, and yet few spring up and reproduce fruit. The Lord himself keeps sowing his Word among us as an invitation, a call, a challenge. But do we even let it take root? What is the crop we let it reproduce? God is generous with his Word but are we generous with our response? Let Jesus today speak his Word to us, let us welcome it with warmth, let it take root in us and grow and yield a rich and beautiful harvest.

Penitential Act
We hear the Word of God often; we respect it,
but we do not always live according to it.
We ask the Lord to forgive us.
(pause)
Jesus, living Word of God,
touch our minds and hearts
that we may live as you ask us:
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.
Christ, powerful Word of God,
give us depth and faithfulness,
that your message may not wither in us:
Christ, have mercy. R/ Christ, have mercy.
Jesus, humble Word of God,
make us receptive to you
and to your message of life:
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.
God, in your goodness
speak to us your mighty word of forgiveness.
Lead us to everlasting life. R/ Amen.

Opening Prayer
Let us pray
that the Lord may open us to his Word
so that it will not remain fruitless
(pause)
Lord our God,
your Son Jesus opened the ears of the deaf
and gave sight to the blind.
Make us listen to his message of Good News,
attune us to his voice and his silence,
open especially our heart
to all the light and love and hope
that appeal to us in what he says.
Give us also the courage
to speak and to live as we believe,
that his word may succeed in us.
We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. R/ Amen.

First Reading: God’s Word is Creative
The prophet speaks a message of hope: God’s Word always produces results and is a creative act. God’s promise of salvation will be fulfilled.

1 Reading: Isaiah 55:10-11
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.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14
R. (Lk 8:8) The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.

You have visited the land and watered it;
greatly have you enriched it.
God’s watercourses are filled;
you have prepared the grain. R.

Thus have you prepared the land: drenching its furrows,
breaking up its clods,
Softening it with showers,
blessing its yield. R.

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 fields are garmented with flocks
and the valleys blanketed with grain.
They shout and sing for joy. R.

Second Reading: Straining in Hope for a New Creation
St Paul speaks a message of hope. We are God’s children who pass with Christ through suffering on the way of hope toward God’s freedom for ourselves and for a new world.

2 Reading: Romans 8:18-23
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 labour pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

Alleluia
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower.
All who come to him will have live forever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: A Seed That Bears Fruit
God sows his Word in hope. The good news will be effective in all those who are open to let it change their lives.

Gospel: Matthew 13:1-23
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.”

Commentary
What Stories Do to Us
Katty now knows the day and the place where part of her ceased to live. It was fifteen years ago when she was five years old. She was in her bedroom when, in the living room outside, her parents were berating her older sister Marivic because she got only a passing grade in three subjects. Why was Marivic not like Tonette, her older sister, who was their pride always getting the first honour in her class? They shouted, “Maybe you are not our child at all!” her father had said. And her mother added, “That’s right, maybe you got switched with someone else’s baby in the hospital after you were born!” Katty could not understand why her parents rejected the loving and warm Marivic in favour of the studious cold hearted Tonette. In fact, she felt closer to Marivic, who loved her and hugged her, than she did to either of her parents who seemed to be always at work or out of town on business trips. The little five year old Katty became convinced that if Marivic was a mistake she was the same mistake. If Marivic was rejected, no good, she too was rejected – no good.
There is a common assumption that human beings make or create stories. Actually, the opposite is true; it is stories that create us. It is the story of the imagined hospital switching of babies and the rejection it implied that created Katty. More accurately in this case, it desecrated or dis-created her into a fearful twenty-year-old who was only half living because of her inner emptiness.
Stories can CREATE, DESECRATE OR RE-CREATE us. They do this in the secular and in the religious world. A leader about whom there is a great story can inspire a nation. A story that glorifies graft and corruption can stymie all efforts at reform. In the religious world we are faced with mystery. Mystery is by definition inexpressible but through story we can get glimpses of it. Religious myth stories create a world view which enable people to give meaning to their lives.
Stories also create silence. The quality of our silence will depend on the story or myth or tradition out of which we enter the silence. This is why the late Dom Bede Griffith used to say that it is very dangerous to meditate without a tradition. When the other Benedictine, Dom John Main, invites us into the silence of meditation he is doing so out of the story that says “he who created the universe lives in our hearts and in silence is loving to all.” It is the story that says each of us are temples wherein the Holy Spirit is ever praying “Abba, Father.” John Main always kept in touch with that story by being immersed in the scriptures himself and reading, especially from the writings of St Paul, at the end of each of his talks.
When the ordinary African goes into silence he or she may find something that has been made by other stories. They may be religious stories in which devils and angels predominate. They could also be stories of capricious spirits, the “not like us,” who need to be courted and placated because they seek vengeance for every petty fault.
To be a Christian is to be created by the story the Bible tells us. Its myths, the Genesis creation story for example, create in us a way of seeing the world. In this world everything comes from God, is made good. It affirms that human beings are the pinnacle of all and that other things are for their responsible use. In this simple story we find the basis of ecumenism, human rights, racial and sexual equality to name but a few of the implied affirmations of human dignity.
But there are other creating stories. Obviously, the parents of Katty were made by a story that said that hard work and money were the top priority. It was a story in which they saw their children, not to be loved for their own sakes, but as extensions of themselves who were to be loved only if they brought reflected glory to their parents.
In today’s Gospel we have the allegorical story of the sower who went out to sow the seed. The seed is the Word, the story of God. Let us look at this story in terms of the possibilities of what it could do for Katty’s parents.
“Some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up.” In this scenario the God-Story is for the birds! The couple are so hardened into their other story that the Word cannot penetrate it. Religion is pie in the sky.
“Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away.” In this case the couple heard the Word and saw that it had a value but as they were rooted in their former story no change was able to take place.
“Others fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked them.” In this scenario, the couple appreciate their Christian faith. At first they fulfill the practices of their Church. They may even join Marriage Encounter or some other religious activities. But these do not last as they are crowded out of their schedules by their material concerns which are the priority story.
“Others fell on rich soil and produced their crops, some a hundred-fold, some sixty, some thirty.” In this case the couple were able to hear the recreating stories. They were able to hear especially the parables which subvert our ordinary worldly values and ways of looking at things. They were able to hear of Jesus rejecting the temptations to possessions, prestige and power. They were able to read of the father of the prodigal son whose attitude was always 100% loving no matter how the child performed. These stories were brought into prayerful reflection. Better still, they were brought into silence which according to Pastores Dabo Vobis is “the atmosphere vital for perceiving God’s presence and for allowing one’s self to be won over by it.” As they become people re-created by another story they will also become parents of a different kind.

Intercessions
Let us pray to the Lord who sows and harvests, that people may eagerly welcome his Word and respond to its urgent call. Let us say:
R/ Lord, hear your people.

– For those who spread the word of the Good News: pastors and missionaries, catechists and teachers, that they may keep sowing the seed even when they see no harvest yet, let us pray:
R/ Lord, hear your people.
– For those who are not moved by the Word of God, that the Church may hear their silent yearning and speak that word in such a way that they see that it pertains to their life and happiness, let us pray:
R/ Lord, hear your people.
– For those who have remained deaf to the Word of God, that they may be moved by it when they see it flowering and bearing fruit in the lives of good Christians, let us pray:
R/ Lord, hear your people.
– For the sick, the lonely, those who suffer or mourn, that the Word of God may bring them consolation, give them the courage to bear their pain and to keep hoping in a loving God, let us pray:
R/ Lord, hear your people.
– And for us and all Christian communities, that we may not let the cares of life choke the Word of God in us, let us pray:
R/ Lord, hear your people.

Lord, may your word not return to you without carrying out your will in us, and may our prayers not return to us without having been answered by you. This we ask through Jesus our Lord. R/ Amen.

Prayer over the Gifts
We bring before you, Lord God,
the fruit of the seed you let the farmer sow
and to which you gave growth.
Let this bread bring us the life
of your beloved Son Jesus,
and may this wine from our hills,
bring us joy and lasting hope.
We ask this in the name of Jesus our Lord. R/ Amen.

Introduction to the Eucharistic Prayer
The Word of God is so effective among us that, when it is spoken over bread and wine, it changes them into Jesus our Lord. Let us give thanks and praise to our Father for this great gift.

Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer
With Jesus, we pray to our Father
words of hope and trust. R/ Our Father…

Deliver Us
Deliver us Lord, from words
that are empty and unreliable.
Keep us free from false promises
and from all forms of sin.
Fill our mouths with words and songs
of love, goodness and joy,
as we encourage one another
and wait for the final coming
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. R/ For the kingdom…

Breaking of Bread
(The celebrant calls attention to the important rite of breaking.)
Upon the word of command of Jesus, we do as he did: we break this bread for one another for it is Jesus the Lord. Let his words bear fruit in you of joy and hope.

Invitation to Communion
This is Jesus the Lord,
who sows in our hearts
the good seed of his message.
He himself is the message:
let us receive him well and listen to him. R/ Lord, I am not worthy…

Prayer after Communion
Lord our God,
people hunger today
for truth, authenticity,
for the deeper meaning of life.
Open them to your Good News,
fill our stammering words
with your word of life
and teach us to speak to them
a language they understand,
especially the language of hope and love
of our Christian living.
We ask this in the name of the Lord. R/ Amen.

Blessing
We have heard Jesus, the Word of God,
and listened to him.
The Lord now entrusts to you
his Word and his body.
Go now, speak his Word
and be his body to the world.
That you may be a blessing to all,
may the Lord bless you:
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. R/ Amen.
Go in the peace of the Lord. R/ Thanks be to God.

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