Most often when this parable is used for reflection on a retreat or a day of reflection, we are the hearers of the parable and are asked: “How receptive to the word of God are you? Into which category do you place yourself?”
If we are honest, most of us would say in all of them. Sometimes we hear the word of God without understanding. At other times we really like what we hear until some hard choice or challenge comes along. And on occasion the lure of what the world offers us get in the way, and the desire for being as comfortable as we and our families can be is seductive. We get caught up in the “biggers”: bigger salary, bigger house, bigger vacations, etc. But there are times we hear and understand the word and bring forth fruit in whatever capacity we are able.
But let’s take a different path today by considering the parable as proclaimers of the good news by word and especially by deed. As St. Francis of Assisi said: “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words”.
Let’s face it: Jesus did not have all that much success in his earthly ministry. His preaching and miracles entertained and filled with awe the crowds but most didn’t follow him. In fact, he alienated the religious authorities of his time so much so they argued with him, set traps for him, and ultimately sought his life.
Maybe Jesus was preparing his disciples and us for the same responses. Sometimes we can get discouraged in our attempts to pass on the faith. It seems to fall at times on deaf ears. At other times there is an initial burst of enthusiasm that lasts for, let say a week after a particularly brilliant homily or weekend retreat but not for a lifetime. It is especially true in our day when the number of people who identify themselves as former Catholics is the 2nd largest population of believers in our country and an increasing amount of people call themselves “spiritual but not religious”. It is tempting to give up setting an example and just concentrate on our own personal salvation.
But, Jesus guarantees a harvest. Maybe we’ll never see the results, but we must continue to plant the seed. Who knows? Maybe the 3rd grader who appears bored or is always fidgety will remember something you said or how you responded when he/she is 30. Maybe what we now consider barren soil will someday be rich and fertile.
Never, never give up.
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, A2017