Reflection on the Readings at Mass for the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A. The Liturgical Sense of the Scriptures Podcast, by Catholic Author and Theologian David L. Gray. READINGS: Isaiah 55:10-11, Romans 8, 18-23, and Matthew 13:1-23.
The Liturgy of the Catholic Mass is the Rich Soil, and We are the Seeds
Deutero-Isaiah canon of Scripture, which begins in chapter forty and ends in chapter fifty-five, can be structured in various ways, but one of the simplest methods is to consider it as consisting of two books: first, the ‘Book of Comfort’ (from chapters 40 to 55); so-called ‘Book of Comfort’ because of the first words spoken by the prophet in verse forty, saying, “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God,” which becomes the prophet’s mission and mandate in that book, and second, the ‘Book of Struggle for the New Temple and the New Jerusalem’ (from chapters 56 – 66). Today’s Reading for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A, draws from the concluding chapter of the Book of Comfort, verses 10 and 11.
It is a compelling use of similitude here, where God likens the word that He says “goes forth from my mouth,” to “the rain and snow [that] comes down.” The satisfaction point of the rain and snow, says the Lord is that it waters the earth, and the fruit of the satisfaction point is that it makes fertile and fruitful those things that the human condition needs to survive, such as the seeds of wheat that become bread. Then He says, “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me empty, but shall do what pleases me, achieving the end for which I sent it.” Yet, if we were to say more about this similitude, we might remark about how penetrating water is and the depths to which it penetrates and infuses the soil. So too, does the Word of God. We might remark that rain has no choice but to descend, but will ascend again in another form, either as gas or as part of the life of the thing that it became a part of. So too did the Word of God, Christ Jesus descended so that we might ascend with Him in us; that is, God became man, so that man might become like God. Finally, we might remark on how rainwater partners with carbon dioxide in its descent into the soil, which inevitably helps plants grow healthily by releasing micronutrients in the soil, such as zinc, copper, and iron. So too does the divine partnership of Christ and Holy Spirit bless us with the gifts of the Spirit to help us partake more fully in the divine nature.
Chapter eight of the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Church of Rome began with arguments against the weaknesses of our wounded flesh and the inclinations of the flesh to be hostile towards the Holy Trinity. In Today’s Second Reading from Romans 8:18-23, Paul shifts slightly to explain that humanities Original Sin not only wounded human nature but all of creation itself; he says “is groaning in labor pains even until now,” and hopes to “be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.” Therefore, not only is there a similitude between the order of men and the order of nature, according to the First Reading, but there is also a true relationship that is still in place from the beginning when the author of creation created us from the dirt of the earth and gave us the vocation to have dominion over all the other living things on the planet. That is, if the matter by which our nature was created is now wounded, it makes sense, therefore, that the nature of our planet is also wounded, and why have witnessed that humans who are being governed by their slavery to sin are also those who are most inclined to cause harm to nature. At the same time, those striving to be holy in Christ Jesus are more inclined not to take more from the planet than they need.
The compilers of our lectionary continued this theme of nature and man into the Gospel Reading from Matthew 13:1-9, where we are blessed to hear Jesus’ Parable about the Sower who was indiscriminately sowing seeds along the path he was walking, in rocks and thorns he was passing by, and in rich soil. What type of seed was the Sower throwing; what kind of plant would it eventually grow into – wheat or mustard seed? We were not informed about it because the question of ‘what’ does not matter here, nor were we given the personal name of the Sower because the question of ‘who’ does not matter here either. Rather, the primary question of concern here today is ‘where,’ and there is only one correct answer to that question according to Christ Jesus, who said, “. . . 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.” Moreover, we cannot isolate this parable from the First Reading, where we learned that the Word of God is like the rain and snow that made the soil rich, fertile, and fruitful for seed to achieve a purpose according to His design.
Through the Liturgical Sense, the Readings at Mass today take on a new light that awakens us to see the beautiful reality of the liturgy of the Catholic Mass being that fertile soil of God, the Divine Sower, who has deigned to plant us, His seeds, in to be nourished with His word, His grace, and His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. And it has been through this rhythmic rainy season in the liturgy over the past two thousand years of Him visiting us in the liturgy and us visiting Him, that the Holy Spirit has infused and empowered our labors with His grace so that we might produce good fruit in our lives, in the lives of our neighbor, and in the life of the Church. Truly, it is refreshing to know and to identify ourselves as the seeds of God as we enter into the Divine Symphony and to know that when we sit, we are being planted in the rich soil, and when we kneel, we are being watered with His Word, and when we stand and process, we are yearning towards the Son of God.
This is just one way how the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the liturgy and how the liturgy is forming us how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the liturgy.