FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME-A
Isaiah 55: 10-11
Romans 8: 18-23
Matthew 13: 1-9
Advertisers know they must target a specific audience if they are going to make a sale. The “one size fits all” approach is not effective. People need to feel personally addressed.
There are many audiences that advertising appeals to. I would like to point out two today: “the belongers” and “the achievers.”
For many people, it is important to feel that they belong, and so advertising targets that group. The fashion world does this all the time. People want to fit in with the latest styles. They are “the belongers.”
Another group is “the achievers.” Achievers are often very successful people. And they don’t want to be like everybody else. They want to set the style. And so advertising might say to the achiever, “This is something that most people can’t afford – but you can! After all, you are not like everybody else!”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus demonstrates how different audiences will receive His Word in different ways. He delivers the same message – the same Word – but not everyone will hear it in the same way.
Jesus tells a parable about the seed as the Word of God: “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.” And then Jesus adds, “Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
Unlike the fixed personality types to which the advertising world appeals, we choose the kind of soil we offer the seed of God’s Word to grow in – or not grow in. The condition of the soil symbolizes our response, our receptivity to God’s Word. There were two sisters, Lisa and Shelly. Both liked to swim. Lisa practiced faithfully and fruitfully, and had just won a competition.
Her dad was talking about this as he and Shelly were snacking in the kitchen.
He asked, “Shelly, don’t you want to do something like Lisa did?” Well, Shelly wasn’t into practice. She just enjoyed being in the pool.
So Shelly replied, “No, I really don’t want to do that, Dad. I’d rather just sit here and have cookies and milk with you.”
We can take that approach with our discipleship – just sitting back and admiring the Christian life. Or, we can commit ourselves to practicing it faithfully and fruitfully, day after day. There was a young man who wanted to enter the seminary. He went through the admissions process, listed the college he attended, but did not include a graduation transcript.
The admissions counselor contacted the college and found out that this young man had indeed been there for four years. But he used the tuition money from his parents to enjoy college life. And he audited every single course – no assignments, no exams and no academic credit. Although he had been there for four years, he didn’t earn a graduation diploma.
The writer who cites this illustration says that sometimes that is what we do in the Christian life. We become mere auditors of the Christian life, rather than being full participants. And there is a great deal of difference between being interested and being committed. Jesus teaches us that we choose how we hear His Word. And with God’s grace, we can cultivate our soil so that it produces fruit “a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” There is an invitation at Mass right before we receive Holy Communion. The priest takes the Host and the Chalice and holds them up – the Body and Blood, the soul and divinity of Jesus Himself – and says, “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” And we all respond, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” “But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Lord, we ask you, please say that word and enable each of us to “yield a fruitful harvest” [Responsorial Psalm 65], “a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”