12 July 2020
Many farmers in Africa depend totally on their millet harvest for survival. After harvesting their crops, some seeds are set aside for sowing when the next Wet Season began. At that time, the farmer is very careful not to waste a single seed because the family’s future depends on how much they harvest.
Compare that with today’s gospel. The farmer [sower] in the gospel parable seems very wasteful in comparison to many African farmers who just could not afford to do the same. This farmer scatters the seed with abandon, unworried where it fell, whether it could bear fruit or not. He allows some to fall on the path, some on patches of rock, others among thorns and the remainder on rich soil. It is as if he is prepared to accept the fact that quite an amount of seeds will not bear fruit. What does Jesus say? He clearly tells us that God our Father is the Sower. God is so incredibly generous with his gifts. God is prepared to accept that much of the seed scattered, symbolising the talents given us, will not give the return God wishes from us. Yet he is not a miserly, mean God. His scattering of so much seed is telling us more about God’s generosity to us than about anything else. It is saying very obviously that God gives his gifts first of all simply because this is the kind of God we have, a sign of his great love for us. His giving of the gifts does not depend on the return he will receive. God continues to lavish us with his gifts so that, hopefully, sooner or later we will realise his goodness and make a proper response. This is the most important lesson of the parable.
Jesus told this parable at a time when many people were leaving him, they had stopped following him. It was a time of frustration and disappointment for himself and his followers. So the parable envisages this situation of frustration in Jesus’ ministry and it sought to assure the disciples of the ultimate triumph of God’s reign on earth. The seed will eventually bear fruit. The beautiful first reading from the prophet Isaiah today gives the same encouraging message.
The parable is meant to encourage the disciples telling them that in the end God’s purpose would be achieved even if at that point in time it didn’t appear likely. It calls for patience and trust in the final victory of God. Could not such a message be transferred easily to us today, as we live with the new Covid-19 reality? Just like the farmer, it is what we do that will bear fruit.
There are also other lessons to be gained from today’s parable. The parable first applies to God and his great generosity to us. Secondly, it can encourage us in this time of Covid-19, a time of anxiety, illness, deceased loved ones / friends whom we cannot mourn in the traditional way… But it also involves a response on our part. God in his love gives us the freedom to respond or not. He asks for our cooperation but will not force it. So how do we respond to the different advice coming from government / HSE / Church authorities? How do I feel about not travelling overseas? How do I feel about avoiding large crowds? But it’s more than just about my feelings! How will I act in order to be responsible – for my safety and the health and safety of others? Four conditions [responses] are presented in the parable. In the first three the word is not accepted for various reasons. Only in the last case is the result good. The lack of success comes from not listening to or refusing to hear the word. But if I fail to respond as requested, my health and safety – and that of others – is at risk.
Lord Jesus, may I do what is right, so that my family and our parish community do all we can to ensure the safety of each one in the days, weeks and months ahead. May your holy word hep us to experience the gracious gifts of God every day and may we also bring blessings into the lives of others as we act responsibly at all times. This we pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Click on the play button below to listen to an alternative homily from Fr Tom Casey SMA