Homily for July 20th, 2016:
Most of the seed which the farmer sows is wasted. Only at the end of the story does Jesus tell us: “Some seed, finally, landed on good soil and yielded grain that spring up to produce at a rate of thirty- and sixty- and a hundredfold.”
A Bible commentator writes: “A 20-to-1 ratio would have been considered an extraordinary harvest. Jesus’ strikingly large figures are intended to underscore the prodigious quality of God’s glorious kingdom still to come.”
The parable is Jesus’ antidote to discouragement and despair. So much of our effort seems to be wasted. So much of the Church’s work seems barren of result. The Christian community for which Mark wrote his gospel was discouraged, as we are often discouraged. They had been banished from the synagogue which they loved. They faced the same hostility as their Master. Despite the rising hostility Jesus could see all round him, he refuses to yield to discouragement. He remains confident — and tells this story to give confidence to others. “Jesus is not only the sower who scatters the seed of God’s word,” Pope Benedict XVI writes. “He is also the seed that falls into the earth in order to die and so to bear fruit.”
Are you discouraged? You have made so many good resolutions. How many have you kept? You seem to make no progress in prayer. When you come to confession, it is the same tired old list of sins. You wanted so much. You’ve settled for so little. If that — or any of that — applies to you, then Jesus is speaking, through this parable, very personally to you. Listen.
‘Have patience and courage,’ he is saying. ‘Do your work, be faithful to prayer, to your daily duties. God has sown the seed of his word in your life. The harvest is certain. When it comes it will be greater than you can possibly imagine. The harvest depends, in the final analysis, not on you, but on God. And God’s seed is always fruitful, his promise always reliable.’