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Ordinary Time 15 (A)
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Readings for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A


1. Isaiah 55, 10-11

  • The prophet declares the way in which God works among us, and puts the words in the mouth of God.
  • I hear two events compared and contrasted in this passage.  First is an analogy with a process of nature we have all observed.  The rain does its work, coming to renew the earth and make the plants grow.  At least it worked its will in the Israel that Isaiah knew.  And it certainly does in my region of the world, where we have not felt direct sunlight in more than a week.  And in some such way indeed (So) the word of God comes to do its own work even more effectively.
  • The key words are those that begin each part:  Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down begins the analogy.  So shall my word be begins the prophetic statement about God’s designs. 
  • There are many phrases here that describe effectiveness, and I will pay attention to them all.  Watering the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed and bread.  These are works of nature that we have all observed.  My word shall do my will and achieve the end.  We have seen this throughout history, especially salvation history, and we believe that it continues to happen in our own day.
  • Climax: So shall my word be.  God speaks and it is accomplished.  My own interpretation of it will lean heavily on the memory of the words of creation, of deliverance, of the invitation of Jesus.
  • Message for our assembly: This prophecy to Israel in exile is also meant for us today.  No matter how the world lusts after war upon decency and peace, God has the last word.  After all, the analogy I hear was not with a death spiral of bomb drops and sterility but with the life renewing cycle of rain water and fertility.
  • I will challenge myself: To stop complaining that my appointed readings are so short, and make my ministry so pregnant with meaning that everyone will pay attention to the cycles of earth and of God’s word, remember and grow in faith.

 

2. Romans 8, 18-23

  • The apostle begins with a declaration that is worth the entire passage.  The sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory.  He spoke for a time when the common people had it very hard, when they lost many of their children in childbirth and themselves would not live much beyond 40.  But many of my listeners today may be minding their own griefs – as the spiritual says, Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen – as they listen to me.
  • And I hear another process of nature.  All our readings today are founded on them.  This time the apostle takes his listeners to a more sweeping stage: All creation is groaning in labor pains.  He means a woman’s labors in childbirth.
  • There must be a rabbinical story that underlies the message and interprets the movement of creation through earth tremors, floods, births, illnesses and deaths.  In other words, these travails have a divine purpose: Creation was made subject to futility … in hope.  But that is secondary to the apostle’s purpose (and mine).
  • What comes next is a sobering call to the Christian.  It is not just other people whom we are to evangelize but all of creation!  Creation itself would be set free and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.  That is a bundle!  Let it sink in before I proceed to the next thought.
  • A pause is appropriate anyway because the reading finishes with a circling back, a recapitulation.  Not only all creation but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit.  If the creation shares in our freedom, then what is the future that awaits us?  We wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.  I remember the words at the end of the Lord’s Prayer at mass: “As we wait in joyful hope.” 
  • The message for our assembly: This is a difficult reminder of the sufferings that we must endure, but we are called to evangelize, to deliver, all of creation.  In the years following Vatican II we have found many ways to achieve this program and a new energy to do it. 
  • Central point: Catch the rhythm of the waves, copy them in my voice, as the apostle speaks of groaning, slavery and freedom, for creation and for us.
  • I will challenge myself: To encourage my listeners to look upon creation in a different way: not the instrumental way of our materialist age, where it serves as a means to our pleasure, but God’s master work that is being redeemed in Christ.

 

Gospel. Matthew 13, 1-23

  • So what if my listeners have heard this parable before?  Let them enjoy it once again.  Let them take note of which seed corresponds to them.  It’s been three years perhaps since they heard it last, and as they say, stuff has happened.  Let them be confirmed in their faith if they find themselves among the good seed.
  • I must not rush, and I must not cut the reading under any circumstances.  It is planting time in our hemisphere, and my listeners have their own gardens.  Let them imagine the details of the seeds raining around them, falling all around, dying and becoming transformed just as the drama of their own lives.  Don’t let them down!
  • Between the parable and its interpretation are some sayings about understanding the word.  I will say them with attention.  We live in a privileged time because we can access so many valuable translations and commentaries on the scriptures.  As much as in the time of Jesus, Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.  And with privilege comes greater responsibility.
  • In the interpretation, as Matthew has it, I take note that the seed in each case is people who are either prey of the elements or who grow into fantastic maturity.  Let us be among those who hear the word and understand it.
  • Climax: Jesus tells his listeners, and that means us: Whoever has ears ought to hear.  I will take my time with this important command, because the rhythm of the older translation has changed.
  • Message for our assembly: This is a chance for us to identify ourselves, to gauge the depth of our faith.  Yes, Jesus is telling it like it is.  No, it doesn’t have to be that way.  We are not predestined to be swept away by the evil one, but we are responsible for this life of grace that we have received.  Knowledge of the mysteries has been granted to you.  I interpret that as “granted to us,” and my look at the assembly will make it clear.
  • I will challenge myself: To embrace the word in my own life and talk about it with great enthusiasm.  Just as with all his sayings, Jesus is inviting us to come to a deeper love for the word. 

Word to Eucharist: So we today have many more advantages.  Do we continue to grow with the fruits of the Kingdom?  Is our hope stronger each time we come forward in communion?

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