Sunday 15th Week – Year A

Mass Readings

Reading 1 – Isaiah 55:10-11
Psalm – Psalm 65:10-15
Reading 2 – Romans 8:-18-23
Gospel – Matthew 13:1-23



The Fecundity of Your Heart by Bishop Barron
  • Van Gogh’s painting of the sower and the seed
  • Why did Jesus speak so often in parables? The way of poets and spiritual masters to evoke a deeper reality at play.
  • Holy Land was hard scrabbled ground.
  • Peculiar way in which the sower sows. The prodigal sower. This concerns grace.
  • Grace = love freely given. Freely offered without thought of return.
  • True love = gives even when nothing is given back. Reckless, free, indifferent. This is just the way that God loves.
  • God shines on the good and bad alike = what Jesus said in the sermon on the mount. Whereas we keep our sun from those who are evil…
  • ** Do you sow your love prodigally? or just where you expect a return??
  • Thank God that God doesn’t love us in that way… He offers His salvation to everyone. It’s just who he is… he doesn’t know how to do anything but love.
    • (1) Sown on the path = word to our society. Open your mind to the spiritual dimension or else you wont understand.
    • (2) Sown on the rocky ground = Hear it but don’t want to implement it fully…
    • (3) Sown among thorns = preoccupied with anxieties of the world. The Word of God lasts forever though… this is where we should put our attention.
  • God sows His Word prodigally. We have to listen.
Jeff Cavins: Encountering the Word
  • There is an enemy that doesn’t want us to take the seed to nurture in good soil so that it bears much fruit.
  • How often do we have no idea what the readings are by the time the homily comes?
  • Mother to child – didn’t you hear me? = didn’t you hear and obey…
  • We need to focus on receiving the seed… the Word of God… with a purpose to go deeper with the seed that is planted.



Bible Commentaries on the Readings


1st Reading – Isaiah 55:10-11

Our reading for today comes from the concluding chapter of what is now referred to as Deutero- (or 2nd) Isaiah: the chapter which has been titled “Conclusion to the Book of Comfort.” Almost every major theme within chapters 40 through 54 is blended into this chapter with verses ten and eleven (our reading for today) being a concluding announcement of salvation.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. ~Isaiah 55:10–11

God’s word does not return to him void, only through his doing the will of his Father as he filled all things on account of which he had become embodied and reconciled the world to God ~ St. Jerome, Elliott, M. W. (Ed.). (2007). Isaiah 40–66 (p. 190). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Here the nature world illustrates the Lord’s wild claim. The heart of the image here is life. We are talking here about moisture — rain and snow that come down and water. The earth is not the life-giver in this illustration. It is the rain and snow, moisture from above, that causes the earth to burgeon, “giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater.” When the earth does not receive this moisture, life shrivels-up. What is green turns brown. Seeds do not sprout and grow. Ask any farmer, and she will tell you the importance of rain and snow to life. And so the natural illustration turns towards its ultimate purpose: “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth,” says Yhwh. This is not just a poetic, theological glimpse of the water cycle. This is about God’s word that gives life, that does what it is intended to do, that accomplishes, that succeeds in God’s purpose. This is God’s word that does not return empty.

John Piper’s Homily on Isaiah 55:10-11

The Word of God is:

  • A span from heaven to earth – Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, is the all-sufficient span between heaven and earth.
  • A seed of life – So incline your ear! Come to the Lord while he is near! Hear, that your soul may live. And keep on listening and eating as long as you live. This is the only way to overcome the mouth-watering poisonous allurements of sin.
  • Sovereign and triumphant – This is the booster rocket under everything else we have said. The promise that God’s Word is sovereign guarantees everything else in this chapter.
Reading 2 – Romans 8:-18-23

Last week we heard Saint Paul tell us that Christian life is lived in the Spirit and is destined for glory because the Christian life is empowered by the Spirit. This week this theme is continued as he begins to describe our future glory.

18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies ~ Romans 8:18-23

“It is fitting for us, meditating upon the glory of this splendor, to endure all afflictions and persecutions because, although the afflictions of the just are many, yet those who trust in 2 God are delivered from them all.” [Saint Cyprian of Carthage (ca. A.D. 250), Letters 6(2)]

For Paul, the created physical universe is not to be a mere spectator of man’s triumphant glory and freedom, but is to share in it. When the children of God are finally revealed in glory, death will no longer have dominion over them and the material world will also be emancipated from this “last enemy.” (1 Corinthians 15:23-28).

“Paul means by this that the creation became corruptible. Why and for what reason? Because of you, O man! For because you have a body which has become mortal and subject to suffering, the earth too has received a curse and has brought forth thorns and thistles (see Genesis 3:18). … The creation suffered badly because of you, and it became corruptible, but it has not been irreparably damaged. For it will become incorruptible once again for your sake. This is the meaning of ‘in hope.’” [Saint John Chrysostom (ca. A.D. 391), Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans 14]


23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies ~ Romans 8:23

The Spirit is compared with the first fruits of the harvest, which when offered to God, betokened the consecration of the entire harvest. “First fruits” was also often used in the sense of a “pledge or guarantee” of what was to come.

The second testimony to Christian destiny is the hope that Christians themselves have of it; the first being the hope that material creation has. With the first fruits of the Spirit, the Christian looks forward to the full harvest of glory, the redemption of the body.

“The adoption as sons is the redemption of the whole body.” [Saint Ambrose of Milan (ca. A.D. 380), Letter to Priests 52]

Gospel – Matthew 13:1-23

Jesus is conducting His public ministry in Galilee. Between our reading of last week and today, Jesus has plucked ears of grain on the Sabbath, healed the man with the withered hand, and taught that His true relatives are those who are in the covenant with Him: “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Now He begins teaching in parables.


What in all likelihood happened was that, as Jesus was using the boat by the lakeside as a pulpit, in one of the fields near the shore a sower was actually sowing, and Jesus took the sower, whom they could all see, as a text, and began: “Look at the sower there sowing his seed in that field!” Jesus began from something which at the moment they could actually see to open their minds to truth which as yet they had never seen.

Background info –  In Palestine there were two ways of sowing seed. It could be sown by the sower scattering it broadcast as he walked up and down the field. Of course, if the wind was blowing, in that case some of the seed would be caught by the wind and blown into all kinds of places, and sometimes out of the field altogether. The second way was a lazy way, but was not uncommonly used. It was to put a sack of seed on the back of an ass, to tear or cut a hole in the corner of the sack, and then to walk the animal up and down the field while the seed ran out. In such a case some of the seed might well dribble out while the animal was crossing the pathway and before it reached the field at all. In Palestine the fields were in long narrow strips; and the ground between the strips was always a right of way. It was used as a common path; and therefore it was beaten as hard as a pavement by the feet of countless passers-by. That is what Jesus means by the wayside. If seed fell there, and some was bound to fall there in whatever way it was sown, there was no more chance of its penetrating into the earth than if it had fallen on the road. The stony ground was not ground filled with stones; it was what was common in Palestine, a thin skin of earth on top of an underlying shelf of limestone rock. The earth might be only a very few inches deep before the rock was reached. On such ground the seed would certainly germinate; and it would germinate quickly, because the ground grew speedily warm with the heat of the sun. But there was no depth of earth and when it sent down its roots in search of nourishment and moisture, it would meet only the rock, and would be starved to death, and quite unable to withstand the heat of the sun. The thorny ground was deceptive. When the sower was sowing, the ground would look clean enough. It is easy to make a garden look clean by simply turning it over; but in the ground still lay the fibrous roots of the couch grass and the bishop weed and all the perennial pests, ready to spring to life again. Every gardener knows that the weeds grow with a speed and a strength that few good seeds can equal. The result was that the good seed and the dormant weeds grew together; but the weeds were so strong that they throttled the life out of the seed. The good ground was deep and clean and soft; the seed could gain an entry; it could find nourishment; it could grow unchecked; and in the good ground it brought forth an abundant harvest.

This parable is really aimed at two sets of people.

  1. It is aimed at the hearers of the word. If we take the parable as a warning to hearers, it means that there are different ways of accepting the word of God, and the fruit which it produces depends on the heart of him who accepts it… Who then are the hearers described and warned in this parable? (1) There is the hearer with the shut mind. (2)  There is the hearer with the mind like the shallow ground. He is the man who fails to think things out and think them through. (3) There is the hearer who has so many interests in life that often the most important things, get crowded out. (4) There is the man who is like the good ground. In his reception of the word there are four stages. Like the good ground, his mind is open. He is at all times willing to learn. He is prepared to hear. He is never either too proud or too busy to listen. Many a man would have been saved all kinds of heartbreak, if he had simply stopped to listen to the voice of a wise friend, or to the voice of God. He understands. He has thought the thing out and knows what this means for him, and is prepared to accept it. He translates his hearing into action. He produces the good fruit of the good seed. The real hearer is the man who listens, who understands, and who obeys.
  2. For discouraged preachers of the word the lesson is in the climax of the parable, in the picture of the seed which brought forth abundant fruit. Some seed may fall by the wayside and be snatched away by the birds; some seed may fall on the shallow ground and never come to maturity; some seed may fat among the thorns and be choked to death; but in spite of all that the harvest does come. No farmer expects every single seed he sows to germinate and bring forth fruit. He knows quite well that some will be blown away by the wind, and some will fall in places where it cannot grow; but that does not stop him sowing. Nor does it make him give up hope of the harvest. The farmer sows in the confidence that, even if some of the seed is wasted, none the less the harvest will certainly come… It is our task to sow the seed, and to leave the rest to God. When a man sows the seed, he must not look for quick results. There is never any haste in nature’s growth.

    So then this is a parable of encouragement to those who sow the seed of the word.

“Whoever has ears ought to hear.” (v. 9)

This is a common refrain in Matthew (11:15; 13:43). It constitutes an invitation to the listener to think reflectively on the human application of the figure. The audience must participate if the parable is to have its desired effect.

10 The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.

The disciples’ question intrudes upon Jesus’ address to the crowd. If we take the setting in the opening verses seriously, the crowd too must hear Jesus’ depressing answer. It is most likely that the sacred writer has inserted a theological consideration at this point. The Greek word mysterion, translated here as “mysteries” corresponds to the Latin word sacramentum which refers to the oath that binds a covenant. Those outside the covenant have not yet understood what is necessary to receive it.


Other Quotes:

Saint Jerome speaks of the way we ought to approach both the Eucharist and the word of God: “We are reading the sacred Scriptures. For me, the Gospel is the Body of Christ; for me, the holy Scriptures are his teaching. And when he says: whoever does not eat my flesh and drink my blood (Jn 6:53), even though these words can also be understood of the [Eucharistic] Mystery, Christ’s body and blood are really the word of Scripture, God’s teaching. When we approach the [Eucharistic] Mystery, if a crumb falls to the ground we are troubled. Yet when we are listening to the word of God, and God’s Word and Christ’s flesh and blood are being poured into our ears yet we pay no heed, what great peril should we not feel?”.[199] Christ, truly present under the species of bread and wine, is analogously present in the word proclaimed in the liturgy. A deeper understanding of the sacramentality of God’s word can thus lead us to a more unified understanding of the mystery of revelation, which takes place through “deeds and words intimately connected”;[200] an appreciation of this can only benefit the spiritual life of the faithful and the Church’s pastoral activity. ~ Benedict XVI. (2010). Verbum Domini. 56, Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

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