Sunday Scripture reading, July 12, 2020: The point of parables
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Is 55:10-11
2) Rom 8:18-23
Gospel: Mt 13:1-23, or 13:1-9
"Location, location, location!" That's the advice one hears often when buying or selling property. Where a home or business is located makes all the difference. Location determines real estate value both short and long term. When it comes to land or property, it's all about location!
Today's readings focus on a different kind of location -- the spiritual location of my heart, mind and will and the importance of what is taking place there. Everything in the spiritual life depends on our spiritual location, on whether we are close to or far from God's word.
God's word is a work of God's grace preparing us to be rich soil in the right spiritual location. The prophet Isaiah focuses on the priority of God's saving work in our lives when he says, "So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it." When we are in the right spiritual location, God's word can do wonders in our lives!
In the Gospel, Jesus is followed by a crowd so large that he gets into a boat and begins to speak to the whole crowd as they stood along the shore. And he taught them in parables. Like any good teacher, Jesus uses vivid imagery that echoed in the daily life of his listeners.
Jesus' parables are images painted with words that invite his listeners to understand how the kingdom of God is related to their daily lives. The parables are concrete stories that engage reflection on discipleship as a call to conversion in the midst of life's joys and challenges.
Through the parables, Jesus offers his disciples, and us, his loving invitation to interior conversion of heart and mind. When the disciples ask Jesus why he speaks in parables, he points to the attitude of openness to hearing and seeing God's words and deeds as a necessary condition of discipleship.
The parable of the sower and the seed is familiar enough that we may overlook its powerful lesson for daily discipleship. The sower's seed falls in various locations -- on a path, rocky ground, among thorns and rich soil. Each location in which the seed falls results in a different outcome.
Jesus' parable highlights the generosity of God the sower of the seed who lavishes seed everywhere in the hope that it will reach good soil. The parable points also to the power of God's word as a seed that is planted, takes root, grows and bear rich fruit in our lives.
By remaining close to the spiritual location of God's word, we experience God's grace transforming the soil of our hearts and minds. We discover our true dignity and life's purpose in God, as we pray with hope, "speak to me, Lord."
How will Jesus' words take root in the soil of your mind and heart today?
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Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.