Raphael Amato: Reflection for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Isaiah 55.10-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 65
Second Reading: Romans 8.18-23
Gospel Acclamation: Luke 8.11
Gospel: Matthew 13.1-23

In the first reading we learn that God’s word does not return without doing its work. What are we referring to when we speak of God’s word? What is the work that this word is coming to do? It is common to think of the word in what I would say are two contradictory ways. The most common understanding is that God’s word is encaptured in things like the 10 commandments; a series of rules and guidelines that we must follow to warrant the kingdom of heaven. Another way of looking at God’s word is understanding that it is God’s tireless work of letting each one of us know that we are beloved, that God’s love for us is unconditional; that is freely given. In short, God’s word may be lived as:

• Set of commandments that must be followed to merit belonging to the kingdom or
• The good news that each of us is always beloved

I find it challenging but comforting; it is challenging to acknowledge and live out of the knowing that we are loved completely by God. Now that’s really hard work for each one of us; to accept that we are beloved and to live knowing this. For it:

• provides me with freedom to recognize that my worth is not dependent on my earning acceptance of others nor dependent on what others think
• allows me to know that I am loved as I am. And so are others; all of us are loved as flawed, broken….yet precious.

Not only am I beloved but I believe that God’s word calls me to help others live and accept this reality; to know that they too are the “beloved.” It has taken me so long to learn this; to accept that my worth comes from being a child of God. I was loved by my parents, but they were flawed and could not love me as I had hoped and wanted. Accepting my belovedness has helped me realize that I wanted them to know that they too were loved by God unconditionally. It led me to place where I could forgive them and others and recognize our common frailty.

Last week Father Jim reminded us that Jesus invites to take up his yoke for his yoke is easy and the burden is light. I believe that this is the yoke, if we live out of the reality of knowing we are loved inherently, we let go of hurts, burdens, and expectations that our worth and love are dependent on others. This is the yoke that is light and life-giving, this yoke will help us carry our burdens.

In our Gospel reading, Jesus uses the parable of the sower to help us understand the power of God’s word and uses a seed as a symbol of God’s word. As in the first reading, remember that the word does not return until it does it work of communicating God’s unconditional love. It is the seed that is doing the work.

We hear so much these days about fake news, different realities, truth and facts numerous interpretations of the gospel; in fact there is quite a narrow interpretation of this parable that states that only those in good standing with God will be favored to hear the word; that you have to follow a series of rules to prepare yourself to be the soil warranting the seed. It is so easy to slip into this confusing message about God’s word and love. Do I merit it or is it freely given? It seems that once we state that that God’s love is freely given, we then quickly start putting conditions on meriting it to gain our reward.

We see the narrower interpretation of this parable being played out in our society/community right now –of the many conditions and judgements we place on each other; particularly those who don’t follow the rules

I think that is easy to see the gospel reading as one that to divide us into soil groups; leading to the question of what are the different types of soils? Jesus suggests 4 different types of soil; which type of soil do you see yourself as? Perhaps you are like the rocky ground with no roots and that the joy lasts only for a short while. Could you be full of thorns with little chance of the seeds taking root, overwhelmed and anxious? Better still perhaps you are the fertile ground on which God’s word could take root and fully bloom? How about the way we see others? It is quite easy to discern out the different groups; those that are shallow and no depth. Those who quickly get excited but cannot maintain it. Those who are overwhelmed and anxious and cannot see the beauty around them. And lastly those who are well grounded and have depth and allow things to sink deeply and nurture and care the word.

I would love to imagine myself as the latter; a deep person who reflects on the word, appreciates it and takes good care of it in order to allow for its growth; that is the fertile soil

However, as I continued to reflect on the readings I saw a link between the first reading and the gospel. Perhaps Jesus was not categorizing people but rather telling us about ourselves. It is an illusion to think that we could judge and know others and even ourselves. How self-comforting it is to separate people into categories and hope that we are the fertile soil type. As I continued my reflection, another understanding of the parable emerged for me; that is, I have each one of these types of soils inside of me and as do each one of us. There is a part of me that is also quite cynical like the seed on the path, quickly jumping to conclusions about others and how they don’t understand the “truth”. Another part of me is quick to let go of things that I know are good for me, drawn by things that only promise short term pleasure and satisfaction. There are times when I feel like I am in the thorns, full of anxiety and uncertainty, especially these days. How close should I walk to others? Can I get ill by touching things? Etc.

The work of the word of the first reading assures me that I am grounded as a beloved of God, that His word will continue to do its work in me. I am beloved because I contain all the different soils that Jesus refers to. This acceptance of my reality is the grounds for the seed to take root; this allows me to be fertile ground

When l live in the word and know that I am beloved. I can easily let go of my expectations that others should love me in a particular way. I have a deep desire to let each one of us know that we are truly beloved, and acting out of that reality is the true manifestation of God’s word made flesh.

Each one of us is profoundly loved and it is our common journey to embrace this reality. Yet each one of us is broken and flawed and very much like others around us. I would like to invite you to think about others that may have hurt you; others who see the world very differently than you. In short, each one of us can easily find someone that we could call the “other”. In my last reflection, I spoke about Jean Vanier and asked us to consider that Jean was not any closer to God than each one of us are. That perhaps seeing Jean as a broken and flawed human being may help us understand the power of God’s love. each one of the soils was in Jean Vanier and perhaps he struggled to keep an image of himself and kept some things hidden, afraid to embrace his vulnerability. That Jean being human like each one of us, lived out of the different soils and one of the soils was his knowing that he was beloved?

So in conclusion I pray for the courage to embrace God’s love for me and the courage to accept acceptance I pray that I may reflect this love to others and imperfect and human like myself. I pray for the courage to let God’s seed do its work in myself and others around me. “my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” God’s word is continuing its work.

Blessings to you all,
Raphael Amato

One thought on “Raphael Amato: Reflection for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time”

  1. Thank you so much Raphael.
    Rocky soil I know!
    Appreciated that God loves us no matter which soil we are!

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