I find it meaningful to rename some of Jesus’ parables from the perspective of the giver rather than the recipient. It helps me to focus on the grace in each parable rather than works. Thus a parable is not so much about a “Prodigal Son” as about God as a “Yearning Father.” Another is not so much the “Lost Sheep” as the “Passionate Shepherd.” And not the “Lost Coin” but God as the “Searching Widow.” Even the “Good Samaritan,” already named after the giver of grace, gains added poignancy as “The Rejected Foreigner Who Cares.”
So let us consider today’s parable as that of the “The Extravagant Sower.” The issue involved erupted for me with the new translation of the Catholic Sacramentary. At the key point in the Eucharist, the new translation reads, “This is the chalice of my blood, which will be poured out for you and for many.” I yearned for the former words—that Christ’s sacrificial act was “for all.” In one sense, both translations are right, but which is primal—the offer or the reception, the God who says “yes” or those of us who insist on saying “no”?
Thus the focus of today’s parable could be on those who are good soil, but it is far more powerful to focus on God as so hopefully in love with all of us that God extravagantly throws seed everywhere—behind the nightclub dumpsters, in the smelly landfills, on the plastic-strewn seashores—wherever there might be someone passing by. Our hope is in such a God who refuses to be limited to sowing where the investment possibilities are most promising.
On this day in 1962, the “miracle” of worldwide television transmission occurred. Lord, we are now gifted with the power to sow truth everywhere, yet we contaminate the truth with mindless trivia. Forgive us when we seek society’s noisiness instead of the quiet of your incessant presence. Amen.
Even great people in the faith have moments of imperfection. Not all biblical stories are biblical examples. Jacob should have fed his brother out of concern, but he takes advantage of the situation and robs Esau of his birthright. The psalmist asks the Lord to show him how to live. God’s word is a lamp to his feet and a light to his path. Paul in Romans contrasts the life of the flesh and the life in the Spirit. Without the power of God, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes in the flesh; but the Spirit sets us free. Jesus reminds us in Matthew that the effectiveness of the gospel is not based on our efforts. We sow the seed, but we cannot control whether it takes root.
Read Genesis 25:19-34. How do you experience God’s “nevertheless”—God’s grace—as you work through the baggage of your birthright?
Read Isaiah 55:10-13. How might experiencing moments as if for the last time bring the joy of a first-time experience?
Read Romans 8:1-11. In learning what spiritual practices strengthen you, what practices did you try that did not work? Now that you know what works, how might working on practices you once found unhelpful grow your faith?
Read Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. In what unexpected place might you sow seeds of God’s love?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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