Reflection on the Gospel- 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
-Veronica Lawson RSM
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, we have necessarily distanced ourselves from others. Some of us have retreated to the natural world so that our sensitivities have sharpened and our planetary awareness has heightened. We have become more attuned to the complexity of nature and to its rhythms. We have observed the diverse feeding habits of the birds, for instance, and their communication patterns. There is new and renewed interest in gardening, in the growing of vegetables and fruit in pots or in built-up garden beds. Such changes in lifestyle are conditioning us to use our eyes to see and our ears to listen, as today’s gospel invites us to do. Jesus’ directive, “let anyone with ears listen”, is a reminder that we do have ears and that we do not always hear. Ann Lewin’s words come to mind: “You do not have to Look for anything. Just look. You do not have to Listen for specific Sounds. Just Listen. You do not have to Accomplish anything. Just Be. And in the Looking and the Listening and the Being, find Me.”
To what sort of being, of looking and listening does today’s gospel call us? The parable of the soil, of the seed, of the birds and the thorns, of the sun and the sower alerts us to Jesus’ deep sense of connection with life in its multiple forms. It calls us to examine our connection with the natural world. For a long time, we have focussed on the human character in the parable, a character who evokes an agricultural world that is far removed from our post-industrial world, but not so far removed from the world of millions of people in our planetary home who live close to the soil and to earth’s elements and who struggle to produce the food they need to stay alive. Is the Matthean Jesus presenting in the sower an image of an estate owner, or a tenant farmer or even a slave? Or is the reader being asked to imagine the sower, whether estate owner, tenant farmer or slave, as an image of an extraordinarily generous God whose life-sustaining gifts are there for all, no matter their readiness to receive? It may not be one or the other but both.
What of the silty clay loam or red sandy soil, of the wheat or barley seed, of the birds and the thorns and the sun? We know that barley was domesticated some ten thousand years ago in what became bible lands and that these lands are also the original home of the finest bread-making wheat. The birds and the thorns and the sun are for another reflection. We bring our experience of looking and listening and being into dialogue with the parable and search out its meaning for us. We trust that God will ensure an abundant harvest if we but learn to look and to listen to the needs of a planet in peril.