Christine Burton’s reflection at St. Joe’s: The Parable of the Sower
July 16, 2011 Leave a comment
If you’re like me, when you hear this parable, your first reaction is probably something like „ACK! Am I a faithful seed about to be choked out by the weeds and thorns of a secular and cynical world? Is my faith planted in thin soil? Will I wither at the next crisis? Am I returning 100-fold? What if I‟m only generating a 60-fold or a 30-fold or, golly, only a 10-fold return? What‟s God gonna think?‟
All good questions. But the trouble with these questions is not what they ask, but their focus. There’s a whole lot of “me, me, me…‟ going on in that reaction. So much of Jesus‟ example was about turning away from an I-centred focus and towards our brothers and sisters. And thus, as I
reflected on today’s reading, looking for a different perspective, I realised that there’s another person, another role described in the parable – the Sower.
Can we be the sower? Jesus says “the word is the seed.‟ Can we spread “the word‟ more widely and more effectively in our communities?
Ok, so given all the very public issues we have been facing as a faith community, it seems to me that just admitting you’re a practising Roman Catholic these days, let alone getting into discussions of faith and quoting scripture, can be pretty unnerving – what will people think of me?
And, even though pretty much everyone who gets to know me finds out pretty quickly that I’m a Christian and that I believe that God speaks to us in different ways, giving rise to different faith traditions, and through a range of holy writings that can speak to all of us, I am still not crazy about the idea of constantly talking Bible-talk. Save it for the revival meeting…
And most often when we talk about “the word‟ we think of the Gospel. So the prospect of talking about the Gospel to people at work, in my social life, anywhere other than at church – yikes! – it can feel as if I’m just one step removed from wearing a sandwich board sign saying „Repent! The end is near!‟ Maybe I’ll go back to that whole self-absorbed me, me, me approach…
But then I remembered the opening words of the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the word. And the word was with God and the word was God.” And it came to me that sowing “the word‟ isn’t just about the Gospel, isn’t just about “Bible-talk”, but more so, it is about making “the word‟ – God – manifest in the lives of the people with whom I interact every day.
So how are we going to do that? Is this possible without talking about God and Jesus? Well, last week, Father Andy talked about Mother Theresa. She is one of the most revered modern holy people. She talked a lot about God and Jesus. But we didn‟t hear about or from her until very late in her life, by which time her lifetime of action, caring for the poorest of the poor in India gave her words even more credence and weight – it was her actions not her words that showed God and Jesus‟ love. And our own patron saint, Saint Joseph, is silent in the Gospels as we have received them. And yet he is a saint, held up as a living example of the power and love of God made evident in the actions of a human man, and through those actions, making the world a better place for all of us. Did not both of these people – and Dorothy Day and Oscar Romero and so many other saints and blessed and holy men and women – sow the word, making God manifest through more than their speech, but through their lives and their actions?
Good. Get out there and be a Mother Theresa or a Saint Joseph… Nothing like setting the bar high… I don’t know about you, but I am so not likely to be called to stand in for Mother Theresa anytime soon.
So what does “sowing the word‟ look like in our context? We are given a clue in the fruits of the Holy Spirit, mentioned in the second reading – when we live in joy rather than despair, we are sowing the word; when we demonstrate patience, when we respond to anger with love and kindness, when we encourage peace in our families, our workplaces and our society, when we give with true charity and compassion in our hearts.
We may not be called to be Mother Theresa or St. Joseph, but we are called to listen to God’s voice in our hearts and take those steps that are available to and right for each of us as individuals, whether that might be to be an activist working for social and economic justice in our community, our country or our world, whether it is to donate personally to the St. Joe’s Supper Table and to work with our colleagues to organise a food drive instead of a “worst gift exchange‟ at the office, or to sign a petition, or even just to take a deep breath and offer a smile to someone whom we could just as cheerfully strangle…
And the best part of this? Like the sower, and as promised in the first reading, I don’t have to worry about where the seed lands, I just need to sow it – widely and continuously – and let God take care of any questions to do with the growing conditions – sending the rains and snows as mentioned in the psalm – or as to whether there are weeds or thorns present or what the depth of the soil might be.
Perhaps, then, we can take our best sowing instructions from St. Francis, who said “Preach the Gospel always… use words if necessary…”
May God bless you always.