20 July 2022 – Wednesday of Week 16

20 July 2022 – Wednesday of Week 16

Optional Memorial: St Apollinaris, Bishop of Classis, martyred in the second century.

1st Reading: Jeremiah 1:1, 4-10

The prophet’s vocation to speak God’s word

The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin.

The word of the Lord came to me saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Then I said, “Ah, Lord God!
Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you,
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Responsorial: Psalm 70:1-6, 15, 17

R./: I will sing of your salvation

In you, O Lord, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, free me:
pay heed to me and save me. (R.)

Be a rock where I can take refuge,
a mighty stronghold to save me;
for you are my rock, my stronghold.
Free me from the hand of the wicked. (R.)

It is you, O Lord, who are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, since my youth.
On you I have leaned from my birth,
from my mother’s womb you have been my help. (R.)

My lips will tell of your justice
and day by day of your help.
O God, you have taught me from my youth
and I proclaim your wonders still. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 13:1-9

The parable of the sower and the seed

Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”


A harvest through patience and perseverance

Today we begin reading from Jeremiah, whose impact on the popular piety of Israel was immense. The Book of Jeremiah does not follow a clear, logical sequence, probably because many of his prophetic poems circulated in separate collections before being collected in one single volume under his name. Towards the end of life career Jeremiah wrote the story of his own remarkable vocation. He attributes everything to God’s care for him, even before his birth. Surrendering to providence, Jeremiah glimpsed that he had been “a prophet to the nations,” a hope he passed on to future generations.

Today we also start a series of parables from Matthew’s gospel. A parable is a story which ends with a single punch-line that emerges naturally from the story yet usually takes the reader somewhat by surprise by its application. As we compare the same parable in different gospels, we see how each evangelist felt free to adapt these enigmatic stories.

The parable of the sower shows the patience of God in dealing with us. Jesus describes the normal growth of wheat or barley. The system of fanning is quite different from ours but it would have been familiar to his listeners. Jesus draws attention to the certainty of the harvest, yielding “grain a hundred- or sixty- or thirty-fold.” This harvest excludes nobody from the kingdom: whether with few or with many talents, all have a part. Not only does the natural process of sowing, growth and harvesting contrast with the sudden appearance of the quail and manna, but the parable insists on the virtue of waiting.

Whether in Jeremiah or in ourselves, our efforts to cooperate with the grace of God will lead to the harvest, whether of a hundred- or sixty- or thirty-fold. Whether the results be small or large, all will have been worthwhile.

Receiving the seed of God’s Word

The parable of the sower is one of the best known stories of Jesus It is remarkable in being the only parable that he actually explains to his disciples. The different kinds of soil refer to different kinds of human response to God’s message. We are reminded that although God’s word is powerful it needs to meet with some response from us if it is to be effective. We have to open ourselves to the word if it is to bear fruit. The parable identifies certain blocks to our opening ourselves to the Lord’s word. One is the lack of understanding; we need to know who Jesus is and what he has done and said if we are to respond to him. Another block is our tendency to keep the Lord at arm’s length, so that his word never takes really deep root in us. A third block is our becoming too immersed in both the anxieties and the pleasures of life so that they become our primary reality. In his interpretation of the parable of the sower Jesus shows a realistic grasp of the obstacles within and around us to his presence and to his word, obstacles which he himself has to somehow overcome. However, that realistic picture should not lead us to discouragement. The message of the gospels as a whole is that the Lord’s persistence is stronger than those obstacles. When on one occasion Jesus’ disciples asked him the rather despairing question, ‘Who can be saved?’, Jesus replied, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’

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