Fr Bob Writes – July 12, 2014

Our gospel this Sunday gives us Jesus’ well-known parable on the sower and the seed. Jesus used a lot of agricultural imagery in his teaching, because this would have been very familiar to the people of his day, who lived a very rural existence. Of course, the way farming was done in those times was nothing like the way it is carried out today. With a sack of grain slung over one shoulder, the sower would reach into the sack, grab a handful of seeds, and scatter them about. Because of that technique, some see landed in weeds, on the footpath, and in shallow rocky ground. Plowing usually took place after the sowing.

While a fair amount of seed might be wasted, that which landed on good soil and was plowed in would produce a generous harvest on a good year. God scatters his word and blessings about. Not all seeds come to fruition due to indifference or opposition. In fact, judging by Jesus’ parable, he is saying that three-quarters of the people who receive his word never respond to it in  a way which leads to their spiritual growth !! Nevertheless, the parable is also saying that the harvest will be plentiful in our lives if we receive the seed of God’s word as good soil in which we allow God to weed out what does not belong , plow us over and soften us for his word to take root, and incorporate within us the nutrients of his blessings.
The question which the apostles ask Jesus in the gospel “Why do you speak to the people in parables ?” is worth considering. Many a poet has been asked the meaning of a poem he or she wrote. Most are reluctant to do so, preferring that people mull things over and try to figure out the meaning on their own. In this way, the listener is both more challenged and invested in the poem. Jesus, as a good storyteller, probably had the same approach. Keep them guessing, pondering the meaning and how the stories applied to their own lives, and coming back for more stories.
So which type of soil described by Jesus in today’s parable best reflects the state of your own heart : totally hard, shallow, conflicted or fertile ?

Father Bob Writes – July 2014

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.

So go Jesus’ words at the end of today’s passage from St Matthew’s gospel.

The art of making a good yoke was to fashion it so as to fit the neck of each ox just right…not too loose that it moved around and chafed the animal…not so tight that it pinched and made the animal sore. From his carpenter days, Jesus knew how to make a yoke for a team of oxen. He would have measured the animal and tried the yoke several times as he fashioned it. Jesus knows how much we can “bear” and fashions his yoke for us accordingly.

A young ox was often joined in the yoke with an older more-experienced animal. In this way the younger one learned the right pace and manner of working. Initially the yoke would be unequally fashioned so that the older animal would take the major share of work.

When Jesus invites us to take his yoke upon our shoulders, he wants to get work out of us…the particular mission given to each Christian. He wants to fashion the yoke that will be just right for each person. He doesn’t leave us alone to do the work. He is the other experienced “ox” who will accompany us, do the major share of the work and teach us to do our part

On our part, it takes humility to accept being yoked with Jesus. More mature Christians must also have the humility to be willing to take on the major share of any Christian ministry, such as evangelization or any parish task, while younger Christians are learning the “ropes.” Sometimes, the “wise and learned” among us may tend to trust too much in their own wisdom and intelligence, and, thus, not seek the Lord’s guidance.