This Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time is actually not ordinary at all. The pandemic rages, the economy is unstable and social unrest is building. And yet the Gospel is an incredibly familiar story: seed tossed on a path, on rocky soil and thin soil and finally on rich soil. Where are the links to this extraordinary time? Conventional interpretation looks at Jesus as the sower, His word as the seed, and the people of the world as the soil. It is not enough to rest there.
Consider alternate views. As collaborators in creation, can we be sowing the seeds? Are our words the seeds that give life? Can God be entrusting us with this task? Jesus modelled a message, interaction, attitudes and behavior. He showed us how. Is it our turn?
In this most extraordinary of times, the radical idea that God cares for and loves each of us is the basis of the Gospel’s “Good News”. Trusting that means believing that each human being is created in the image of God, carries the divine within. We are surrounded by the face of God in the eyes and hearts of one another. Can we enter these divisive times with that idea? That the stories each human being carries are worth hearing and sharing? That taking the time to listen, to embrace each story with empathy rather than indifference, fear or judgement, matters. Listening, essentially, means making space in heart for the realities and experiences of others. It is allowing those stories to be seeds, and hearts to be the rich soil. It means recognizing the truths embedded in the stories each person carries and honoring that.
Languaging, though, is a second element. How we tell the stories, the words we choose and the life that exists within each one, matters. It matters to the speaker and to the listener, and it matters how each of them hears and what they understand by the words. Languaging means allowing for flexibility, communication, interaction and, eventually, clarity. Languaging demands both courage and humility. Without it, listening has no chance to profer healing and healthy growth. Remembering that both telling and hearing the stories matters and circles back to the seeming dichotomy between ordinary and extraordinary times, and to the idea that we can choose to make a difference.
Above all, we are simply human beings living through all this. The parable of the sower offers a second reality: in a sense, we are sowers and seeds, soil and paths. So much has been given us: the breath of life, the chance to live and learn and love and grow. And so much then, can be expected of us. As the pandemic mounts and social change intensifies, the need to see the simplicity of sowing seeds of empathy and compassion seems more and more important. Jesus’ parable rests within the Gospel, allows for multiple interpretations, and provides the chance to see that the ordinary truly does rest within the extraordinary. Ultimately, it is all about change and growth. Can we, perhaps, be sower and seed during these challenging times?