15 th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A
Sunday Church at Home
during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic

The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

Leader: ln the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen

Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus

Christ.

All reply: Blessed be God for ever

Leader: Those looking in the scriptures for a clear exposition of doctrine or a
systematic moral code are doomed to be disappointed. Such an enterprise is bound
to be continually subverted by the variety of traditions, points of view, and forms of
literature in the Bible.
Subversion in fact is the name of the game when Jesus teaches in parables. These
are short stories whose aim is to surprise. They appear to be a favourite teaching
tool of Jesus. He engages his listeners’ attention with a story that is generally about
familiar things such as farming practice or managing a household. But there is a twist
along the way, usually at the end. Jesus uses this unexpected turn to undermine his
hearers’ conventional views about “the way things are”. They are meant to provoke
insight into another reality – the kingdom of heaven.
Today we begin a series of three readings from the Parable Sermon in Matthew’s
gospel. First we are reminded by the prophet Isaiah of the sure power of God’s word
to effect its purpose. Then Paul invites us to accept that we are caught up in an
unfinished process of cosmic rebirth, but we and the whole of creation will ultimately
be set free.

 

LITURGY OF THE WORD

First Reading: Isaiah 55:10-11

Introduction to the reading: Because the Israelites were exiled in the pagan land of
Babylon, the assuring words that God had previously spoken to them now seemed
empty. In today’s passage, the prophet Isaiah will use an image from nature to
describe how God’s word always bears fruit and comes true no matter how unlikely it
may seem.

A reading from the Book of Isaiah

Thus says the Lord: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not
return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the
sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it
shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I intend, and prosper
in the thing for which I sent it.
The word of the Lord.

Responsorial psalm: Psalm 65:9-10.11-12.13 (R. Lk 8:8a)

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm beginning and ending with the response:

R/: The seed that fell into good soil yielded a hundredfold.

You visit the earth, give it water;
you fill it with riches.
God’s ever-flowing river brims over
to prepare the grain.
And thus you provide for the earth:
you drench its furrows;
you level it, soften it with showers;
you bless its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty.
Abundance flows in your pathways;
in pastures of the desert it flows.
The hills are girded with joy.
The meadows clothed with flocks.
The valleys are decked with wheat.
They shout for joy; yes, they sing.

R/: The seed that fell into good soil yielded a hundredfold

Second reading: Romans 8:18-23

Introduction to the reading: As we continue reading from the eighth chapter of Paul’s
letter to the Romans, he tells us that sin affected not only human beings but also all
creation, and the coming of Christ had a healing effect on both. It is evident that Paul
is not pessimistic about this world.
A reading from the letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
Brethren: I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing
with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing
for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of
its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself
will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the
children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains
together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first
fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of
our bodies.
The Word of the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia.
The seed is the word of God, and the sower is Christ; all who find him will abide for
ever.
Alleluia!

Gospel: Matthew 13:1-23

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great
crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat there; and the whole
crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A
sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the
birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had
not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, 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 upon 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. He who has ears, let him hear.”

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”
And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the
kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to him who has will more
be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will
be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do
not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. With them indeed is
fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but never
understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has
grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest
they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with
their heart, and turn for me to heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see,
and your ears, for they hear.

Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see,
and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. “Hear then the
parable of the sower. When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not
understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this
is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he
who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in
himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on
account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns,
this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches
choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is he
who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one
case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection on the Readings

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

Homily prepared by Fr Tshepo

Today, in the Gospel, the subject of parables comes us. Having read the Gospels, I think
that all of us are fairly familiar with the parables told by Jesus. The rabbis in Israel used
this form of teaching not only to preach/teach, but also to illustrate the closeness of God
to human situations, and the goodness of God to His people.
And so, Jesus, being a teacher and being Emmanuel (God-with-us) tended to teach to
people through parables.

Parables are a form of story-telling with the aim of teaching a particular lesson. They are
open-ended stories. Open-ended stories leave you hanging and it means that you are
supposed to, in a sense, close it. And you close it with your own understanding of each
parable. So, a parable is story, but it is a story without much conclusion, and it invites
the listener to reflect, ponder, discern and pray, and come to a conclusion.

Jesus was a master teller of parables and that is why in the Gospels we find a number of
parables. His parables were more about the Kingdom of God. The parables invite the
listener to have faith. Today, we have the Parable of the Sower. The story is very simple.

The sower prepares the field. He prepares the field to receive the seeds. The sower now
sows the seed. The people hearing this would have been familiar with it. They would not
be intimidated by Jesus’s words, and they would have been more willing to hear him
out. Emmanuel, God among His people.

I would like to focus on just one aspect of this parable, namely, that God is a lovingly
joyful and generous sower of His Word. God is ever ready to speak to each of us and to
give us understanding of his Word.

And so, I would like to focus on the image of the sower.
Imagine the sower. He has this bag, full of seeds and he’s flinging them all over the land
that he had prepared. He’s going up and down the field, flinging the seeds. When he does
this, he fills the whole field with seeds. The sower is so generous with his seeds that he
flings it even among the thorn bushes, the paths where people walk, and among rocky
soil. And so, we see the sower sowing seed where any other farmer would say, “You’re
wasting your seed. You must plant carefully like we do.”

The point here is to illustrate the generosity of the sower with his seeds and the joy with
which he is sowing the seeds. We can picture him, just happy to be in his field, perhaps
even whistling a tune or two. He has does this before. He trusts in the process. He
knows, from experience, that he will yield a good harvest. All he wants to do is to sow
the seed, joyfully and generously. His focus is on this process here and now. It doesn’t
matter if they only last a day. It doesn’t matter if they seem to have fallen in the wrong
place.

The seed is the word of God. God’s word is ever generous. It is creative. The Book of
Genesis tells us that God created by His mere word. Because God’s word is alive and
active and creative, God trusts in its power to yield a good harvest. And hence, He is ever
generous with his word. When Jesus commissioned his disciples, he did not tell them to
proclaim the Good News in a limited geographical area. He told them to go out to the
whole world. God’s word has no boundaries, no limits. It is meant for all.

Upon reflection on this sower, we come to a deepened understanding of who God is. We
begin to realise that through this parable, a simple little story, we can begin to see its
deeper teaching: God is a generous and joyous sower of the seed of His Word in our
lives, wherever His Word finds us at this point in time.

God has no bias. To God, each and every one of us is worthy of His Word. That is the
principal teaching of this parable: the abundant, loving generosity of God. We can be
grateful that we are not like rocky ground, or thorny ground, or hard pathways. God has
endowed us with the ability to change, to grasp His Word, to accept it, to respond to it.
God allows us to provide the proper conditions for the growth and thriving of His Word
in our lives. God gives grace to those who hunger for His Word, that they may
understand His will and have the strength to live according to it. Let us pray for this
grace today.

 

Reflection Questions

  • Jesus ends of the with the words: “He who has hears, let him hear.” How good is
    your listening to the God’s Word? Do you ever hear God speaking to you –
    personally, directly – in Sacred Scripture?
  • The path, rocky ground, thorny ground, good soil … Reflecting on your current
    state of mind and heart, especially as we continue facing the Covid-19 pandemic,
    which of these describes you in relation to the seed of God’s Word?
  • What obstacles or challenges do you see in our world today that prevent God’s
    Word from thriving in people’s lives?
  • Encouraged by today’s Gospel, what can you practically do (in your home,
    workplace, school, neighbourhood, parish) to partake of Jesus’ commission to go
    out and proclaim the Good News?

Prayer of the Faithful

Leader: We ask God to strengthen our faith and to make it fruitful in lives that imitate Jesus.

Reader:
We pray for Pope Francis, our bishops, and all who lead us in faith: (pause) that they
may grow each day in the imitation of Christ.
Lord, hear us.
We pray for all whose faith is failing: (pause) that they may experience the closeness
of Jesus and may be drawn to follow him with courage.
Lord, hear us.
We pray for ourselves: (pause) that the Lord may grant us the grace to hear His
Word and live by it.
Lord, hear us.
We pray for our young people: (pause) that they may grow in faith, hope and love,
and live the fullness of life which God wants for them.
Lord, hear us.
We pray for all who need healing, particularly those with Covid-19: (pause) that
God’s healing Spirit will ease their suffering, restore them to health, and guide all
who are caring for them.
Lord, hear us.
We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose
anniversaries occur about this time, especially for Manuel Jardim, Viviene Pickering,
Moira Ruder, Lucia Racca, Diane Borello, and the deceased members of the Kohler
family.
Lord hear us.
We pray for all those with the Covid-19 virus who died during the week. Eternal rest
grant unto them O Lord.

All: And let perpetual light shine on them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.

Leader: Let us pray our prayer to be docile to the Word of God
God our Father,
you are the faithful Sower in your field.
You invite us to share in your mission of spreading the Good News.
You give to each of us the grace to do your will,
and a just reward for our labour.
In your design of love,
you call men and women to work with you for the salvation of the world.
We thank you today for the gift of your Word, the Scriptures,
through which you guide our lives.
We thank you for the gift of your living Word, Jesus Christ,
who has redeemed us from our sins
and is among us to guide us towards you.
Father, guide the flock to which you have promised possession of the Kingdom.
Send many workers into your harvest
and set in our hearts faithfulness to your plan of salvation
and perseverance in our efforts of spreading the Good News of the Gospel.
Mary, who listened and was faithful to God’s Word-made-flesh in your womb,
help us to be open to the Word of the Lord,
so that, having been welcomed and meditated upon,
it may grow in our hearts.
Help us to dedicate ourselves with unceasing love and zeal
to evangelizing all those who seek salvation.
Intercede for us,
that we may become servants of the Word we have heard,
and so remain faithful to it
and find our happiness in living it.
We make our prayer through Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real
Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.

My Jesus,
I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment,
feed my soul at least spiritually.
I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you.
Amen.

CONCLUDING RITE

Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom
come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our
daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who
trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us
from evil. Amen.

Leader:

Blessing

A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:
Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to
everlasting life.
All: Amen.