15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
12 July 2020
Deacon Les Rührmund
Let’s give thanks this morning for the gift of life and the wonders of technology that allow us to remain connected during these difficult times.
The Parable of the Sower is well-known to most of us and doesn’t need much explanation because Jesus himself explains the parable fully.
He also explains that he uses parables to help his followers grasp and understand the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus uses metaphors drawn from nature or everyday life to present divine insights about God.
The parables challenge Jesus’ listeners to think about that he is saying and doing, in a way that is easily understood within their own every day experience.
Jesus says, “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.”
The Son of God, their long awaited Messiah, is standing in front of them and yet many don’t understand or believe.
Over the last few weeks, in the email that goes our every morning to our subscribers under the heading “Discipleship during Covid 19”, we have been exploring our relationship with God through the numerous channels and methods of prayer that are available to us.
We’ve also addressed the difficulties, and in many cases, the misconceptions that serve as obstacles, in our prayer lives.
I thought I’d look at the Parable of the Sower through the lens of our human longing for intimacy with God that draws us to prayer.
Prayer, as we understand it, is the fullest and most intimate relationship that we have with God. A complete sharing of ourselves; everything that’s no our hearts and our deepest thoughts, fears, dreams, and desires.
One of the misconceptions about prayer is that we should only pray when we are feeling relatively holy and at peace.
In other words we should not pray when we are feeling angry, impatient, anxious, stressed, sexual, or even disenchanted with God. Well, for many of us, that pretty much excludes a very large portion of our waking hours.
And that’s not what God wants.
When we only pray when we think we’re in a relatively pious state of being, we’re not being honest.
That’s only telling God what we think he wants to hear.
God doesn’t just want warm, interesting, beautiful words of devotion.
He wants us; fully and intimately.
When we only pray when we think we’re in the right space and have nothing to hide, we put the real “me”, the uglier “me”, into a separate compartment; we exclude the real “me” from our relationship with God.
That’s not likely to nurture a close relationship and is most likely to make prayer dry, impersonal, formal and distant. It makes prayer difficult and unappealing.
An unhappy consequence when we offer only a token of prayer to appease our conscience is that we’re likely to exclude prayer when we, in fact, need it the most.
In an extract from one of the books we’ve been using in the daily ‘Discipleship” devotions, Fr Ron Rolheiser, the well-known and much loved Catholic theologian and author, writes:
”Simply put, if you go to pray and you are feeling angry, pray anger; if you are sexually preoccupied, pray that; if you are feeling murderous, pray murder; and if you are feeling full of fervour and want to praise and thank God, pray fervour.
What’s important is that we pray what’s inside of us and not what we think God would like to see inside of us.”
So let’s look at the parable of the Sower.
Let’s imagine that we are each the sower and that our prayers are the seeds.
I think we’ll find that we’re not always that skillful in scattering the seeds, our prayers, on the most fertile soil.
The seeds that fall on the pathway and are devoured by the birds representing evil are our insincere, thoughtless prayers that bear no fruit.
This could be something like going to Mass and saying the prayers and responses without actually engaging with God in any meaningful way. Our hearts and minds are preoccupied with all sorts of others issues rather than on nurturing our relationship with God.
The seeds that fall on rocky ground with very little top soil could be like our prayers offered perhaps in times of great need or distress. For a short, urgent moment, we are honest with God and we experience the joy of relationship but it is short lived; once the emergence has passed, we soon forget about it; there is no depth to sustain the relationship.
The seeds that fall amongst the thorns could be seen as the prayers that we offer sporadically, as and when we find the time; time that is largely filled with other priorities and worldly concerns; priorities that choke our relationship with God.
And finally, the seeds that fall on good soil are our rich and nourishing prayers that grow and deepen our relationship with God.
For the seeds to produce the rich harvest that Jesus talks about, they need to be in constant contact with the soil, they need water regularly and they need sunshine.
We could see our faith community as the soil and the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist and Reconciliation, as the nutrients and the sunshine that nourish and grow our relationship with God and support us in putting down deep roots to stabilise, sustain and nurture our spiritual growth.
If we exam our prayer lives, I suspect that many of us, including me, will find that we could become more skillful; that a lot of our prayer falls short of the target.
But we also know that with practice, more and more seed will fall on fertile soil and produce a rich harvest.
In the words of St Paul in his First Letter to the Thessalonians “Pray without ceasing.”