Commentary on the Gospel of

Tom Purcell - Creighton University's Heider College of Business

I first wrote a reflection on today’s readings for September 18, 2004.  A refreshed and edited version of that prior reflection follows.

These readings are very appropriate for September 19 in the northern hemisphere.  It generally is harvest time across these latitudes, and the yield from the crops is directly related to some of the factors both Paul and Jesus mention today.  Was there good seed?  Did it fall on good soil?  Does it send down deep roots?  Did it receive nourishment and good rain?  Does it mature and bear fruit?

This year the weather in our region has definitely been the most challenging aspect of a good harvest.  The summer was very hot, and drought conditions prevailed in some areas.  A sudden wind-storm, called a derecho, swept over miles-wide swaths of eastern Nebraska, central Iowa, and Illinois, lodging over crops that were nearing harvest, and causing billions of dollars of crop losses.  And economic conditions, caused by the pandemic, have also roiled market prices and shipping and access, further reducing the financial returns earned by growers and harvesters and processers of grain.

As people of faith, we are in a unique situation – we are both the soil that receives the seed and we are in turn sowers of seeds to others.  We are part of a process regarding the seed – receiving and (hopefully) nurturing it, and through our efforts of successful harvesting, creating new seeds to be propagated in others.

The lesson from Jesus is that this receiving the word, this seed, is not a one-time event.  He uses the parable of a sower, someone who every growing season is out in the fields, sowing seed in the hope that a bounteous harvest will come at the end of the season.  The sower who is careful will do all the right things, and if conditions are favorable, will receive the benefits of an abundant harvest.  The sower who is persistent will bear fruit when conditions are favorable.  The experienced sower knows, though, that no matter how diligent the efforts, success is not guaranteed or controllable. 

So too with us.  We receive the seed regularly – from both public and private reading of the gospels, from reflective and contemplative prayer, from pulpits and informal gatherings, from observations of and interactions with our brothers and sisters in our daily lives. 

Sometimes when we receive the seed our personal soil conditions are not right, and it does not germinate.  That seed bears no fruit.

Sometimes the seed takes root, but then withers and dies when our daily lives clamor for attention and we lose our focus on what we are called to do.  The potential for that seed has been lost and perhaps squandered.

Sometimes the soil and other conditions are right, and the seed germinates and grows and thrives, and we bear great fruit and do wonderful things.  We then can share the harvested seed with others and propagate new plantings in others.

As Jesus reminds us, if we are persistent over the years, eventually the sowing of the seed will bear fruit in us.  If we keep trying to improve our soil (as all farmers do), eventually all the growing conditions will be favorable, and we will enjoy bumper crops.  We will be able to harvest our crops and share the seeds with others.  The key is not whether our soil conditions are favorable when we first receive the seed, but whether we persist in improving our soil so the seed will ultimately bear fruit.

And so, my prayer today is that I persist in preparing my growing conditions, in recognizing the seeds as I receive them, and in cultivating and nourishing the seed so, in my partnership with the Sower, it will bear great fruit that I can then share with others. 

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