First Reading: Is 55:10-11; Psalm: 65. R. v. Lk 8:8a; Second Reading: Rm 8:18-23; Gospel: Mt 13:1-23
HUNDREDFOLD, SIXTYFOLD, THIRTYFOLD
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
The parable of the sower is usually not my favourite because it is apparently too flat and bland. The fact that Jesus told this parable and went on to explain it, offers us hardly anything to say. Attempting to preach on this passage based on the exegetical analysis of Jesus is precisely what makes this passage monotonous for the reason that we may not be saying anything new. All the same, we shall be reflecting on this passage relying on the truism that the scriptures is replete with variety of treasures where we can find wealth if we explored well. So today, I may not be saying anything new; but I may be saying something different from what we have in mind regarding this parable.
At first, the sower in this parable seemed to have lost more seeds on unsuitable grounds than the ones that survived on a rich soil. But when the harvest was ripe, the seeds on the rich soil obviously did exceedingly well enough to compensate for the losses. They produced a hundred times as much, sixty times as much, and thirty times as much. This resonates that in life, a single gain could be enough to countervail our numerous losses. I would like to share with us my admission experience into the seminary to buttress this point.
In 2004, after my Waec examination (what you call ‘matric exam’ here in South Africa), I applied to the seminary. I wrote to four different religious congregations and decided I was going to accept any of them that replied first. The first reply was from the Congregation of the Sons of Mary Mother of Mercy; but it was not successful. So I waited for more replies from the other three congregations. The next reply I received was from St Patrick’s Missionaries. Unfortunately, I was told that I applied late since their admission processes had already begun that year. They asked me to reapply timely the following year. But I didn’t want to wait. I was now left with two other congregations. The Congregation of the Holy Spirit never replied me till date; perhaps the Holy Spirit hid the letter. And then finally, the Missionaries of Saint Paul of Nigeria replied inviting me for their retreat.
When I went for the retreat which was the first phase of their admission process, there were about thirty of us or thereabout. Providentially, I was among the few successful candidates. The next and the final stage was their interview of which only thirteen of us were invited. To my amazement, I was the only one offered admission from this group. And today, I am a priest of this noble Society of Apostolic Life.
The intention of sharing this story with us is neither to discredit any of these religious congregations nor to prove I was a better candidate where I finally succeeded. But it is to emphasise that twist and turns are not completely removed from every successful story. And that the joy that comes alongside our eventual successes could be enough to override our apparent failures. This joy could be a hundredfold, sixtyfold or thirtyfold.
Jesus explained the ‘seed’ in the parable of the sower to mean ‘the word of God.’ And the word of God highlights God’s purpose for us. The prophetic oracle of Isaiah in the first reading of today revealed that the word that goes forth from the mouth of the Lord shall not return empty to the Lord but shall accomplish the purpose for which it was sent. So we can say that the seed in the parable of the sower is God’s purpose for us awaiting its fulfilment in our lives. And our collaboration to making this happen cannot be exempted.
The purpose of God for us goes alongside us in our life’s journey just like the sower with the seed for sowing. And not until we find our suitable fertile ground where this divine purpose will materialise, it remains in that latent stage. It is while we go on working and doing our daily dealings that we get to discover God’s purpose for us. This means we may not thrive or succeed in every choice we make because we could be labouring on the path way, the rocky ground or the thorny soil. It is not that we are not making enough effort. It could just be that we are not in the right place or that we are surrounded by certain overwhelming conditions hampering our goal at that moment.
Now, this does not mean that we should succumb to every challenge in life. It is just that certain things were obviously not meant to happen in our lives. You may be putting in a lot in a relationship to make it work; but the young man or lady you intend to marry keeps giving you red flags or a cold shoulder. Don’t force it; it could be that both of you are not meant to be together. Someone may hate us for what we represent; but we don’t have to change to accommodate this person if what we represent is something good. You have always admired teachers and wanted to be one. But then you discovered you are impatient, irascible, aggressive and sad around the job; maybe the teaching job is not your place. You are working in an environment whose system is toxic to your mental health and opposed to your religious values; perhaps that place is a thorny ground to you.
Things may not be easy for us even when we eventually find our fertile ground. But we could feel the chemistry if where we are is the right place for us. And in such an environment, we would find fulfilment and strength to overcome our challenges. The sweetness of finding a fertile ground is that it is blossoming and consoling enough to compensate for our past losses. We may discover that the friends we have now are better than the ones we have lost. Our present jobs may be less lucrative but it could be more fulfilling than our previous. Getting married to our spouse could be one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. The beautiful family we have now may have far exceeded our dreams and expectations. The successes of our children could be getting better day by day. Who we are now could be a better version of our past identity. We may even discover that our past losses that seemingly glittered as gold were actually mere pyrites. For all these, we should be grateful to God.
The parable of the sower ultimately reminds us that the purpose of God for us is to bear fruit and get better. This would not be an easy journey in view of the fact that as we try to be productive and become a better version of ourselves, life’s challenges would attempt to hold us down. This however should not deter us because the will of God is to free the entire creation subjected to the bondage of imperfection. And our freedom from this bondage is only possible in Christ Jesus who today has assured us that we can find our rich soil through him so as to produce abundant fruits of a hundredfold, sixtyfold, and thirtyfold.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, may we not be discouraged by our many failures but collaborate with you in realising your purpose for us in life. Amen.