Catholic Sunday Mass celebrated by Fr James Ralston O.M.I., recorded at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Durban, South Africa.
ENTRANCE ANTIPHON As for me, in justice I shall behold your face; I shall be filled with the vision of your glory.
FIRST READING: Isaiah 55:10-11.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM: Psalm 65.
RESPONSE: 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! ℟
SECOND READING: Romans 8:18-23.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION: 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.
SERMON: Fr James, Sunday 15 A
“Then the disciples came and said to him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’” Jesus’ use of parables was no innovation in the context of his time and environment; there are many instances in the Old Testament of this way of teaching and the rabbis of Jesus’ day used it continuously. However, Jesus’ method undoubtedly did cause surprise. It followed a sermon he began by plainly proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven was close at hand and therefore all must turn from sin to the Lord. With the teaching in parables, it is not the subject matter which is different, but his hidden manner of making it understood.
Jesus did make use of parables as a more expressive or clearer means of teaching, though the images clarify and are an aid to the understanding, they also often puzzle. Only when one begins to ponder, search and inquire, spurred on by the narrator who challenges his hearers to the utmost, will one be in a position to understand. Each of the Evangelists uses parables in his own particular way and gives reasons for their use. For Matthew, from whose Gospel we read, understanding the parable presupposes a heart open to revelation, sincerely desiring to welcome the Word and to put it into practice, in spite of the obstacles it meets and its apparent setbacks.
Is it not true for us also that at certain times everything seems to conspire to prevent us from receiving the Word and to make us doubt its coming into the world? It is over two thousand years since Jesus, the Sower, went out to sow the seeds of faith and wisdom. Does our own reaction to the extravagance of God consist of grasping without delay at the word which we hear, so that we, in our turn, are possessed by it, caught up in the way of obedience and missionary zeal for his service? If so, then we too understand the parables.
If this is the case, if we do understand the parables, we need to show the world, or at least the community in which we live, that we understand what the Lord says to us when we again gather in his name to celebrate the Eucharist. We ought to be taken up by his presence, held in absolute awe of him who has invited us. When the Lord invites us to take a meal with him, to share at his altar, we are to be courteous and show respect for so great an honour.
Parables, as you will certainly note, are a valid means of coming to understand a reality that initially may have been hidden from our perception. The understanding is not to be acknowledged and then brushed aside, but to be reflected on. A question we could very easily bring to our reflection is, ‘How is this passage from the Gospel and the parable of the sower and the seed applicable in my life? Spending some time in prayer with this text will bring challenges, or questions, or answers; possible feelings of gratitude, disquiet, awareness of both positive and negative sensations. One question I ask, “How responsive are we to the feelings introduced by this passage from Matthew’s Gospel: what type of soil do we consider ourselves to be?”
COMMUNION ANTIPHON: The sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for her young; at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are they who dwell in your house, forever singing your praise.