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Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

A sower went out to sow

The Word This Week

The Gospel today is the beginning of a new section in Matthew, called ‘The Parabolic Discourse’ - a section of parables Jesus tells the crowd, which we will read over the next three weeks. A parable is a story with a hidden meaning: we can easily remember the story, and gradually the true meaning becomes clearer and clearer. Today is a famous example: the Parable of the Sower. In itself it is a story that would easily be understood by Jesus’s audience - people who lived in an agricultural economy. Jesus uses their understanding to make an important teaching about the message he has brought: it is like a seed that is thrown out and received in different ways - the ideal is when the seed finds good soil, and produces a crop that can be seen and harvested: so the ideal listener to the word is one who allows it to lodge in the heart, but also produces a visible result. What is the harvest we should yield, when we have heard the word?

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Isaiah 55:10-11

This reading acts as a prelude to the parable we will hear in the Gospel. Despite it being very short, it is difficult to read because it is a single sentence. It is important as a way of setting the scene: we are in an agricultural mood today - a mood which is continued by the Psalm, and serves to lead us to the Gospel.  Begin confidently: 'Thus says the Lord...’ is a formal announcement. Then follows the image being used to illustrate the point: the rain and the snow. Make sure that this comes across clearly. The first half of the sentence (up to ‘bread for the eating...’) is a single unit, and can be read as such (but with a slight pause after ‘making it yield’). Then there should be a pause, before going on to the second half: emphasise the word ‘so...’ quite heavily. Then allow the resonance of the phrase ‘does not return to me...’ to pick up the first half of the sentence again. Because this is such a short and dense reading, it will have to be read very slowly - but not so slowly that the structure and meaning is lost !


Second Reading: Romans 8:18-23

The first words give away the tone of this reading: ‘I think...’ Paul is musing on something huge and wonderful: the idea that all of creation (everything that God has made) is looking forward to the day when all things are brought together in Christ. Just as we wait for the resurrection of our bodies - the perfect new life in Christ - so does all creation wait for the new heaven and earth God promises. There are some wonderful words and images in this reading: ‘suffer’, ‘glory’, ‘slavery to decadence’, groaning’. The image of the whole of Creation groaning in an act of giving birth is remarkable: think about it for a while before reading!


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