Readings for 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time: IS 55:10-11; PS 65:10-14; ROM 8:15-23; MT 13: 1-23;
Last week, on the 4th of July, Amy Goodman replayed an interview with the legendary folk singer, Pete Seeger. In the course of the interview, Pete commented on today's Gospel reading -- the familiar Parable of the Sower. His words are simple, unpretentious and powerful. They're reminders that the stories Jesus made up were intended for ordinary people -- for peasants and unschooled farmers. They were meant to encourage such people to believe that simple farmers could change the world -- could bring in God's Kingdom. Doing so was as easy as sowing seeds.
"Realize that little things lead to bigger things. That's what Seeds is all about. And there's a wonderful parable in the New Testament: The sower scatters seeds. Some seeds fall in the pathway and get stamped on, and they don't grow. Some fall on the rocks, and they don't grow. But some seeds fall on fallow ground, and they grow and multiply a thousand fold. Who knows where some good little thing that you've done may bring results years later that you never dreamed of?"
Farmers in Jesus' day needed encouragement like that. They were up against the Roman Empire which considered them terrorists. We need encouragement too as we face Rome's counterpart headed by the U.S.
The obstacles we face are overwhelming. I even hate to mention them. But the short list includes the following -- all connected to seeds, and farming, and to cynically controlling the natural abundance which is celebrated in today's readings as God's gift to all. Our problems include:
" Creation of artificial food scarcity by corporate giants such as Cargill who patent seeds for profit while prosecuting farmers for the crime of saving Nature's free production from one harvest to the following year's planting.
" Climate change denial by the rich and powerful who use the Jesus tradition to persuade the naive that control of natural processes and the resulting ecocide are somehow God's will.
" Resulting wealth concentration in the hands of the 85 men who currently own as much as half the world's (largely agrarian) population.
" Suppression of that population's inevitable resistance by terming it "terrorism" and devoting more than half of U.S. discretionary spending to military campaigns against farmers and tribal Peoples scattering seed and reaping pitiful harvests in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine.
" Ignoring what the UN has pointed out for years (and Thomas Picketty has recently confirmed): that a 4% tax on the world's richest 225 individuals would produce the $40 billion dollars or so necessary to provide adequate food, water, shelter, clothing, education and health care for the entire world where more than 40% still earn livings by sowing seeds.
" Blind insistence by our politicians on moving in the opposite direction -- reducing taxes for the rich and cutting programs for the poor and protection of our planet's water and soil.
It's the tired story of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. In today's Gospel, Jesus quotes the 1st century version of that old saw. In Jesus' day it ran: ". . . to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away."
Today's liturgy of the word reminds us that such cynical "wisdom" does not represent God's way. Instead the divine order favors abundance of life for all -- not just for the 1%. as our culture would have it. For instance, today's responsorial psalm proclaims that even without human intervention, the rains and wind plow the ground. As a result, we're surrounded with abundance belonging to all:
"You have crowned the year with your bounty,
and your paths overflow with a rich harvest;
The untilled meadows overflow with it,
and rejoicing clothes the hills.
The fields are garmented with flocks
and the valleys blanketed with grain.
They shout and sing for joy."