Soil Samples: Matthew 13:1-29
MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on our choice of dirt. What does kind of God will judge us for not understanding him? Listen to this podcast of his reflection on the readings for 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time to find out. Please read Matt. 13:1-29. #Prayer #Sermons #Homilyhelper #MakeGoodChoices #BeatenPathPeople #RockyGroundPeople #ThornySoilPeople #GoodEarthFolks #Christian
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MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 7/13/2014 The 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 13:1-29.
It is not uncommon in today’s day and age to hear young people say something like this, “If there is a god who speaks in a way that I can’t understand, then will punish me for not understanding, then I don’t want that god anyway.” In fact, I have even heard a priest say that they did not understand this passage, “For to him who has more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” It was during a daily Mass where about ten of us were in attendance and the priest looks up toward the back of the small chapel in which we were and he says, “Bill, do you know what Jesus is saying here?”
Every week, as I prepare the message based upon the Scriptures, I ask myself two very important questions which will help us solve the problem of the appearance of injustice that God is displaying here. The first question is, “What precedes this passage?” The second is, “What follows this passage.” These two questions are especially important today because what we find by asking them is that the passage, “For to him who has more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away,” is surrounded by the story of the sower who sows seed on four types of soil.
There is the beaten path which does not receive the word of God. It doesn’t even sink in enough for someone to have to dig it out. The seeds that fall on the hard path are just picked up by Satan and he carries them away. How does Satan carry them away? He does so by making things like generosity, kindness, gentleness toward the poor, hospitality and the like seem like incomprehensible items. Having a god who loves us doesn’t square with the evil that is perpetrated on them. Having a god who wants them to use the riches with which he has blessed them for good makes no sense to them.
Mariano Rivera, the best reliever in the history of baseball and future Hall of Fame pitcher for the New York Yankees, would be the exact opposite of this kind of person. He and his wife run a ministry in New York City for the poor. He is using his riches to promote Jesus Christ, alleviate the needs of the poor and more. The beaten path person would not understand how Rivera could waste his money on something that would not make more money.
The next soil type is that of rocky ground in which plants or the Word of God cannot take root. The heat of the day comes and burns them up. Rocky ground people are those who cannot believe in a god who allows bad things to happen. It would never occur to the Rocky Ground Type that God allows bad things to happen because he will not take away our ability to choose to good or do evil. Good and evil both have consequences. Yet, the Rocky Ground person will not let go of the hurts or disappointments of the past and let themselves be healed by God.
You may remember Michelle Knight who was kept in captivity by a man for eleven years in Cleveland. She was sexually and physically abused. She gave birth to a child by her abuser. The only reason that anyone knew about her was because her neighbor, Angel Cordero, heard her scream by chance one day as he was walking on the sidewalk. She was kept captive in a house in Cleveland for eleven years with two other women. Ms. Knight gave an interview on the today show a month ago, one year after her rescue. What did she have to say?
“If I did something wrong, even if it was a small thing, I would want somebody to forgive me,” she told the Today Show on May 5, 2014. “So I can forgive him for what he done wrong because that’s the way of life.”
Ms. Knight is the opposite of people who hold on to every little grudge that someone in their family has done, or every bad thing that has happened to them. We all have had bad things happen to us because others have chosen evil over good. Evil does not consider the people it will impact. Evil only considers what the individual person wants. Ms. Knight has every right to glory over the suicide of her captor, but she didn’t even do that. She said that it made her “sad,” that “every human has a right to live.” Rocky Ground people cannot believe that God would respect humanity enough to let even bad people choose to follow him.
Then there are the Thorny Soil People. Thorny Soil people are those who think wealth and riches will give them joy and success. Big cars, fast cars, luxury models, they are all what will give you happiness. The Rolling Stones have this great line in the song, “Satisfaction,” that goes like this:
When I’m watchin’ my TV
And that man comes on to tell me
How white my shirts can be
But he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke
The same cigarrettes as me,
To me, this line is a metaphor for the concept of Thorny Soil People. They are always looking out at something or someone else. Vexed by envy, they are constantly thinking that more will give them happiness. This is Satan’s hamster wheel. Christianity is full of people who gave up wealth to follow Jesus Christ and found out that their work was satisfaction: St. Francis of Assisi and Mother Theresa come to mind. They left great wealth and relative wealth to serve the poor and renounce riches. Upon her death, Mother Theresa was a world wide celebrity and her funeral was packed with people from all over the world. Both Francis and Mother Theresa advocated storing up treasure in heaven. They would be the “Anti-Thorny Soil People”.
It is the Good Soil folks who take what they have and do whatever they can with it because they have heard the Word of God and know that what they have is not theirs. I often marvel at all that has been done in the ministry office at Benedictine University. We have an extremely small budget compared to other departments: Enrollment, Athletics, and any of the Academic programs. Yet, because of the faith of our students and their hands on sacrifice in ministry, we continue to see crazy numbers in participation and receive kind words from those who have been touched by their work.
So, let me reflect on this passage a little more. There are four conclusions from this passage that we can make which will help us with the “to those who have more will be given” mystery.
First, this passage shows that the purposes of God will be accomplished regardless of the obstacles that Satan throws in the way. Look there are three types of people that reject him and there are no results. Yet, the one group, the smaller group yields 30, 60, and 100 hundred fold. It also acknowledges that where there are people who are trying to do good, there are others, three times as many, who are in it only for themselves without regard to how their actions hurt others around them.
Second, the Good Earth people understand because they are open to him and willing to be obedient to someone else. In 12 step programs, the first step is acknowledging that our lives are unmanageable. The second step is acknowledging that there is a “higher power” who can make sense out of our lives. The third step is for us to turn our lives over, seek his will and the power to do it. Healing only comes when we are willing to stop trying to control our lives by refusing to understand love as created by God, trying to demand justice and so called “fairness” and thinking something outside ourselves will bring us happiness, like wealth.
The third observation is that those who refuse to be open to God are choosing to not have God in their lives, not the other way around. God has not abandoned them. As a matter of fact, God has allowed them to choose NOT to follow him. God is a constant. He is not changing. He is loving us all day long, 24/7. A good friend of mine, Fr. Leonard Dubi remembers his first moment of sobriety as he sat in the Cook County, IL jail after being arrested for driving drunk. Fr. Len says, “I heard the voice of God say to me, ‘sit down. Shut up. You did this to yourself.’” In our society of victims and lawsuits, it is hard for us to realize that much of our troubles are because we have not chosen rightly. We choose to try to change people, control things, manipulate things. We think we can fool everyone and lie our way to success. It may work for a while, but it is empty.
God has not chosen to take anything away from the Beaten Path people, the Rocky Ground People or the Thorny Soil People. They chose something other than God. When they get to the judgment, what they had in this world will be taken away from them by their choice. All that will be left when we face death is the choice between following God or following something else that we made in this life. God did not judge us. We judged ourselves. For those who understood and had faith, heaven will be given.
Lastly, there is a great complement paid to humanity by God. God has chosen us and comes to us with his Word, Jesus. He wants us to do something for him with it. That means he trusts us to do something with his gifts. He trusts u to do something with the ability to work he gave us. He trusts us to do something with the money he gives us. He trusts us to do something with the time he gives us, the view from our office window he gives us, the encounter with other people in the convenience store he gives us, the meeting our neighbor as we walk down our sidewalk he gives us, the children he gives us and the LIFE he gives us. God forbid that the Beaten Path, Rocky Ground, or Thorny Soil People should turn, understand and be saved! That would just get in the way of their day, their plan, their money, their life.
So, don’t look at God today and think, “What kind of God punishes me because I don’t understand him?” It is our disposition that causes us to understand or not understand. It is our choice. It is a choice that needs to be made everyday and can be made everyday. It can rejected one day and picked up the next. So, which will it be? Amen? Amen.
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian