First reading Isaiah 55:10-11

The word that goes out from my mouth does not return to me empty

Thus says the Lord: ‘As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.’

Responsorial Psalm 64(65):10-14

Some seed fell into rich soil and produced its crop.
You care for the earth, give it water,
  you fill it with riches.
Your river in heaven brims over
  to provide its 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 goodness.
  Abundance flows in your steps,
  in the pastures of the wilderness it flows.
The hills are girded with joy,
  the meadows covered with flocks,
the valleys are decked with wheat.
  They shout for joy, yes, they sing.

Second reading Romans 8:18-23

The whole creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal his sons

I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us. The whole creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal his sons. It was not for any fault on the part of creation that it was made unable to attain its purpose, it was made so by God; but creation still retains the hope of being freed, like us, from its slavery to decadence, to enjoy the same freedom and glory as the children of God. From the beginning till now the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth; and not only creation, but all of us who possess the first-fruits of the Spirit, we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free.

Gospel Matthew 13:1-23

A sower went out to sow

Jesus left the house and sat by the lakeside, but such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat there. The people all stood on the beach, and he told them many things in parables.
  He said, ‘Imagine a sower going out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away. Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Listen, anyone who has ears!’
  Then the disciples went up to him and asked, ‘Why do you talk to them in parables?’ ‘Because’ he replied, ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them. For anyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. So in their case this prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled:
You will listen and listen again, but not understand,
see and see again, but not perceive.
For the heart of this nation has grown coarse,
their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes,
for fear they should see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their heart,
and be converted
and be healed by me.
‘But happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! I tell you solemnly, many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.
  ‘You, therefore, are to hear the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path. The one who received it on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once. The one who received the seed in thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word and so he produces nothing. And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.’

We begin our reflections today with the fascinating Reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans 8:18-23. He speaks of creation as straining to give birth, as longing and struggling to be free. He is thinking of nature, but, more importantly, of people throughout history, for we human beings give conscious expression to the striving that exists all around us and of which we are part.

Wherever Paul looks he sees people, whether they know it or not, longing for that special freedom which comes with communion with God. This is experienced as a longing for life, for love, for meaning, for peace, for harmony and wholeness.

It is here that the First Reading (Isaiah 55:10-11) is important. The exiles ponder the amazing fruitfulness of nature when cared for by God. The authors are trying to inspire their contemporaries to open their lives to the nurturing of God’s Spirit.

Jerusalem had been destroyed and had been taken into exile. They had lost their land – the Holy Land of the promise. They had nothing to rely on now except God and God’s fidelity to his promise. The will of God will be done. If we want to be part of it, we can be, if we share the faith expressed in this first reading. God’s rain is not wasted. In time the harvest will come. So it is for every word that comes from the mouth of God. So it is for every promise God has ever made us. Our longing is meant to be fulfilled. But we must be patient and believe.

So we come to the Gospel (Matthew 13:1-9). A parable is like a shaft of light breaking through the clouds of our accustomed thinking. So ‘Listen, anyone who has ears!’ In other words, it is never too late to listen. We may feel like the Jews living in exile. Nothing has worked out for us. We are failures in our own eyes and in everyone else’s perhaps. The soil of your mind and heart is still good: God doesn’t make things badly!

So start now, today, this Sunday, and let the word in. Whatever of the past, if you long now for a harvest of love it will be given to you, for God can create out of nothing, so long as we say yes and so long as we let go of whatever it is that is holding us back from receiving his grace, whatever is blocking the spring that is striving to well up inside us.

Fr Michael Fallon, msc