Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
In the gospel reading for today, Jesus admonishes his disciples to wholeheartedly receive his teachings. In order to do so, they must minimize the noise, distractions, and competing influences that prevent them from letting the gospel take root in them. It is certainly true that we need to allow the gospel to take root and to grow in us. Without doing so our faith will be fruitless, empty, and short lived. However, I would like to focus on a different aspect of today’s readings—namely God’s role in the process of sewing seed and causing it to grow.
In the parable, we are told that God scatters seed on all types of ground. Sometimes this seed takes root and bears fruit, but sometimes it does not. Each of us finds ourselves from time to time in situations where our efforts do not seem to be achieving the good that we set out to do. In such times we may become discouraged because we do not see the fruits of our labors. It is our responsibility at these times to do our best but then to leave the results up to God. Contemporary American culture is very oriented towards results. We value efficiency, and we evaluate people (often unconsciously) by how much they achieve. And we often turn to cost-benefit analysis when we are trying to decide how to spend our time and our money. Yet time and time again the scriptures remind us that, as Christians in our work for the kingdom of God, although results matter it is even more important that we trust God to bring about those results. I’m reminded of the Psalmist’s statement that, “Unless the LORD build the house, they labor in vain who build. Unless the LORD guard the city, in vain does the guard keep watch” (Psalm 127:1).
The prophets (including Jeremiah) are an example of this. They had no guarantee that what they were doing would ‘pay off’ or ‘achieve something.’ And often what they had to say went against the grain of the society in which they were living, such that it was difficult to see that they were making an impact on other people through their words and their actions. But that is the nature of prophetic witness to the truth of the gospel. As Christians we are call upon (sometime in big, sometimes in small ways) to speak the truth and to actively work for peace, justice, and reconciliation—without trusting in our own efforts, but rather in God’s.
Jeremiah tells us in the reading for today that God will gather all nations together in worship of God. In the end it is God who does the work, who makes things happen. We are called on to receive the good news but at the same time to accept God’s promise to us that “the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
- Joel Schickel