Matthew 13:1-23, 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
A story is told about two Italian boys who were altar servers in their parish. Their names were Annibale della Genga and Francesco Castiglioni. In the year 1770, during a benediction, these two boys started quarreling, and the altercation escalated into a physical fight with Francisco hitting the head of Annibale with the candlestick. Seeing blood dripping from the head of Annibale, the parishioners were shocked, and the priest got so upset that the boys were driven out of the church for their misbehavior.
This true story of Anniballe and Francesco, however, did not end with embarrassment. On the contrary, it had a pleasant sequel. We move fast forward to the year 1825, at the huge door of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, on the occasion of the opening of the Jubilee Year. Standing in full regalia was Pope Leo XII, and beside him the Cardinal who would succeed him four years later, and would be known as Pope Pius VIII.
It would interest us to know that the baptismal name of the Pope then was Annibale della Genga and the Cardinal who would succeed him was Francesco Castiglione. Who would have thought that these two mischievous altar boys who once disrupted a benediction would eventually become revered leaders of the universal Church?
This story came to mind as I reflected on the Gospel for today. While we may be tempted to focus on the types of soil on which the seeds fall, the Parable actually highlights something else. It calls our attention to the enormity of the harvest.
Through the Parable, God is saying that despite the many obstacles encountered in the sowing of the seed, despite our hearts being path-like, or rocky, or filled with thorns, His Word will reach the soil and yield an enormous harvest. No amount of obstacle will frustrate the plan of God for us.
The same point is being made by the Prophet Isaiah in the First Reading. Yahweh says that his word, the word that goes forth from his mouth, will not return to him empty. That word will achieve the purpose for which it was spoken. Hoping to console the Christians in Rome, St. Paul says in the Second Reading that their present sufferings are as nothing compared with the glory that will be revealed for them.
In a recent online recollection I attended, it was mentioned that even before the pandemic, the world has already moved toward hopelessness. The global community is facing enormous problems from migration and global warming to lack of food and absence of security. Our resources are depleting, and whatever is left of it is enjoyed only by a few while the majority are struggling. Then, covid-19 came and we are pulled down further to an even darker hole. Even our small joys, like watching Probinsiyano, are now taken away.
It feels like our frustrations and disappointments, failures and limitations, are taking our hope away. We are tempted to give up and surrender to cynicism or despair. In the context of all these, the Parable of the Sower is read to us in the liturgy, inviting us to trust that despite the obstacles, God’s message of love and redemption will grow and triumph in the end. The altar boys in the story are special because they remind us that God can take up our littleness, the seeming insignificance of our identity and our work, and from it produce fruitfulness beyond our imagination.
We pray for the grace of trust. We continue to do little acts of love and kindness amid the darkness that hovers over us, knowing that by God’s power the tiny seeds sown will yield an enormous harvest.
*image from the Internet