In looking to this coming Sunday's Gospel, Father Garry Koch reflects on the parable of the sower and the seed in which he said, "No matter where a seed lands, it will germinate and begin to grow." Photo from Freepik.com
In looking to this coming Sunday's Gospel, Father Garry Koch reflects on the parable of the sower and the seed in which he said, "No matter where a seed lands, it will germinate and begin to grow." Photo from Freepik.com
Gospel Reflection for July 12, 2020, 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

We have come through some of the most challenging times that this generation has ever known. The suspension of the public celebration of Mass and the Sacraments on such a scale is unprecedented and certainly will have many unintended consequences. While we cannot discount the importance of grace-at-work-in-the-world, the reality is that many people who were on the fringes of Mass attendance and practice of the faith may never return. At the same time, there will be others who rediscovered their faith in this time of pandemic, quarantine and social unrest.

Jesus tells a series of parables reflecting the encounter and experience of faith. One of the most well-known of these parables is that of the sower and the seed. As the sower throws seeds on the ground they land on various types of terrain. Some seed land in fertile soil, some on rocky ground, and others in more desolate places. No matter where a seed lands it will germinate and begin to grow. It is only when the proper conditions for maturation and blossoming are sufficiently met that the plant will produce its fruit.

That analogy for faith is certainly very rich, but we also know that unlike a farmer who plants a crop and then reaps it in a matter of months, the seeds of faith germinate and grow on God’s time and not on our time. We also know that some plants, while they grow and look beautiful may indeed never produce any fruit. Yet others that look weak and frail grow a bounteous harvest.

While a farmer needs to think long term – not just this year’s crop, but the care of the soil so that next year’s crop is productive as well – we are short term thinkers. The post-industrial world is impatient, we are unaccustomed to waiting. We like our results to be immediate. In farming and certainly in faith development – as with any other maturation process – it takes time.

All of the planted seeds of faith have been put to the test through these past four months. Whether one is a neophyte or a long-term daily Mass attendee, that faith has been shaken at least a little. Absent the ability to receive the Sacraments – the ordinary means of proper nourishment – the seeds of faith have been thirsting. It is as though the entire world was under a spiritual drought. While opportunities for other forms of nourishment and sustenance abounded – live-streamed Mass, on-line religious programming, and opportunities for prayer and reflection, not everyone took advantage of them and many did not find them to be nourishing enough. Those who are techno-challenged were left with little recourse.

We believe that God’s grace is at work-in-the-world. The sacramental graces are present in the desire to receive those sacraments when they are not available. Like a deep rooted plant which has the ability to find enough nutrients and water to survive during drought, those who honestly seek the Lord and his grace receive what they need. The difficulty for many – and this is a practical and not ontological reality – is the loss of the tactility of the sacrament. We all know that the sacraments are built upon matter and form, and yet grace, which knows no matter or form, works outside of that reality.

The nourishment for a plant, for instance, comes from multiple sources, not just rain. As roots run deep, some plants are able to survive extended periods of dry spells because they can draw water from underneath the surface. Grace is the underlying reality present and gifted to us through the depth of our faith. If our roots are deep, then the well of grace is itself sustaining.

It is times like this, though, that we see where the empty and hollow seedbeds are. It is sad to think that there are those who may not return to Mass until Christmas when they experience enough guilt and nostalgia to do so. We must continue to pray for them.

We must also work hard to nourish those who discovered or rediscovered their faith during these dark days. Hopefully many of them have found the deep soil and not just in the shallow soil of a crisis.

Opportunities for evangelization abound as we see more clearly now where the seeds are planted.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.