Abundance vs. Scarcity Mentality

(Homily for Fifteenth Sunday, A)

"A sower went out to sow..." Thus Jesus begins his great parable. As in all the parables Jesus is trying to tell us something about God and our relationship to him. God is like a sower, but a somewhat peculiar one. What we first notice is his extravagance, how he scatters the seed.

Once I tried to grow some radishes. I bought a package of seeds for 49 cents and placed each one carefully in the ground. (I would have been better off taking my 49 cents to Safeway...) But God is not so cautious. He scatters the seed as if the bag had no bottom.

God has what we would call today an "abundance mentality." It's so difference from the "scarcity mentality" which holds many of us down. God scatters the good seed with abandon.

In thinking about God's extravagance an image that comes to my mind is my friend Fr. Mike Holland. He was not only a big man, but had an expansive, generous personality. I remember once he and I taking this visiting couple out on picnic. I was worried about waste so I asked them and Father Mike what kind of sandwich they each liked. As I placed some cold cuts between bread, Fr. Holland swung into action. He brought food out of the refrigerator and the cupboards--potato chips, soft drinks, jars of olives, apples, oranges, candy bars and so on. We soon had a packed ice chest and couple of hand held bags. On the way he stopped at Kentucky Fried Chicken to pick up the twelve piece special. We had enough for ourselves and everyone else at Seward Park.

God our Father is like that. He has an abundance mentality. Look at the way he created the universe. He could have made a single sun and a single planet, but instead he filled the sky with stars and galaxies too numerous to count. The Bible refers to this extravagance. When God tells Abraham how many offspring he will have, He says, " I will multiply your descendents as the stars of heaven and the sand which is on the seashore." (see Gen 22:17)

We see God's extravagance not only in the number of stars, but also on this relatively tiny planet. Here God has brought forth life in dazzling variety. At present there are millions of species of plants and animals--and these represent only a tiny percentage of all that have existed on the earth. Ninety nine percent of all species, like the dinosaurs, have long been extinct. Many of the species which perished and many of those still around are strange and mysterious. But none is more mysterious than the species we belong to. In us we see God's exuberance reflected in a unique way. All the other species have found a niche, a kind of home, but we human beings are different. Even tho we have "taken charge" of the planet, we still do not really feel at home here. We are like children separated from their father.

Even an adult can feel the separation from his father. During my seven years in Peru I would often think about my dad and the fact I was a long way from home. The young men who are up here from Latin America often feel that way. In one on one conversations I have often seen them cry when they think about their dad or their mom down in Mexico. But you know all of us are far from our real home and we are separated from our true Father. That is why God sent his only Son, Jesus. To point the way back, to enable us to return to our Father. Jesus shows us where home is. We all have a sense that if things were just right, we would really flourish. Well, Jesus tells us how. He says, "A sower went out to sow..." God makes possible an amazing fecundity.

I guess I am thinking a lot about Father Holland these days, because in reflecting on the fecundity of God's Word another experience with him came to my mind. He took me once to visit a family in eastern Washington who were harvesting asparagus. We spend five days with them in the camp. It was fascinating to see how asparagus is picked and how it grows. The stalks come out the ground like long green fingers and the workers cut them at a very precise angle. Within a couple of days a new stalk has sprung up. They say that if you are patient and you concentrate hard, you can see it growing! Not quite, but it was nevertheless impressive to see the new spouts sticking up each morning. An amazing example of fecundity. Just such is the word of God. If it lands on good soil, it produces an incredible harvest.

When we hear the parable of the sower, we sometimes worry whether we have good soil in our hearts. That is not the right focus. It gives too much attention to me, my response. What counts is God's initiative. He is the sower and his word has great power. Besides he also created the soil of your heart and mine so the match is perfect. If the seed of God's word enters, it will produce a great harvest. Sure there are some stones and brambles which have to be cleared away. But God did not put them there. They are our own sins. God can remove them in an instant if we just let him. Our ingrained habits sometimes depress us. The relentless nagging of the devil often gets us down. Troubles may surround us on several sides. But against God's Word they are no more powerful than a water pistol in front of a Sherman tank. Why do we have such meager faith? If God can put billions of galaxies in the heavens and bring forth a million different species on this planet, can he not work a miracle of fecundity in your heart and mine?

Isaiah says it poetically in the first reading:

"Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down
and do not return there till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats
so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void
but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it."
(Is. 55:10-11)

We are now going to move into the liturgy of the eucharist. Grace will pour upon us like a monsoon on the parched earth. Even the driest heart can become fertile and fruitful. The Sower is present.

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From Archives (for Fifteenth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):

2014: Life in the Spirit Week 2
2011: To Sow in Trust
2008: Power of the Seed
2005: The Word Embodied in the Church
2002: Relentless Mercy
1999: Abundance vs. Scarcity Mentality
1996: A Sower Went Out to Sow

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