Bottom line: The seed - the Word of God - will bring a great harvest of souls.
In today's Gospel, Jesus speaks about the power of the seed - the Word of God. He tells us that, if we sow the seed with confidence, it will bring a great harvest of souls.
The image of the Word of God as a seed is beautiful. A seed is something small, almost insignificant, but inside it has an enormous power. In the last century we saw the power of a seed. Some of us remember the sixties, when scientists were predicting massive worldwide famine. They said that the famine would hit countries like India worse. India's population had grown to 440 million and the experts agreed that its land could not feed so many people. They concluded that the only thing the world could do was to let India's surplus population starve.*
There was, however, one man who saw things differently. His name was Norman Borlaug. He went to India not with a shipload of food but with a seed called "Sonora 64." Now, you can't blame people for being a little skeptical. Here was an American agronomist with a wheat seed developed in Mexico. But Borlaug convinced the authorities to give it a try. They planted some Sonora 64 wheat in the Punjab region of India. The results were spectacular and pretty soon they were using it throughout the subcontinent. Later, they introduced a new variety of rice, called IR8, and it brought even better results: Formerly a hectare (an area of 100 meters by 100 meters) could produce about a ton of rice. With IR8 seed, a hectare - without fertilizer - yielded five tons of rice and, under optimum conditions, ten tons. Thus IR8 seed brought about a ten-fold increase in the rice harvest. These new seeds enabled India and other countries to avert famine. Today with over a billion people, India actually produces a food surplus.** Here we see the power of a seed.
Jesus today speaks about the power of a seed - a seed even more powerful than Sonora 64 or IR8 - or any of the newer versions. The seed is the Word of God and Jesus assures us that it will bring a greatest harvest.
We live in a world where people are hungry - some physically hungry, but many more starving spiritually. Instead of receiving something that will nourish them, they are getting the equivalent of junk food. Think about how we have come to accept abortion, homosexuality, cohabitation, birth control, in vitro fertilization, gambling and pornography.*** These practices destroy individuals and families. People see this and say, "it is awful, but what can I do about it? If someone wants to throw away his life, it's his problem, not mine." You know, that's like saying, "let them starve."
Jesus does not take that attitude. He gives us a seed - and tells us to sow it with abandon. Don't worry if some lands on footpaths and gets trampled - or upon rocks and gets eaten by bird. Whatever happens, keep sowing the seed. Sooner or later, it will bring a harvest.
We Catholics used to be better at witnessing to Christ. We had crucifixes in our homes - and even our cars. We made the sign of the cross in public. We wore medals and held outdoor processions. And of course, everyone readily recognized priests and religious. Some smiled at us, others resented us, most had other things on their mind. But for many people, these external signs served as a starting point to talk about God and Jesus and the Sacraments. It was a way of sowing the seed of faith. And it brought results. We had many converts - and we held most of our young people.
Back in the nineteenth century a priest named Isaac Hecker had a wonderful vision. He was convinced that America could become a Catholic land. Himself a convert, Fr. Hecker believed that, if we Catholics practiced our faith with greater intensity, our fellow Americans would naturally be attracted to the Church. That vision might seem quixotic, but is it really? I still dream of a Catholic America. Not because we Catholics are so great - far from it. And not because we have got everything together - obviously, we don't. A Catholic America is possible because of the power of the seed - the Word of God.
If even a small percentage practiced the faith intensely, we would see astonishing results. It will involve sacrifice - and humiliations. But St. Paul tells us, "the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us." For the salvation of others - and for our own salvation - it is worth the price. Jesus guarantees that his Word will have its effect. The seed will bring a great harvest of souls - thirty, sixty, even a hundred fold.
*For them India confirmed the thesis of Thomas Malthus that population increases geometrically while food supply increases only arithmetically. Prominent among the the Malthusians was Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood. The Henry Ransom Center at the University of Texas has posted a revealing 1957 interview of Margaret Sanger by Mike Wallace. Besides railing against the Catholic Church, she argues that massive state-sponsored birth control is the only solution to the coming world-wide food crisis. "We could never," she asserts, "have another third (more people)" without widespread starvation. She and the experts she cites were wrong. In 1960 the world had three billion people; today we have over six billion - and we are still paying farmers in the U.S., Canada and Europe to not produce food.
**"In the 1970s, rice cost about $550 a ton; in 2001, it cost less than $200 a ton. India became one of the world's most successful rice producers, and is now a major rice exporter, shipping nearly 4.5 million tons in 2006."
***I include gambling not because I believe it is intrinsically evil (like abortion and in vitro fertilization), but because in practice (like alcohol) it wrecks so many lives. By "homosexuality" of course I refer to acts not inclinations.
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