Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
July 16, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.





First Reading (Is 55:10-11)

Thus says the LORD: 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.

Responsorial Psalm (Ps 65:10,11,12-13,14)


R. The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.

You have visited the land and watered it;

greatly have you enriched it.

God's watercourses are filled;

you have prepared the grain. R/.

 Thus have you prepared the land: drenching its furrows,

breaking up its clods,

Softening it with showers,

blessing its yield. R/.

 You have crowned the year with your bounty,

and your paths overflow with a rich harvest;

The untilled meadows overflow with it,

and rejoicing clothes the hills. R/.

 The fields are garmented with flocks

and the valleys blanketed with grain.

They shout and sing for joy. R/.

Second Reading (Rom. 8:18-23)

Brothers and sisters: I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.  For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

Gospel Acclamation

Gospel (Mt. 13:1-9; Short version)

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.  Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: "A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.  It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.  Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.  But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.  Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

Catena Nova

Why would it be reasonable to sow among thorns or on rocks or on the pathway? With regard to the seeds and the earth, it cannot sound very reasonable. But in the case of human souls and their instructions, it is praiseworthy and greatly to be honoured. For the farmer might be laughed at for doing this, since it is impossible for a rock to bear fruit. It is not likely that the path will become anything but a path or the thorns anything but thorns. But with respect to the rational soul, this is not so predictable. For here, there is such a thing as the rock changing and becoming rich land. Here it is possible, that the wayside might no longer be trampled upon or lie open to all who pass by but that it may become a fertile field. In the case of the soul, the thorns may be destroyed and the seed enjoy full security. For had it been impossible, this Sower would not have sown. And if the reversal did not take place in all, this is no fault of the Sower but of the souls who are unwilling to be changed. He has done His part. If they betrayed what they received of Him, He is blameless, the Exhibitor of such love to humanity. But mark this carefully: there is more than one road to destruction! There are differing ones and wide apart from one another. (St. John Chrysostom)

Now this has a bearing on ourselves – are we that pathway, those rocks, those weeds? Do we want to be good soil? Let us prepare our hearts to yield thirty, sixty, a hundred, a thousandfold. Thirtyfold or a thousandfold – in each case, it is a question of wheat and nothing but wheat. Do not let us any longer be on that path where our sowing is trampled by passers-by and our enemy lays hold of us like a bird. Further, those rocks or that shallow soil, cause seeds that are unable to endure the heat of the sun, to shoot up too quickly. And most especially – not those weeds, the lusts of this world, a focus for wrongdoing. For what, indeed, could be worse than applying all our efforts to a life that hinders us from attaining life? What more miserable than to cultivate our lives in order to lose life? What could be sadder, than to avoid death only to fall into the power of death? Let us cut off the thorns, prepare the soil, receive the seed, hold fast until the harvest and long to be taken into the barn.  (St. Augustine of Hippo)

Dearly beloved, the reading from the holy gospel about the sower requires no explanation, but only a word of warning. In fact the explanation has been given by Truth himself, and it cannot be disputed by a frail human being….

If you aspire to the heights of real honor, strive to reach the kingdom of heaven. If you value rank and renown, hasten to be enrolled in the heavenly court of the angels. Store up in your minds the Lord’s words which you receive through your ears, for the word of the Lord is the nourishment of the mind. When his word is heard but not stored away in the memory, it is like food which has been eaten and then rejected by an upset stomach….Be careful, then, that the word you have received through your ears remains in your heart. Be careful that the seed does not fall along the path, for fear that the evil spirit may come and take it from your memory. Be careful that the seed is not received in stony ground, so that it produces a harvest of good works without the roots of perseverance. (Pope St. Gregory the Great) 

There are thorns in the heart that have even wounded the word of God, as our Lord says in the gospel when he relates how the sower’s seed fell among thorns that grew and choked what had been sown (Mt 13:7)…  So take care that your vineyard does not bring forth thorns instead of grapes and your vintage produce vinegar instead of wine.   Anyone who gathers in the grapes, without sharing them with the poor, is collecting vinegar instead of wine and anyone who stores his harvests, without sharing them with the needy, is not setting aside the fruit of almsgiving but the briars of greed. (St. Maximus of Turin)

Now if you ask me what Jesus Christ means by the sower who goes out early to sow seed in his field, my dear brethren, that sower is the good God Himself! He began His work for our salvation from the beginning of the world by sending His prophets to us before the coming of the Messiah to teach us what we had to do to be saved.   And, not satisfied with sending His servants, He came Himself, marked out for us the way we should take and came to preach His holy word. Do you know what those people are like who aren’t sustained by that holy word or who abuse it?   They are like the sick without a doctor, like a traveller who has gone astray without a guide, like a poor man without means.   Let us rather say, my brethren, that it is altogether impossible to love God and please Him without being nourished by this divine word.   What is there that can draw us to attach ourselves to Him if not because we know Him?   And what enables us to know Him with all His perfections, beauty and love for us if not God’s word, which teaches us all He has done for us and the good things He is preparing for us in the life to come, if we try hard to please Him? (St John-Marie Baptiste Vianney) 

Although the letter said
On thistles that men look not grapes to gather,
I read the story rather
How soldiers platting thorns around Christ’s Head
Grapes grew and drops of wine were shed.

Though when the sower sowed,
The wingèd fowls took part, part fell in thorn,
And never turned to corn,
Part found no root upon the flinty road—
Christ at all hazards fruit hath shewed.

From wastes of rock He brings
Food for five thousand: on the thorns He shed
Grains from His drooping Head;
And would not have that legion of winged things
Bear Him to heaven on easeful wings.   (Gerard Manly Hopkins)
We plant seeds that will flower as results in our lives, so best to remove the weeds of anger, avarice, envy and doubt, that peace and abundance may manifest for all.  (Dorothy Day)



     I've pretty much given up on the yard.  Oh, the grass gets mowed, but the landscaping (I use that word in quotes) has pretty much gone to seed as they say.  Even after spreading bags of mulch early in the spring, weeds have sprouted all over the place and the various shrubs are all overgrown.  I'm hoping the ground cover takes over everything so I can just be done with it.      
     As a gardener, however, God seems to have better luck.  According to Isaiah, God’s word, like a seed, never fails to grow, even to thrive.  My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it (I), says the prophet
     What then shall we make of Jesus’ parable?  According to him, some of that seed gets eaten by birds; some gets scorched by the sun and withers; and some gets choked by thorns. Well, obviously, you can’t just scatter it around and expect things to grow automatically.  Seeds need good soil, fertilizer, water, and someone to pull the weeds!  But is that what the parable’s really all about?  I think if you listen more closely, you might hear something different.
     The parable, I think, is really about the kind of gardener God is, more than the kind of soil we are.  In other words, more the Parable of the Sower than the Parable of the Sown.  After all, what kind of gardener wastes good seed on a side path, or on rocky ground, or in the middle of thorns?  Even I know better than that!  But that’s the kind of God we believe in – a God who’s extravagant, generous, openhanded, even wasteful.  There’s nothing stingy about this God.
     So the Lord doesn’t pour forth blessings on good soil only, but shares his bounty even with those whose fruit will be less than a hundred, or sixty or thirtyfold (G).  In other words, God will take our produce – even if it 's mixed with some weeds  – for even that low yield crop little doesn't return to him void, but does his will, and achieves some good in God’s sight.
     That’s why St. Paul can say all creation is involved in the long process of returning to God, of being set free from slavery to corruption to share in the glorious freedom of the children of God (cf. II).  No scrap of God’s handiwork will be lost – whether a barren landscape or the most fertile of fields.  All of creation serves God’s purpose.
     But that's hard to imagine that, isn’t it?  We might think some sectors of God’s creation don’t merit our attention, because the soil seems so unpromising.  We prefer tangible results, in front of our eyes, to those we can hardly see.  Or when faced with the monumental issues facing the human race – especially the destruction of what Pope Francis calls “our common home” due to climate change -- our efforts can seem so small as to make no difference.  An article I read this week calls it the analysis paralysis  — we have the facts at our disposal like the string of warmest days in history for planet Earth that were recorded this past week but we feel powerless to do anything that will make much of a difference.  Ask the people in Vermont after their once in a millennium rainfall this week. 
     Still there's no excuse for inaction.  Take my pitiful yard.  On one of my newsfeeds this past week I saw something advertised I never heard of — a special kind of hoe designed for weeds.  It has a very sharp semi-circular blade and the body is hollow.  So I bought one.   Guess what?  I've made some progress, though I can only do so much.  This year at least I will never have a "hundredfold" yard.    But  I've hired my next door neighbor's landscaper for next spring — so we'll see.
     And that says something, doesn't it, about the seed God has sown in our lives?  Maybe it's not just the soil — maybe we need to find the right tool for the job.  Or maybe we need to employ someone else with the right skills and knowledge to help redesign our lives.  I remember a book — still in print — by a Benedictine nun, Mary Margaret Funk called Tools Matter for Practicing the Spiritual Life.  She says it's a book for "beginners" on how to tend the garden of our souls especially for dealing with the "weeds" our thoughts about food, sex, possessions, anger, dejection and pride can cause to spring up.   It's the kind of resource that can help you cultivate your soil if you can't find a therapist or spiritual director next door.
     Another person I have found helpful is Joshua Becker who has a YouTube channel called "Things that Matter."  He's a proponent of "minimalism" — a lifestyle that stresses "removing the distractions that keep us from living out our true purpose."  He has a blog Becoming minimalist at and a book called Things That Matter: Overcoming Distraction to Pursue a More Meaningful Life.  If you want to do some weed pulling this summer, give him a look.  He and Sr. Mary Margaret have helped me be a minimalist when it comes to "thoughts" of food and possessions — I'm working on the rest!

     But don't forget, even soil strewn with rocks and thorns yields something useful for the reign of God.  After all, in a few moments we will be offering what seems like some very “unpromising” bread and wine that the Word of God will make into the Bread of life and the Cup of salvation. 


Intercessions (The Sunday Website)

For a greater love for the Word of God: that we may make space in our busy lives to allow the Word of God to challenge and prune us so that we may bear abundant fruit.

For openness of spirit: that our hearts may welcome the Word of God and be fertile soil where the seed will produce an abundant harvest of faith and charity.

For the created world: that we may be aware of God’s revelation through the created world around us, promote respect for it, and work to protect it for future generations.

For all who care for the sick: that God will give them strength and help them to radiate God’s compassion and show deep respect for each person for whom they assist.

For refugees and immigrants, particularly children: that they may be welcomed as a brother or sister in the Lord and treated with love and respect.

For a new springtime of Justice: that God’s reign of Justice and Peace may develop abundantly in our hearts and in all the structures of our society.

For all who have fled their homes: that God will lead those fleeing violence to places of safety, guide and protect those who are recovering from storms and fires to new shelter, and help all who have fled famine and drought to sources of food and water.

God of the heavens, God of the earth,

all creation awaits your gift of new life.

Prepare our hearts to receive the word of your Son,

that his gospel may grow within us and yield a harvest that is a hundredfold. 

We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Offertory Anthem


The seed is God’s Word.

But that on the good ground are those

who hear the Word of God and keep it,

keep the Word in an honest and good heart,

and bring forth fruit with patience.

Communion Antiphon


 Closing Hymn (Dan Feiten)

Seed, scattered and sown,
wheat, gathered and grown,
bread, broken and shared as one,
the living Bread of God.
Vine, fruit of the land,
wine, work of our hands,
one cup that is shared by all,
the living Cup, the living Bread of God.

Is not the bread we break,
a sharing in our Lord?
Is not the cup we bless,
the blood of Christ outpoured?

The seed which falls on rock
will wither and will die.
The seed within good ground
will flower and have life.

As wheat upon the hills
was gathered and was grown,
so may the church of God
be gathered into one.