For those of us in Melbourne, the latest lockdown is heartbreaking. When we emerged from the first lockdown hope began to return. Hope that the virus was beaten, that we had survived the threat, that life would begin to look normal again. That hope has now been lost. We are now unwelcome in almost all other parts of our country. The feeling of exclusion is new, but old fears and anger have emerged again.
Looking at what is happening around the world, it’s easy to see that so many people feel isolated and excluded for all sorts of reasons: poverty, the colour of their skin, gender, sexual orientation, religious and political affiliation, to mention just a few. Instances of how badly people in different situations are treated.
What can a story about a man scattering seeds on the ground say to us in this reality?
The usual interpretation runs along the lines that God scatters the seed of the Word in lots of different places. Sometimes it falls into rich soil and grows to harvest; sometimes it falls into other kinds of earth and doesn’t do so well. We ask ourselves what kind of soil is in our own hearts. What kind of reception does God’s word have in our own lives? How can we make the soil of our hearts richer and more receptive to God’s word and presence?
That is a valid way of interpreting the parable Jesus speaks in this Sunday’s Gospel.
But a friend asked recently, “What if we look at the story differently? What if we think about people who, because of the situations they live in, cannot hear God’s word?” Mahatma Gandhi once said, ‘God Himself dare not appear to a hungry man except in the form of bread’.
So maybe the parable is also about how we speak God’s Word through our concrete, life-giving actions and about what form of bread we need to be to feed each other’s hungers. Maybe that is the rich harvest Jesus is talking about.
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