May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable to you O Lord, our God and our Creator. Amen.
Before I begin my homily on today’s Gospel reading I’d like to take a little time to reflect on the lives of the Saints whose memorial we celebrate today. It’s impossible for us to know with any certainty how many have gone to dwell in the presence of God since Christ opened the path to do so through His atoning sacrifice. However, these saints of God both known and unknown play an important role in the life of Christians not only as intercessors but as examples of lives lived for Christ.
Two such saints, whose memory we keep today are Saints Timothy and Titus; some of you may have heard of these men but to many they will remain little known characters of the biblical narrative. Both Timothy and Titus were companions and co-workers with Saint Paul travelling with him on his journeys and faithfully ministering to the growing Christian community.
So what is it that these men preached on their journeys? Quite simply, like all the apostles, Paul and his companions preached salvation in Christ and it is this which the Gospel speaks of today albeit veiled in the allegory of parable.
The word parable is one that we often hear bandied around when we’re studying the scriptures but it’s one that we often don’t take the time to define to those who may not be familiar with the jargon of biblical analysis. In general terms a parable is a simple story told to illustrate a deeper, often spiritual meaning. The parable was a teaching method that Jesus used frequently. He was fond of taking images from the everyday life of those around him and using those images to convey the great mysteries of the Gospel.
I have heard it asked before why Jesus would choose to teach like this instead of simply “saying what He meant” and as it happens an answer to this is actually found within today’s Gospel. In the reading we find “With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.”
From this we learn that Jesus was using the parables as a means of keeping higher truths for those who were ready to hear them. We have to remember that Jesus preached in public where any could come and hear Him. By speaking in parables those without faith and no desire to learn would simply hear an interesting story being told whilst those with faith in their hearts would be able to digest that story and find hidden within it the gems of the Gospel. In private, with his closest followers though the Gospel’s author tells us that Jesus did speak and teach plainly.
So today we hear a story about farming; the occupants of Israel in the first century AD were typical of many cultures of the time; they were subsistence farmers and herders and so Jesus’ story of growing plants from seeds would have been easily understood and grasped. To us separated by distance and culture sometimes these stories feel far less familiar and their meaning can be hidden behind a thicker veil.
In this parable Jesus begins by making mention of the Kingdom of God; when we hear this term it’s easy to conjure up images of a throne and God sitting upon it ruling over the Earth. However often the meaning of this term is far more mystical and refers to the whole span of God’s interaction with his creation. For this reason Jesus using this term is a way to tell those of His listeners who are of faith that what follows will be about God’s plan for humanity or what is often termed the plan of salvation.
The parable that Jesus tells is of a man planting seed. The seed falling upon the ground seeming dies and lies inert until without notice new life springs forth. This story, though interesting if you’re into gardening does have a far deeper and significant meaning. In this case the man who is planting the seed is none other than Christ himself. What is it that Christ came to this earth to plant? He came to plant the seeds of the Gospel; He travelled, taught and preached so that Israel could hear the Gospel and carry it throughout the world. So in this parable Jesus tells us that the seed of the Gospel, though it may at times seem to fall on barren ground and be dead, will always spring forth new life when those of faith are attentive.
The seed laying in the ground seemingly dead has a double meaning; Jesus is the Word, the Gospel incarnate and we know that his ultimate faith was to die for our sins. In this parable He was reaching out to His followers and trying to prepare them for what lay ahead. That He would die and they would become disheartened thinking that the Gospel was dead but that in His death new life would rise.
It is through this great promise of a new life that we all find the hope of our salvation. We are all but seeds, we contain a divine potential to unite with God in total perfection, basking in His divine presence and worshipping Him in unending glory!
It is my constant prayer, that each and every one of us will live our lives in the hope of the resurrection and our ultimate salvation in Christ. May the abundant grace that God has given us flow out of us and may we always be prepared to share the great message of hope with all we come in contact with.
Let us pray:
Blessed Father, we thank you this day for the great gift that you have given us in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. May we all live worthy of this great promise and one day, when our mortal walk is over, return to you and dwell in your glory. May the example of Saints Timothy and Titus every be before us and guide us in our service; may we spread the Gospel as called and serve those people in our care in the spirit of these great saints. In the name of Christ, our Saviour. Amen.