“A sower went out to sow, and as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path; other seeds fell on rocky ground; some seeds fell among thorns; other seeds fell on good soil.” (Matthew 13:3-5, 7-8)
July 13, 2014
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
“You’re coming to visit me at home after my surgery, aren’t you?” Seeming more demand than request, I answered quickly with feigned enthusiasm, “Well, of course I am!” She added, “And how about bringing me some ranunculus.” Clueless as to what this might be, I inquired, “Where do I get such a thing?” Relishing my lack of comprehension, she continued, “Ranunculus is a flowering plant, and I saw some at the farm market near my house. You could bring me some if you wanted.” Again sensing this to be more demand than request, I promised I’d do my best.
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Evelyn, friend and professional colleague, was to be home-bound for several weeks following an outpatient surgical procedure. In fact, visiting her would not be a chore at all; rather, it would give us an opportunity away from work for the casual chat we never seemed to have time for otherwise. So, several days after the surgery, I called her at home to set a date for the visit—and to deliver the ranunculus.
But why buy an already blooming flower when, with what I imagined would be lots of boring at-home recovery time, Evelyn might get even more enjoyment out of starting her plant from scratch. With that in mind, I discovered a vendor in the Netherlands who would quick-ship ranunculus bulbs. Ordering several dozen of the yellow and orange variety, they arrived in three days.
About the actual visit—well, Evelyn’s level of excitement was somewhat less than mine when I handed her the box of bulbs. I think I’d misjudged her post-surgery energy level, but I also knew her well enough to trust that those bulbs would one day flower. Not tomorrow or the day after, perhaps, but as soon as healing allowed.
Just a week later, I spied her Facebook posting—several photos of sprouting ranunculus bulbs. And her accompanying words of excitement and amazement were real, not feigned! Indeed, those green sprouts marked the measure of Evelyn’s healing as she tended to new life on her window sill.
In the gospel passage we hear today, Jesus is offering his disciples a parable about best practices in farming: planting the seeds, tending the new growth, and harvesting the crop. While we know that he was actually teaching them about how best to spread the new faith, the parable is no less applicable to tending and nurturing all manner of life: wheat, tomatoes, corn, ranunculus—even a crop of children. Yes, especially children. Thus, Jesus said, “A sower went out to sow, and as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path; other seeds fell on rocky ground; some seeds fell among thorns; other seeds fell on good soil.” (Matthew 13:3-5, 7-8)
It seems pretty obvious to me that a conscientious sower wouldn’t just let seed “fall,” as the gospel clearly states. Rather, seed must be carefully placed if one is really intent on it taking root. If the desired harvest is something of real value, the proper placing of the seed is essential. Doesn’t matter if we’re talking potatoes, apples, cucumbers—or even children. If you expect a rich harvest, the seed is carefully placed, not just tossed.
In our own day, seeds of peace are being most carefully placed that they may take lasting root. Consider the recent trip of Pope Francis to the Holy Land and his efforts to broker peace in a region long war-torn.
On a more local level, consider the example of the late Cardinal John O’Connor and New York Mayor Ed Koch. In the book they co-authored, entitled “His Eminence and Hizzoner,” we learn of the fast friendship that began with the careful sowing of seed and blossomed into something that has endured even beyond death. Catholic blogger Rocco Palmo posted the following reflection the day after Ed Koch’s death:
“As much an icon of New York as the Empire State Building, Yankee pinstripes or, indeed, the spires of St. Patrick's Cathedral, the [February 1, 2013] passing of Ed Koch—the ever-colorful [three-term mayor of New York City]—is being mourned in church circles like we're City Hall, and not without reason.
“One personal story seems to sum it up well. Passing through Midtown several years back, [I] was able to visit the crypt of St. Patrick's [Cathedral] to pray at the tomb of [Cardinal] John O'Connor, whose titanic witness and simple goodness remain so vivid and so terribly missed among those who knew and loved him.
“Anyways, going through the doors and down those steps to stand before the marble wall in which the archbishops of New York are entombed, one thing was immediately striking—a line of pebbles straight across the ledge in front of [Cardinal] O'Connor's marker; seven, eight, maybe nine of them.
“Of course, leaving small stones atop a grave is the Jewish custom of remembrance on visiting a loved one's marker. Having forgotten that in the moment, though, I asked where they came from, and likewise should've known the answer: ‘Ed Koch—all of them.’
“Having penned a 1989 book of conversations with the cardinal, Koch said he ‘loved him like a brother.’ For his part, meanwhile, the archbishop marked out his own style by donning a Yankee hat in the cathedral's pulpit and, as the cameras rolled, [asked] Koch his own signature question: ‘Mr. Mayor, how'm I doin'?’
“All through his public life, the mayor—ever a proud Jew who loved his faith—was a mainstay at [Christmas] Midnight Mass in St Patrick's Cathedral.
“Even after Koch left [office], the duo continued having breakfast at least every two months while, following O'Connor's death, his ‘brother’ kept up his schedule of visiting the cardinal, only then to bring the stones to his grave.” (“Whispers in the Loggia,” February 2, 2013)