January 27, 2021
Wednesday, Week 3 in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: Hebrews 10:11-18
Jesus offers one sacrifice that sets up a new covenant with God
Every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,” and since then has been waiting “until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.” For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,” he also adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
Responsorial: Psalm 109:1-4
R./: You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek
The Lord’s revelation to my Master:
‘Sit on my right:
I will put your foes beneath your feet.’ (R./)
A prince from the day of your birth
on the holy mountains;
from the womb before the daybreak I begot you. (R./)
The Lord has sworn an oath he will not change.
‘You are a priest for ever,
a priest like Melchizedek of old.’ (R./)
Gospel: Mark 4:1-20
Parable of the sower and the mystery of the Kingdom of God
Jesus began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:
“Listen. A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen.”
When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; so that ‘they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’”
And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, an it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”
God’s Mysterious Ways
God’s promises are present within us, in ways that we must struggle to comprehend. As Hebrews says, “Jesus offered one sacrifice for sins, and by that one sacrifice he has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” He who is our hope, our way, truth and life, lives in us as vine and branches are united in one circle of life. The reality of his divine life within us is expressed in another way, “This is the covenant I will make with them after those days: I will put my laws in their hearts and I will write them on their minds.”
The gospel cites some of the most difficult words of Old Testament prophecy, “They will look and not see, listen and not understand, lest perhaps they repent and be forgiven” (Isa 6:9-10.) That passage ends with hope, for the trunk of the oak remains even when its leaves have fallen. The gospel assures us that hope will blossom in its time; but it insists on the human factor too, the condition of the soil, dealing with the thorns, rocks and obstacles to growth. We are not to wait passively and do nothing, simply waiting for God brings all to fulfilment. While life is often beyond our control and eventually we must leave all into the hands of God, still we are expected to be faithful through difficult times. Salvation is the interaction of God’s mysterious grace and our cooperation. We must achieve what is humanly possible, and then in the end we can say, like Paul, “I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, God made it grow”, (1 Cor 3:6.)
The farmer’s input
This parable of the sower was originally meant as an encouraging word to his followers. As Mark has been reporting public ministry prior to this parable, Jesus and his disciples have met many difficulties and obstacles. The religious leaders have accused them of breaking the Sabbath. They even have claimed that Jesus heals by the power of Satan. Jesus’ own relatives wanted to confine him to the house because of they feared he had lost the run of himself. That was the context for Jesus talking about the farmer sowing his seed in the field. The Galilean farmer had all kinds of obstacles to deal with, so that many of the seeds he sows never takes root, or never reaches maturity. Yet, in spite of all obstacles and setbacks, the harvest turns out to be great.
The message is, surely, “Look beyond the obstacles, the set-backs, the disappointments; God is at work in my ministry and the harvest will be great in the end.” We can all become absorbed by what is not going well, by the failures, the losses all around us. The parable encourages us to keep hopeful in the midst of loss and failure, because the Lord is always a work in a life-giving way even when failure and loss seem to dominate the landscape.