Is 55:10-11; Ps 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14; Rom 8:18-23; Mt 13:1-23 Every once in a while, as in today’s readings, the Lectionary selections combine to take us deep into the heart of the biblical message. The readings cluster around Matthew’s Gospel and the “parable discourse” of Chapter 13 where the Evangelist gathers a number of Jesus’ parables. The tone is set in the famous parable of the sower where Jesus tells his disciples the story of a farmer who sows seed in his field and awaits the harvest. Unlike modern farmers, farmers in Jesus’ day sowed their seeds on untilled land and then laboriously plowed the seeds deeper into the broken soil. Thus, Jesus’ parable notes the obstacles that can happen on the way to a seed taking root: hungry birds, rocky soil, too much sun, choking thorns. Nevertheless, some fall on good soil and a bountiful harvest emerges: “a hundred, or sixty or thirty-fold.” The psalm response for today states the fundamental message: “The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.” That is also the story of the first reading from Isaiah, one of the most famous passages in the Old Testament. The prophet evokes the power of God’s own Word, speaking of it poetically as the quickening power of “rain and snow” that fall upon the parched earth “making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one eats.” God’s word is powerful and life-giving: “my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” Some commentators believe this passage was the inspiration for the beautiful prologue that begins John’s Gospel, describing the descent of God’s Word to the earth and becoming incarnate in Jesus, the “Word made Flesh.” Like the declaration of Isaiah, this Word will “achieve the end” for which God sent him and bring abundant life to the world. The second reading for this Sunday is from one of the most lyrical passages in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. He proclaims his vision of the final destiny of humanity and, indeed, of the created world itself. The “sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” Paul describes the process of redemption as a kind of birthing: “We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and … we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit, also beings for sure, but also creation itself. We are destined for life, not death. That is the message of the Bible from its opening chapter in Genesis 1, where God’s Spirit hovers over the primeval chaos and transforms it into abundant, beautiful and orderly life — the oceans, the sun and moon, the plants and trees, the creatures who live in the sea and the forms of life that creep upon the earth. Above all that is the beauty of the human person, male and female, made in the very image of God. That message of abundant life that begins the biblical saga should not be forgotten, even when the human story turns to the reality of sin and death introduced into the world. The ultimate outcome is the triumph of life, not death. That is how Christian faith sees the advent of Jesus, who radically conquers death and brings the promise of unending life. At a time when we as a society are on guard and nervous about our future, when we feel the understandable impulse to protect ourselves and become cautious, and are tempted to be less generous in dealing with those in need, the Bible’s exuberant view of life abundant should not be forgotten.