Rain for These Roots
(Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23)
A parable is a comparison. It can be a short saying, or it can be, as in today’s Gospel, fairly long and detailed.
Jesus compares those who hear his word to seeds planted in a variety of soils. Isaiah compares God’s word to water. The two images dovetail perfectly, and remind me of 1 Corinthians 3:6, where St. Paul writes, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.”
We can discern also a sort of parable in our text from St. Paul. He contrasts suffering with the glory that is to come. We might see suffering as preparing the soil for planting, a tedious, painful process, recalling God’s word to Adam: “By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat.”
The Beautiful Lady of La Salette was addressing people who were no strangers to the “sweat of their face.” Theirs was a hard life; in 1846 they had little to show for it. They were staring famine in the face.
For the most part they would fit into the third group identified by Jesus, the seed sown among the thorns of worldly anxiety. Rain had a lot to do with the famine—too much when less was needed, too little when it was needed most, resulting in the loss of both staple crops, wheat and potatoes.
Mary wept genuinely over her people’s suffering, but did not hesitate to make the connection to their lack of faith. Could the failure of the earth to produce its fruits make them realize their own failure to produce the fruits of a Christian life?
Still, all of today’s readings are a source of hope. Jesus knows that there will be rich soil; Isaiah knows that God’s words will accomplish its purpose; Paul knows that glory awaits the faithful.
Fr. Michael Cox, M.S. wrote a book in 1956, with the title Rain for These Roots, about the significance of Mary’s apparitions at La Salette, Lourdes and Fatima. He drew the title from the last words of a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins: “Lord of life, send my roots rain!”
We can easily make the comparison between rain and Our Lady’s tears. They are a parable without words.