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Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 16, 2023

Today’s Invitation

Today, we invite you to explore our call to be stewards of creation with the help of Peter Maurin’s Catholic Worker “Agronomic Universities”; engage integral ecology and sustainability through Catholic Social Teaching; and embody harmony with the earth in ritual eating, plant-based eating, and knowledge of plant sentience. 

Commentary by Marselys Lucero

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1

Isaiah 55:10-11

For just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
until they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the sower
and bread for food,
So will my word be
that goes forth from my mouth.
It will not return to me empty,
but will carry out my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 65

Response: The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.

You have visited the land and watered it; / greatly have You enriched it.
God’s watercourses filled; / You have prepared the grain.
R: The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.

Thus have You prepared the land: / drenching its furrows,
Breaking up its clods, softening it with showers, / Blessing its yield.
R: The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.

You have crowned the year with bounty,
And Your paths overflow with a rich harvest;
The untilled meadows overflow with it, / and rejoicing clothes the hills.
R: The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.

The fields are garmented with flocks /and the valleys blanketed with grain.
They shout and sing for glory.
R: The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.

Reading 2

Romans 8:18-23

Indeed, I consider the sufferings of the present
to be nothing compared with the glory that will be revealed in us.
All creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the children of God.
Creation was subjected to transience and futility,
not of its own accord, but because of the One who once subjected it —
in the hope that creation itself would be freed from its slavery to corruption,
and would share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that from the beginning until now,
all of creation has been groaning in one great act of giving birth.
And not only creation, but all of us who possess the first fruits of the Spirit —
we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free.


Matthew 13:1-23

Later that day, Jesus left the house and sat down by the lake shore.
Such great crowds gathered that he went and took a seat in a boat,
while the crowd stood along the shore.
He addressed them at length in parables:

“One day, a farmer went out sowing seed.
Some of the seed landed on a footpath, where birds came and ate it up.
Some of the seed fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil.
This seed sprouted at once since the soil had no depth,
but when the sun rose and scorched it, it withered away for lack of roots.
Again, some of the seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
And some of it landed on good soil,
and yielded a crop thirty, sixty, even a hundred times what was sown.
Let those who have ears to hear, hear this!”

When the disciples came to Jesus, they asked,
“Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
Jesus answered, “The secrets of the kindom of
Heaven are for you to know, but not for them.
To those who have, more will be given until they have an abundance;
those who have not will lose what little they have.

“I use parables when I speak to the people
because they look but do not see, they listen but
do not hear or understand. Isaiah’s prophecy is
being fulfilled in them, which says,

‘You will be ever listening, but never understanding;
you will be ever looking, but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts and turn back to me,
and I would heal them.’

“But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.
The truth is, many prophets and holy people longed to see what you see but never saw it,
to hear what you hear but never heard it.

“Now listen to the parable of the sower.
When people hear the message about the kindom of God without understanding,
the Evil One comes along and snatches away what was sown in their hearts.
This is the seed sown along the path.
Those who received the seed that fell on rocky ground
are the ones who hear the word and at first welcome it with joy.
But they have no roots, so they last only for a while.
When some setback or persecution comes
because of the message, they quickly fall away.
Those who receive the message that fell among the thorns are the ones who hear the word,
but then worldly anxieties and the lure of wealth choke it off,
and the message produces no fruit.
But those who receive the seed that fell on rich soil
are those who hear the message and understand it.
They produce a crop that yields a hundred,
or sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved. 

The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.



Stewards of Creation

Humanity is living through a climate crisis. Scientists and environmentalists are fervently sounding the alarm and revealing the staggering data which reveals that we are breaking our vow to be “stewards of creation.” We even struggle to grasp what a divine respect of creation could mean. If we start “In the beginning,” we know the world is exactly as God intended it to be – beautiful, good, and perfect. We also know that we were made to enjoy God’s goodness and to do so we may make use of all the resources our earth offers us. To speak of creation in this way sounds idealistic or utopian, but if we trust what God’s intentions were for creation this is conceivable and attainable. Humans, though, are not just stewards of creation – we are also co-creators with God. The question then becomes, what do we do with this freedom to co-create with what we have been given? Looking at the climate crisis it becomes clear we have not always chosen death over life.

Peter Maurin, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, wrestled with these questions and modeled how to take responsibility for creation. In his article, “Peter Maurin’s Green Revolution,” Francis J. Sicius details Maurin’s vision of a Green Revolution based on “cult, culture, and cultivation” (9). Cult is defined as a shared belief in God as the Divine Creator; culture is understood as a community ritual practice that finds root in that belief; and cultivation is a local economy developed in respect to the natural environment. In his contemplation about the natural world, Maurin began working at a summer camp near Mt. Trempor in upstate New York. He used his free time to read, write and travel back and forth to New York City. It was during this time that Maurin met Dorothy Day, his spiritual soulmate, and began imagining a Catholic community rooted in sustainable farms. 

While the Catholic Worker movement emerged as an urban Catholic production born from the abuse of the working poor, in January of 1936 Dorothy Day announced that the Catholic worker would make a serious attempt to find a farm (11). Maurin believed that this farm would be a living example of a “sustainable human society” (11). These farms were called “Agronomic Universities,” meaning that they would be places that people from all different backgrounds, working class to the comfortable, could live, work and share in both resources and ritual together. They would respect the land through subsistence farming, not harmful for-profit farming. Maurin wrote in a short essay entitled, “Regard for the Soil” that, “It is in fact impossible for any culture to be sound and healthy without a proper regard for the soil, no matter how many urban dwellers think that their food comes from groceries and delicatessens or their milk from tin cans.” It is with these beliefs that Maurin dedicated himself to remaking society through respect and mutual care for the earth. 

Maurin, a lay man who speaks from his experience as a man of faith, has a lot to teach the institutional Church about how to live in communion with creation. The Church is always grappling with issues of morality, and in our increasingly industrialized and global world, the church has paid attention to consumerism, wealth disparities, the onset of nuclear war, the rise of new technologies, and so much more, yet often the environmental repercussions are overlooked and unaddressed. Thankfully, Pope Francis has reoriented the Church’s gaze toward returning to the earth with humility and care. In Laudato si, Francis writes: “[T]he ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion…Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” (217). In today’s reading from Paul to the Romans, Paul writes “that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.” Pope Francis and St. Paul both give witness to the power of our human freedom and our responsibility to love the earth into fullness. This is our invitation.

We are called to sow, to toil, and work in the vineyard of the Lord to bring justice into the world. We are called to live as Peter Maurin did and bring a spirituality of the earth that gives praise and glory to the wonders of creation. We are asked to be renewed disciples of Jesus and commit ourselves to love creation as we love ourselves.

Commentary by Marselys Lucero

Marselys Lucero is a San Francisco Bay Area Native and works as a DEI professional at Watkinson School in Hartford, CT. Marselys attended the University of California, Davis where he majored in Religious Studies and worked as a Campus Minister for the Davis Newman Center. This led him to pursue a Master of Divinity degree at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University. While at JST, Marselys worked with Braid Mission, a non-profit organization that forms community around foster youth living in and around San Francisco. More recently, Marselys worked at Regis High School as the Director of Social Justice Initiatives at Regis High School in New York City. His areas of interest include racial justice in the Catholic Church, environmental justice, and creating a culture of radical inclusion.

Engage Catholic Social Teaching

Environmental Justice

In Fr. Thomas Massaro’s Living Justice: Catholic Social Teaching in Action, an entire chapter is devoted to the emerging need for integral ecology as the Church engages with the treatment of creation. Massaro explains that there was a disappointing amount of commentary on the protection of the environment Vatican dialogue prior to Pope Francis’s Laudato si. Since Francis’s encyclical, however, there has been a growing movement to refocus on creation within the Church, started by grassroots activists and led by local parishes. 

Unfortunately, in the modern world, much of the way our Western culture has portrayed human interaction with the environment is that of dominion. People see themselves as standing outside of creation, using our authority to “lord” over nature. Catholic Social Teaching has challenged this perspective, and endorses a creation-centered approach to environmentalism. This approach highlights an understanding that humanity is part of creation and should act in ways that see creation as an equal. Knowing who we are in creation and how we cooperate with the world has led us to promote a culture of sustainability. 

Theologian Markus Vogt writes in the editorial “From a Christian perspective: What is sustainability?” that “Sustainability without the faith in a creator (whether Christian or non-Christian) is endangered to become ethically superficial and trivial. What we need therefore is an extension of the Christian social principles. Besides personality, subsidiarity and solidarity, sustainability should be understood as the fourth principle in Catholic social ethics.” This connection made between our modern world, our social lives, and the faith we commit ourselves to is the Christian call to be stewards of the earth. 

Patriarch Bartholomew of the Eastern Orthodox Church puts this together as well and asks us to “replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which, ‘entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs. It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion.’” This is the Kingdom of God Jesus preached about. Our Church can share Jesus’s teaching on creation, the gift farming, and the responsibility of growing to inform the faithful of how they should respect and love the natural world. We are tempted to believe that the beauty of creation is only to be found in natural forests and national parks which remain protected. In reality, we should preach that creation is found in the foods we eat and the way we live in our homes. Choosing sustainability and embracing Catholic social teaching is counter-cultural and without a doubt more difficult to practice; but living intentionally earth-centered has only become difficult because our society has lost touch with the earth and our God. 


A Contemplative Exercise

The way we prepare and consume food can feel very rushed at times. Whether it is a quick breakfast, a hurried lunch, or a thrown together dinner, intake of nutrients can feel more important than the method of cooking and eating. For this contemplative exercise, you are invited to choose one night of the week to prepare a meal roughly 90 percent plant based. The preparation method should be simple and uncomplicated. 

While doing this exercise, practice mindfulness. Wash and dry all of your produce with attention and focus. Take care as you cut, dice, mix, and saute. In each moment, contemplate the journey of each of the foods you have chosen. Think about the soil that was tilled, the people who picked the crops, consider whether that was done by hand or by machine. Recall how you chose and bought each item for your meal. Then, imagine how this food will enrich your life. Recognize that you and this meal are part of God’s natural creation and express gratitude to God for the blessing of this food. Be open to the graces that may come with eating this meal and listen to God’s response to your prayer through eating. 

A Witness

Dr. Mary E. McGann, RSCJ

Dr. Mary E. McGann, R.S.C.J., is an associate professor of liturgical studies at the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University, who has written extensively on the intersection of liturgy and environmental spirituality. In her writings, as well the courses she teaches to graduate students, McGann has connected the practice of liturgy to the practice of living in reverence to the environment. McGann clearly advocates for a deepened sense of food through spiritual reflection. 

McGann writes in the article “6 ways a plant-based diet can help us meet Pope Francis’ ‘Laudato Si’ challenge” (2022) in America magazine, “Thus, the call to embrace a plant-rich diet is an invitation not only to a more sustainable diet but a more compassionate one. Food choices that honor the well-being of all sentient animals can build a world where greater consciousness of interspecies care and reciprocity abounds.” Most recently, McGann encourages Christians to integrate their knowledge of the earth into their liturgical understanding and spirituality. In her latest book, The Meal That Reconnects: Eucharistic Eating and the Global Food Crisis (Liturgical Press, 2020), McGann connects the growing food and health crisis that grips the world with the need for Catholics to understand the Eucharist as a just and healing food. 

A Community

Catholic Worker Farms

The Catholic Worker farms, part of the Catholic Worker Movement, have experienced substantial growth in recent years. This is due to a renewed interest in sustainable farming and environmental activism by young Catholics. Catholic Worker farms have found success in recruiting young people throughout the West, Midwest, and Southern United States. These farms all practice farming to some degree and are dedicated to the poor, as well as living sustainably on the land they inhabit. For a complete list of the farms in the U.S. and abroad, and to learn about their contextual missions and methods, click this link.


The Secret Life of Plants

In 1973, Peter Tompkins and Chris Bird wrote a controversial book entitled The Secret Life of Plants. The book summarized studies on plant sentience completed by scientists during the 20th century. In 1979, the acclaimed artist, Stevie Wonder, released the song “The Secret Life of Plants” on the album entitled Journey Through “The Secret Life of Plants.” This song is a reflection of the interconnectedness we share with plants and how our survival depends on one another. Listen and pray with it, perhaps while you are cooking!