Murphy's Law and the Parable of the Sower

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time: July 16, 2017


I am sure that you all heard of “Murphy’s law.” It is the brilliant insight of the legendary Murphy: “If things can go wrong, they will.” There have been many different variations of this theme: “In the event that any number of things can go wrong, that which causes the most chaos will occur first.” “If you drop a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it will always fall of the jelly side.” We could go on and on with many variations of this theme. A famous theologian put Murphy’s Law on a higher plain: “All human activity, given sufficient time, will go badly.”


Our Gospel today is the parable of the farmer sowing seeds. It tells us that some of the seed fell on a footpath, some of it fell on rocky ground, some seed fell among thorns, and finally some seed fell on good ground and produced a yield of a hundred or sixty or thirty fold. If we look carefully MOST of the seed fell on the footpath or the rocks or the thorns. In fact only about one fourth fell on good ground.

Now remember the setting is the Holy Land which is very arid. Remember as well that the majority of the people were farmers. Now I am sure that farming this very arid soil was frustrating. Probably most of the effort put into the crops was wasted on the birds, the rocky ground, the thorns, and the drought.


In terms of mathematics, the farmer had every reason to be frustrated. Murphy’s Law ruled every planting. Given the opportunity to reformulate the law, the Palestinian farmer might well have said: “If there is any hard or thorny ground to be found, that’s where the seed will fall.”


“You’re right”, Jesus would have said in response, “But then what happens? Some of your seed, maybe just a little, will end up on good ground where the thorns won’t get it, and the birds won’t get it, and the drought won’t get it. This seed will take root and bear fruit, and you will end up with far more than you had before.”


The point of the parable, maybe, was not to deny Murphy’s Law, but to repeal its long term effectiveness. Despite the frustrations, the farmers work pays off Disaster is not permanent, it is only temporary.

One conclusion then, is that despite the frustrations, defeats, and difficulties that Jesus experienced, including the crucifixion, his work will still bear fruit. Another conclusion is that no matter how many frustrations, defeats, and difficulties we experience, we too will overcome and will bear fruit. Despite Murphy’s Law we will win.


Today’s parable has a very practical side. As we journey through life we need to expect failures and frustrations, because they will happen. But through it all we can never let our defeats defeat us. WE may fail but we are not failures. Even though three fourths of what we do may not work out, we need to look at the fourth that does work out. It is easy to quit, to give up, to stop trying. But Jesus is telling us that is not the way to live. That is not the way He lived, and he certainly had his setbacks.


And so in conclusion, our parable today urges us to confidence, to courage, to bravery under fire, to grace under pressure, to beginning again after defeat. So the peanut butter and jelly sandwich falls jelly side down, so what? Bend down, pick it up, and make another one. So things go wrong? They certainly do, so expect it. Start over. But more important, look at the things that go right, look at our fruit, our successes, our victories, the people we touch. We all, each and every one of us, bear fruit a hundred or sixty or thirty fold. Amen

--Fr. Terry Hazel

Sunday Readings
Isaiah 55:10-11

My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

Romans 8: 18-23n.

We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption.


Matthew 13: 1-23

(Jesus said,) “But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. “