(Is.55:10-11, Ps.65:10-14, Rom.8:18-23 & Matt.13:1-23)
A parable is an earthly saying with a heavenly meaning. Teaching in parables was a familiar mode of instruction among the Jewish teachers of Jesus’ time. However, the parables of Jesus are remarkable for their simplicity and their power in comparison to other Jewish parables.
Jesus adopts the method of using parables to spread his Good News of the kingdom of Heaven because his audience comprises of lettered and unlettered people, the old and young, including children. And invariably parables appeal to everyone’s understanding, irrespective of age and social statues. Hence, in his parables Jesus uses images of the very things familiar to the people, to communicate his message of eternal life.
It is left for the individual listener to pass a judgement on the situation described in the story and then pick the lessons embedded. Therefore, every parable remains a challenge to the listener, confronting one with God’s love in one’s life and then leaves one to decide on how to respond. We either accept God’s love (the kingdom) and change our ways or we refuse it and remain in our sin.
In the Gospel reading of this Fifteenth Sunday of the liturgical calendar, Jesus narrates the parable of the sower as HE aims to teach on our varying attitude towards opening our hearts to the Word of God. In this parable, as the sower sows, the seeds fell on FOUR DIFFERENT PLACES; some fell on the plain ground and birds instantly picked them up, others on the rocky ground and because of insufficient soil and moisture they died off, again others fell on the thorns and were choked by the thorns and they died producing no fruit. Still others fell on rich soil where they have enough nutrients and they yield so many produce, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. Let him who has ears listen, Jesus concludes.
Simply put, just as we have in the parable four different places where the seeds fell as the sower sows his seeds, so do we also have different attitudes and heart dispositions towards hearing the Word of God and they produce different kinds of fruit accordingly.
Firstly, there is the prejudiced hearer who absolutely has a closed mind with little or no interest. This is the seeds that fell on the plain ground which were picked up by the birds of the air. Such a person is un-teachable as well as blind and pays no attention because he doesn’t want to understand.
Secondly, comes the shallow hearer. These are seeds that fell on rocky ground. Such people fail to think deep and also lack depth. They may initially respond with an emotional admiration of the Word but would not make any further effort to live by what they admire, when some trials come or when the situation demands that they put into action what they hear. For instance, most people would appreciate and admire the edifying story of Mother Theresa who devoted her life caring for the poor and the less privileged but when a situation calls for reaching out to the needy such admirers would be wanting. They would neither have the time nor make any effort to assist.
Thirdly, is another type of hearer who listens and accept the word but has many conflicting interests, cares and worries, and so lacks the ability to place his/her priority right, and to make out what is truly important. These are the seeds that fell on thorns. People here are too busy to pray or read and meditate on God’s Word because of the conflicting interests which they consider more important than the things that would really endear them to good relationship with God. They are rather like the ‘wise’ and the ‘clever’ whom the Lord says that, the Mysteries of the kingdom are hidden from.
Finally, are the hearers whose minds are open, docile and receptive. These are the seeds that fell on rich soil and produce many crop. Such people are at all times willing to listen and to learn. He or she is never too proud or too busy to learn. They listen in order to understand. God gives grace to those who hunger for growth and thirst for his Word that, they may understand his will and have the strength to live according to it. Such people hear the Word of God and try to live by it. They bear much fruits with their lives by being more truthful and honest, encouraging and supportive, enduring & patient, merciful and forgiving, considerate and accommodating, generous and sacrificing etc.
In sum, of all the four different hearers of the Word, the only one that receives divine praise in the parable is the one that bears fruits at the end, while the other remaining three attract divine blame and reproach. Therefore, the parable of the Sower is meant to challenge all of us on how we hear and practice the word of God which we daily read, preach or listen to.
Reflect today on how you are making the effort to see that, you are not just a mere hearer of the Word. That the Word you hear daily does not remain just sterile at the level of mere admiration of it but to see that it is being lived out in an authentic Christian life style for which the Word is sown, as the prophet Isaiah implied in today’s first reading, Is. 55:10-11. Therefore, give God the first place in your life and allow His principles and values to determine your daily life decisions and choices, and by so doing you would be giving ‘pragmatic flesh’ to the Word you hear and admire.
I BLESS you today, your entire family, endeavours and engagements, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.