THE SEED IS THE WORD OF GOD, CHRIST IS THE SOWER
ALL WHO COME TO HIM WILL HAVE LIFE FOREVER.
The First Reading is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 55:10-11. The Word of God which came to the Chosen People through the prophets, and the divinely inspired writers, came out of God’s loving interest in His people. He wanted to prepare them for the inheritance, the real “promised land,” that, when the messianic age (the “fullness of time”) came, it would be theirs, provided their lives on earth were lived as they should be.
The Second Reading is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans 8:18-23 and is about present suffering and the glory of God. Suffering is an essential part of the Christian life and one who truly believes will have his or her share of hardships and trials. Yet, these are not ends in themselves, as there is hope that they will terminate with the full revelation of the glory of God. The theme and message of St. Paul is not to lose hope in the Lord into whose Risen Life we have been initiated by Baptism.
The Parable of the Sower and the Seed needs to be viewed from two different perspectives in order to unlock its meaning – from that of the sower and that of the seed. Whether sowing or growing – the point is a plentiful harvest and much fruit.
I’ve always loved gardening. Seeds I’ve planted include carrot, cucumber, and of course, zucchini. In each case, I’ve planted seeds in neat rows, expecting nearly all of them to sprout and yield fruit. But the farmer in Jesus’ parable (Mat 13:1-23) uses the broadcast method. Lots of seed cast everywhere. And predictably, many of these seeds do not produce. Some get eaten by birds. Some sprout but then wither. Some seedlings get choked out by weeds. Finally, a few yield varying amounts of grain. At the end of the story, Jesus says “they who have ears, let them hear.” In other words, he wants us to learn something and take some action steps.
WE ARE THE SEED
To respond to this parable adequately, we must view it from two different angles. The first is to look at the story as if we are the seed.
Many who hear the gospel never seem to “get it.” The message is stolen before it ever takes root. Then there are the 50% of Catholic kids who receive the sacraments but disappear somewhere between age 18 and 35. Shallow roots fail to equip them to take the heat of our pagan culture. Then there are the 89% of lifelong, regular churchgoers who, according to George Gallup, have values and lifestyles identical to those of their pagan neighbors. Their faith has been neutralized by bad theology and worldliness so though they look like wheat plants, their religion is fruitless.
HARVEST – MEDIOCRE OR ABUNDANT?
Then there are those who stay out of serious sin, manage to do some good for some people, but all in all produce a mediocre harvest. Finally come the few who are not satisfied with just getting by. They sink their roots deep into Scripture, Tradition, prayer and the sacraments, and produce a bumper crop. We call these people saints.
Addressing us as seed, Jesus is saying: “be careful. If you don’t make the effort to get thoroughly rooted in your faith, you just might not make it. If you do manage to survive, you might produce absolutely nothing. But you are called to bear much fruit (John 15), to yield 100 fold, to be a saint, to leave a mark on the lives of many that will last forever. Don’t settle for anything less!”
SOWERS MUST SOW
On the other hand, we can look at the parable as if we were the farmer. Vatican II and all the Popes since have stated unequivocally that each of us is called to be an evangelizer, to tell others that Jesus Christ changes lives eternally and that the place to encounter him most fully is within the Catholic Church. “But,” you may protest,” I tried it a few times and got nowhere. I just don’t have the personality, I don’t have the gift”
Jesus, the Son of God, indisputably had both the personality and the gift. Yet when he sowed seed, much of it still ended up as bird food. Consider the thousands he fed with loaves and fishes, the multitude that heard his sermon on the mount, the throngs that welcomed him on Palm Sunday. Yet on the day of Pentecost, there were only 120 left in the cenacle, awaiting the Holy Spirit. Notice, though, that the fruit borne by these 120 plants eventually filled the whole world!
GROWING & SOWING
To get the few that bear fruit, lots of seed must be sown by lots of people. So regardless of whether or not we think we have green thumbs, we farmers are being commanded through this parable to get the seed out there, sowing it everywhere we go, undeterred by the birds, the weeds, and the scorching sun.
So the parable of the sower has a twofold message: as seed, our job is to get busy growing. As farmers, our job is to get busy sowing.
GOSPEL PREACHING AND MAN’S RESPONSE
Any time the Word of God is taught or preached to any human being, that person is responsible for how they respond to it. Because God has given all of us a FREE WILL TO CHOOSE, how we desire and respond to the Gospel will dictate if a person is really serious about living for God or not.
When a person hears any preaching, teaching, parables or any person testify to them; they may not have any knowledge of the scriptures at that point. And it is a true fact, some scripture at face value is hard for some people to understand when they first read or hear it. The reason this is so, is because God’s ways are so much different than the ways and thinking of the world.
However, even though this barrier of knowledge exists, mankind doesn’t have an excuse to learn about God and search for truth with all the heart because God has adequately provided his Spirit to help people understand His word; if they will just ask Him.
THE HEART IS A FRAGILE ZONE
When understanding human nature through experience and knowledge, you will come to various conclusions about a human being…
• Emotions are very unstable
• The mental state of a person will gauge their spiritual perception
• The heart (mind & soul) can be manipulated pretty easily for good or evil
• People often lack a hunger for truth
• People often look for the fun or easy way of doing things
• A person will do and love, whatever they want the most
God did not make mankind to be robots, and He doesn’t force anyone to live for Him if they do not want to. When a person first hears the Gospel, his heart may be already damaged, or they may even be demon-possessed. The man of Gadarenes (Luke 8:26-33), was possessed of a legion of devils, but yet, he still chose to fall at Jesus’ feet and worship Him; and he was delivered of those devils afterwards. So, man ultimately has to make the choice whether he really wants God with all his heart or not. And as hard as you may try to help, they ultimately have to come to their own decisions.
Who is the farmer? What is the seed? What are the soils?
• The farmer (sower) in this story is Jesus Christ. But it can also be applied to the Holy Spirit or any Christian who plants spiritual seeds.
• The seed is the Word of God, the Bible.
• Soils are the ways in which people respond to the message of God’s word. It shows the condition of their hearts.
Let us look at each soil, its response to the Seed, some observations, interpretations and applications.
Way Side: The Way Side is ground that is in out-of-the-way places; not traditional farming ground. In the spiritual sense, “Way Side” people are those that do not show a real heartfelt interest in God. When you witness to them, they may agree at face value, but inwardly they are skeptical or they simply just do not understand it. This usually is caused, because the seed (the Word) you just sown in their heart is snatched away by the devil. The devil simply convinces the person not to believe it. And therefore, unless they believe the word they just heard, they can’t be saved, because they won’t go any further with it at that point in time.
• Result – The seed was eaten by the birds. It did not even take root.
• Fruits – It did not bear any fruits.
• Application – It represents a person, who has a closed heart/mind, if a person is indifferent to the Word of God, the Evil one can easily snatch away the seed.
Rocky Soil: Stony Ground is ground that contains large rocks or a multitude of stones. In the spiritual sense, it refers to people who have stony (hard) hearts, emotional wounds, major sin issues and just a bunch of problems. These type of people usually have had a hard life and deal with many things. Sometimes they can be unstable and weak minded. People who are Stony Ground that hear the word sown in their heart often times will receive the word with joy, believe it and even come to church with you. Some may even fulfill the plan of salvation. These type of people can be worked with if the right people work with them. The problem with “Stony Ground” is the seed (the Word) needs to get rooted into the ground. But, what often happens with these types of people is that when temptation, persecution or trouble takes place in their life because of the Word, whether the Word causes internal convictions or external trouble comes because of the Word; they will be offended or upset with God because of the trouble and quit and walk away. Some may feel the Word may be too strict for them to handle and be offended by the Word. Sometimes someone may say something they don’t like or comes to realize that church life is too hard. The hard part with these kind of people is to get them to truly fall in love with God enough to endure the growing process. At first, they just like the thrill of this new church life, but then when it comes time to live right, things break down. For whatever reason (which are many), some are just not willing to pay a price to live for God and that is because of the “stony heart.” Some of these type of people just want to feel good.
• Result – The seed grew up quickly, as the soil was shallow. When the sun came up, it withered away, since it had no roots.
• Fruits – It did not bear any fruit.
• Application – It represents a person, who has a shallow understanding of God’s word, he quickly receives the seed (like an emotional response). But when trouble or suffering and persecution come because of following Christ, the seed quickly withers away, since it is not rooted in the Word.
Thorny Soil: In the natural, Thorny ground is ground that have thorn bushes growing everywhere. It can be farming land, near stony or way side ground. In a spiritual sense, “Thorny” people are those who are hard to help spiritually. They either worry more than they should, or are caught up in riches, or just love all kinds of pleasure to much. Typically these are people who are self-sufficient and or have no need of God. The problem with “Thorny” people is they are usually selfish and will often hear what you say, but put you off. However, “Thorny” people may receive what you say. They may even fulfill the plan of salvation, attend church and enjoy it. But, as time goes forward, the cares of life (worrying over bills and problems), riches and pleasures of this life will choke the word that they once embraced. And therefore become unfruitful, and even quit following God. All too often, people will not follow God because they have to turn away from some things they love. One man in scripture (Mat 19:16-23) came to Jesus and asked what he had to do to have eternal life. Jesus gave him a list of commands he had already been keeping. But, Jesus asked him to do one thing. Sell all he had, give to the poor and follow Him. But, he went away sorrowful and didn’t follow Jesus because he loved his riches.
• Result – The seed grew, but the thorns also grew and choked the plant.
• Fruits – It did not bear any fruits.
• Application – It represents a person in whom the seed grows, but the worries of life, the pleasures of the world quickly chokes the seed and it does not bear any fruit.
Good Soil: “Good Ground” is good fertile land with very little rocks or thorns. In a spiritual sense “Good Ground” is people who have a sincere good heart, completely fall in love with God, understands the Word, obeys it and lets it take root in their lives and produce fruit. The good thing about being “Good Ground” is that even if you are a stony or thorny heart before you heard the Word, if you remove the thorns and stones and hear the word, receive it, and completely obey it with all your heart. Then that Word can be rooted in you, and you can be “Good Ground.” That is why farmers till the ground before planting seeds; they get the junk out of the way. When a person is “Good Ground” they will bring forth fruit with patience over time. They do this by constantly digging out stones they see in their life and allowing God to do in them what needs to be done so that a person can be saved. This is someone who is committed to God no matter what comes their way!
• Response – The seed grew and produced a crop.
• Fruits – It produced a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
• Application – This person receives the seed and understands it. The seed grows in him. He avoids the distractions, overcomes temptations, stands firm in the time of trouble, and produces many fruits.
• What kind of Soil are you?
• How has God’s Word taken root in your life? OR
• What is choking the seed (Word of God) in you?
• Are you growing in the Word?
A. When Jesus finished telling His parable of the Sower, He cried out: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” – Matthew 13:9
B. The four types of soil represent different responses to God’s message.
1. People respond differently because they are in different states of readiness.
a. Some are hardened
b. Others are shallow
c. Others are contaminated by distracting worries
d. And some are receptive.
C. Clearly from the explanation of Jesus Himself, we learn that not all those who have ears to hear, really listen!
D. It is important that we listen well when God’s Word is being proclaimed, for that is how faith is obtained – Romans 10:17 E. How well have YOU listened to this parable of Jesus and His explanation?
If you are anything other than that like “the good soil”, you need to repent and make changes in your spiritual life today!
Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.