The notion that God, the Creator of the universe, would have reason to initiate a conversation with a mere human being, is unimaginable. Why would God desire such communication? What would God have to converse about, let alone establish a relationship with such a creature? The answer is found within the mystery of God’s love for each and every human person, all people of all times and places.
Image by efes
By Tim Trainor
The parable of the Sower can be summarized as how the “Good News of the coming of the Kingdom of God” in Jesus' day could only be received or planted in an 'outside-in manner', while in our day, a new second 'inside-out' method is now possible because of the results of Jesus' incarnation, life, death and resurrection.
Now, to the details of understanding parables in general and unpacking this one in particular.
Why did our Lord teach in parables? Why did He say things with a hidden meaning? The Church Fathers explain to us that when you look into something deeply and carefully, when, it takes effort to penetrate it, then you understand it better than if its meaning is handed to you. If there was little or no effort in learning it, then you develop very little understanding or ownership of it. God desires us to seek in-depth knowledge of His ways so we are more likely to follow these newly gained insights in our life.
Also, they said, parables were used because it temporally hid Jesus' full message from the Jewish Leaders, who were not yet ready to hear it. Think of Nicodemus who needed time to develop “ears to hear” what Jesus was saying was in fact true because He was the long awaited Messiah!
In today's parable, we are very lucky as it is rare our Lord actually explains the deeper meaning of some dark saying of His. Luke relates that the Apostles came to Him and said, we don’t understand this teaching at all. Our Lord then explained its important meaning to them as follows:
“A sower went out to sow his seed.”
Who is the sower? At the first telling of this parable, it is Jesus as He and His Disciples went about Judea preaching and healing. So, when we read “The Sower went OUT to sow his seed,” He did not go “out” from a farmhouse and start to work. This “going out” is in reference to the Incarnation of the Son of God. And the seed is the words that Jesus spoke to the various types of people He encountered in His day.
As he sowed, some of his seed/words fell on various places, the wayside, the rock, among the thorns and some on good ground. It “fell”; it was not thrown. It fell everywhere equally, and these places, are the souls of men. This is how Jesus sowed His teachings to the entire universe, equally and freely to all.
There are four kinds of people described in this parable, and, three of those kinds were in danger of perishing. All of humanity fits into one of these categories, and the majority are in danger! This was true in Judea at that time, as it is in our age. The majority of people may not inherit the Kingdom of God (gain eternal life), unless they change, because, they are not good ground. And yet our Lord and Savior still continues to this day to sow His seed (maybe via us), and thus gives the opportunity to each person to accept Him and to follow His way of love!
Remember the story of the talents and the man with the one talent. Remember what a talent is? It is the grace of God, which enables us to do good works, to follow His ways, and to learn more of Him. The man with the one talent is like the ground by the wayside or path. The fowls of the air immediately snatch away the word from his heart, and he never really believes at all. We have all known people like that, who really have no belief whatsoever. The wayside is hard, and packed down. No seed can penetrate into it, and it is washed away, or it sits there, prey for the birds of the air.
The birds are the demons, which snatch away the word from a man’s heart, but only because a man leaves it out there, unprotected, and does not cherish it. The demons cannot take away the word from your heart if you hold it close to yourself. So, the men on the wayside have little or no part in salvation whatsoever, as they never went out of their way to believe or guard their hearts.
Some of the seed fell upon the rock, sprung up, but withered away, because it lacked moisture. Moisture, or love, is the essence of Christ. With this type of person, there is too small an amount of a relationship with Jesus to cause them to struggle or resist at the smallest of trials. So, such a person falls away, and the relationship usually perishes.
Some people are thorny ground. The thorns spring up with the good wheat, the word of God. These thorns choke out the following of the commandments. They choke out the love and knowledge of God, because we turn away from God, to our thorns, whatever they are: riches, cares of this world, sensual pleasures, our fears, our own individual ambition or self pride.
However, some of the seed fell on good ground and it sprang up and produced fruit. St. Luke says a 100 fold. St. Matthew's version reads: “Some sprang up 30, some 60 and some a 100 fold” leading me to believe not all the Saints receive the same reward as not all are as fruitful following the word of God to the same degree or period of time.
I love what Mother Teresa said about success: “God didn't call us to be successful but to be FAITHFUL!” So, if you are faithful, then in the end, paradoxically, you too will be rewarded. May we all be like the men who were given two or five talents, and labored to double their master's investment and thus our Lord judged each faithful and gave each a reward based on their stewardship (either thirty, sixty or a hundred fold)!
Now, how can we be good ground? Isn’t that really what we should try to learn from this parable? What is good ground? Good ground has been tilled carefully, and dug, and the clods of dirt have been broken up, and it has been finely sifted, and fertilizer has been added to it, and it has been watered, and hedged round about so that animals can not get in. There is a faith filled effort involved here if we are to be “good ground”. It does not just 'happen'.
If we do not take care of the seed that is planted within us, our hearts will become hard again and we will revert back to the type of soil/man we previously were.
Jesus says this about those who are good soil: “they are the ones who, when they hear the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart and bear fruit through perseverance.”
Perseverance is one of the most difficult words in our language. The Christian life is patience, endurance. He who endures to the end will be saved. We are just beginning, you know. And if indeed there is some part of our soul that is good ground, let us make the rest of it good ground too, by careful, backbreaking labor. And, while we are cleaning out those parts of our souls, let us, at the same time, pay attention to the places we have cleared, so the tares do not come in, and choke us. At the same time, we want to endeavor to keep our hearts from becoming hard, rocky ground again.
But how are we to do this? Is it a task beyond our abilities? No! The Catholic Catechism tells us how to go about this task plus how to even keep our hearts soft.
The Catechism para. 2558 defines prayer as a "vital and personal relationship with the living and true God" and that, “the living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer.” God always takes the initiative in prayer, an initiative always of love. “Our own first step [in prayer] is always a response.” Prayer thus becomes a “reciprocal call, a covenant drama… [a drama that] engages the heart” (CCC 2567)!
The notion that God, the Creator of the universe, would have reason to initiate a conversation with a mere human being, is unimaginable. Why would God desire such communication? What would God have to converse about, let alone establish a relationship with such a creature? The answer is found within the mystery of God’s love for each and every human person, all people of all times and places. “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 Jn 4:8).
Saint Augustine saw this 'call' from God for a 'relationship' as the cause of the “restlessness” which he writes about in his Confessions as follows: “You [God] have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
Restlessness is that desire to be filled and fulfilled. We all have it. We try to ignore at times, but still it remains.
Ezekiel wrote of this same desire but he also told us that God had a solution to our restlessness of heart problem. God promised, not only to forgive each of us for our hard hearts but has also promised us much more when in Ezekiel 36:26 He said: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
How does He make this exchange? In prayer and via the Sacraments, especially with the Holy Eucharist where we become what we eat! That's how we get our new hearts!
This is God's 'Good News', His new Christ given, inside-out Kingdom access method!
None of us, I assume right now are hard wayside path people because we are at least trying to be Christians. Some of us may, from time-to-time, be off in the rocks, and, some may be in the thorns. But, even if you have very little good soil right now, and even if you are choked with thorns and cares, the answer is to persevere in prayer and in receiving the Holy Eucharist. Then, He will help you to become rich soil again from the inside-out by regrowing your relationship with Him!
So, let's all stay in touch, by prayer, with this wonderful loving Lord we have!