2- Reading and understanding the Gospel: The Parable of the Sower (Mt 13:3-9)
3 Then he told them many things in parables. He said: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
2. 1- Explanation
The parable is a simple and easy-to-understand teaching, allowing the listener to think and reflect on a situation in depth until he can make a spontaneous judgement on himself. In scientific language, the word “parable” means a curve that goes indirectly from point A to point B, to form an approximate half-circle. Linguistically, it is derived from the Greek word meaning a comparison, one thing that is placed at the side of another. This is how the parable is a story, having a moral, that isn’t discovered immediately. People use proverbs according to their local culture. In the Old Testament, the Book of Proverbs was a collection of wise sayings and rules that covered the moral life. Jesus used this literary style of “parables”, a short story format inspired by daily life.
The Parable of the Sower is considered the most important and the best known. In principle, this is a simple story to understand, but Jesus gives an explanation in Mt 13:18-23. The parable tells of four types of soil receiving the grain: the roadside, the rocky places, thorny soil, and the good earth. From this seed come four different results: grain eaten by birds, grain withered and lacking roots, grain choked by thorns, and grain that yields fruit.
The first sower is God, who sent His Son into the world. Jesus is the seed from heaven, sent to the earth, that it may bring forth the covenant of a new salvation. The sower is sure of the abundance of fruit, despite the dangers. The proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven will ultimately be victorious, despite the difficulties. With the coming of Christ, the Last Days have begun and there is a natural bond between the grain and the soil. The moral of the parable lies in producing fruit. Therefore, the end of the parable emphasizes the grains that fall on the good earth and give fruit “some a hundredfold, some sixty and some thirty”, thus compensating for the great initial effort of the sower.
The Gospel of Matthew has taught in the previous two chapters, 11 and 12, about the disbelief of certain Jews and their rejection of the proclamation of Jesus. Now in the parable discourse (Matthew 13), especially in the Parable of the Sower, he outlines these early responses to the previous proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom, in words (Mt 5-7) and in actions (Mt 8-9).
2. 2- Summary and Practice
The parable of the sower invites us to be the good soil where the proclamation of the Kingdom can yield fruit. Yet, in the world, there are many concerns; we are urged not to become discouraged and lose confidence in the power of God’s Word in our world. The parable shows us the way to meet the Word and the proper method to reform our hearts. We must not let the riches of the earth and its powers lead us astray from the true compass, in which lies our eternal life.
The sower continues his work today in the world and in our lives. The parable challenges the way in which we welcome the word; it places before us a ‘manual’ for appropriate ways of working. Our transformed hearts shall be the good soil, which will nourish the planted Word, yielding crops of quality and quantity. The fruit that we should bear manifests itself in our efforts to evangelize others and persuade them of the Good News of Christ, through our daily life – in words and actions.
Some may go as far as to blame the Sower for not discerning the different types of soil where he is sowing his Word. Some may ask themselves: why does he accept that some of the grain falls to the side of the road or into the rocky places? The principle motive of this image of the four types of soil is the call made to our heart, whatever its state, to become aware that no one is deprived of the grace of God nor of His Word.