Chapter 12: The Parable of the Sower
We learn much from the earth. At a time when traffic, industry and trade were not yet developed, agriculture was the primary source of life for our forefathers. Have you ever experienced sowing grain in the fields? Has it been fruitful? Indeed, Jesus used parables that speak of rural and everyday life, to help people to understand heavenly truths, having a connection with spiritual experiences. The parable arouses in the listener curiosity, thoughts and reflection on how to apply it in life.
In Mt 13, there are seven parables whose moral is unique: the Kingdom of God is spiritual and interior, not at all an exterior and temporal kingdom like the one the Jews expected. What is the impact of your attendance at the catechumenate meetings? Are your daily concerns or social and family pressures diminishing your desire for baptism? What fruit do you think you will yield in your life? Today we’re going to try to talk about the parable of the sower, as well as about the inner and moral conscience that must govern our lives.
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.
3- Theological and Spiritual Teaching: Conscience
The voice of conscience is the voice of God in man, guiding him to choose well and act accordingly. When God created man, he called him to act according to His will for love. Conscience is not exclusive to Christians, for God wants the good of all men, and He tries to guide them, by all means, to act according to His will. The Christian, on the other hand, is called to train his conscience, by making it grow according to the teachings of Christ in the Gospel and in the Church.
Everyone has a modicum of discernment between good and evil, but believers – disciples of Christ – are invited to let the Spirit of God guide them to the full truth. A true believer shall not be satisfied by merely living charity at its lowest level, but he will search with all his might to discern the will of God in the different situations of his life. A good believer will work towards forming his conscience and training himself to listen to its voice.
The Christian must therefore study the Church’s teaching on matters of morality and ethics. The Church has, in fact, much to say in this area. She has doctrines concerning respect for life, the world of the family and society, respect for the body, the sexual dimension, human dignity, virtues, etc. The Church is not the one who imposes commandments on all these areas; rather it is she who illuminates the path of the believer so that he can choose love in all the circumstances of his life.
The believer is called to listen to the voice of his conscience, that is, the voice of God in his innermost self, his heart. Holy people become accustomed to examining their conscience on a daily basis, checking their behaviour in the middle or at the end of each day, ensuring that their activities are in accordance with their faith, and not succumbing to the tendency to sink into actions of evil, hate, rivalry or concupiscence. We should not drift towards acting carelessly on whims, but rather on reactions inspired by the spirit of the Gospel.
Jesus tells us to seek the light within, away from the darkness, which make us forget our conscience and either silence the voice of God or lend a deaf ear to His voice. Drifting into darkness makes our hearts harsh and turns us into children of darkness, losing the Light that shines in us. Let us walk on the path of light as long as we have it within us.
4- Reading and Meditation: St John Chrysostom (354-407)
Honouring the Body of Christ
We must adhere closely to the teachings of our Lord and to the salvation of our souls, that we may be worthy to receive divine grace and to come to an eternal paradise. Those who were mainly interested in the purification of dishes and of other utensils, or what the important days of the month are, were ignorant and had not managed to understand why one was right to pick ears of corn on the day of the Sabbath or to heal a paralyzed man. So they have made no progress in virtue and they are lost. God, in fact, wants mercy, not sacrifice. That is why we must, above all, concern ourselves with the well-being of souls, and not with the days as days, nor with the things that are intended only for the service of man.
Do not think that we can reach salvation by making use of the money set aside for the aid of orphans, widows and people in similar need, in order to make a golden ciborium for the Blessed Sacrament, decorated with precious gemstones; or for a richly decorated altar to celebrate the liturgy. Do you really wish to honour the Body of Christ? Do not despise him when he is naked. Do not honour him here in the church building with silks, only to neglect him outside, when he is suffering from cold and nakedness. For he who said ‘This is my Body’ is the same who said ‘You saw me, a hungry man, and you did not give me to eat.’ Feed the hungry and then come and decorate the table. The Temple of your afflicted brother’s body is more precious than this Temple (the church). The Body of Christ becomes for you an altar. It is more holy than the altar of stone on which you celebrate the holy sacrifice. You are able to contemplate this altar everywhere, in the street and in the open squares.
Our Lord has made himself an equal to these souls, and he has been harsh with those who do not care for them, saying, “I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you have given me nothing to drink… I was naked and you didn’t give me any clothes” (Mt. 25: 42-43). So if you reject this teaching and care more about dishes or money, you will not benefit from it.14