The Sower And The Seed
Reflection on Mt. 13:1-23
“A sower went out to sow.” Thus begins a “dangerously” familiar parable. What I mean is this. It is easy (at least for me) to hear these words and think, “Oh yes, I know this one…path, rocks, thorns, good soil…yep, got it,” and then tune out. It can be easy to listen inattentively to the well-known words of Scripture. And herein lies the danger: my distraction prevents the “soil” of my heart from being fully receptive to the Word of God.
When this happens, I simply try to tune in again. One of the ways I like to listen to a Gospel passage with fresh ears is to imagine what it might have been like to hear Jesus’ words for the first time. Here I offer my own recent reflection on the Parable of the Sower.
The crowd on the shore gradually disperses, as the sun nears the horizon. A cool evening breeze springs up, and the sky purples in the west. Jesus has climbed out of the boat; He is busy talking to a few people who have seized this opportunity to come close and talk to Him. James and John tie up the boat, as Peter and Andrew encourage those who are lingering to go home. A few disciples have returned to the house to prepare supper, while others stand by the lakeside, waiting for Jesus to finish His conversation.
As they wait or work, the disciples discuss Jesus’ words:
“Why scatter seed so generously? I mean, on the path, on the rocks?” James says.
A disciple standing nearby overhears this and comments: “James, you’re a fisherman. What do you know about farming? ”
“I might be a fisherman, but I know how things grow. They don’t grow on hard ground…”
* * *
Meanwhile, watching the last stragglers turn to go home, Matthew remarks to Simon, “To get the maximum yield, the sower really ought to clear the field.”
“Maybe we’re going to help Jesus do that. Prepare the way for the coming of the Kingdom!”
“But what does that mean?” another disciple asks.
“I don’t know,” Simon admits. “But it looks like Jesus is finished talking, and we can ask Him once we’re alone.”
* * *
Back at the house, another conversation between disciples is in mid-stream: “He was speaking about the Kingdom of heaven. We have to keep that in mind.”
“Yes, but what exactly are the rocks and thorns? I hope we’re in the patch of good soil!”
* * *
At last they are all gathered together with Jesus, and they can ask Him all their questions. He explains to them the parable, because, as He says, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.”
Maybe, after hearing Jesus’ explanation, Peter says something like, “Lord, I want to bear fruit a hundredfold!” (Or maybe that is just what I would want to say to Him.) In any case, my eyes and ears, and the eyes and ears of every baptized Christian, are also blessed. For we have received the proclamation of the Gospel and the gift of faith. We can hear the Word of God proclaimed, ponder it in prayer, and let the Holy Spirit speak to us through the Scriptures.
As I pondered this familiar parable anew, I found the Lord sowing hope in my heart. Jesus is not dismayed by patches of hard, rocky, or thorn-choked ground. He is the gardener Who wants to tend my heart, so that it can bear greater fruit for His Kingdom. Indeed He wants to soften the hard places of inattentiveness, uproot rocks of fear of trial, and unwind thorns of anxiety. God is a generous sower (and a good gardener), and He scatters countless graces upon each one of us.
The disciples were able to draw near to Jesus, so that He could explain His Words to them. We, too, can draw near to Him—in His Word, in the Eucharist, in prayer. May our hearts be ever more receptive to Him, that we can bear fruit in abundance for the Kingdom of God.
“By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit…” (Jn. 15:8).
-Sr. Cecilia Francis, CFR