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Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’Matthew 13.18-23
Yesterday I reflected upon Jesus’ explanation of why he taught in parables rather than in direct speech. Today, we go straight into Jesus’ own explanation of the Parable of the Sower.
Jesus’ parables are like puzzles. They challenge us to take his word painting and work out the answer he wants us to find. Each parable has one correct answer and many blind alleys and irrelevant pathways which either delay and divert us, or prevent us from ever arriving at the truth.
The Parable of the Sower is a powerful challenge in its own right. It challenges us to examine where and how we are planted in a world full of rocks and thorns and worse. Then it challenges us to turn the environment we inhabit into the good soil where we will see the Word of God flourish and thrive. We are challenged, in fact, to be the seed of the good soil that will allow ‘self’ to die in order that the Word of God, that is Jesus Christ himself, might grow into the strongest, the tallest, the most powerful of plants in this world.
We all see people who are so caught up in their own worlds of self-interest that the Word of God will probably never penetrate the path they have laid all around themselves. We have all met people whose enthusiasm for the Christian message seems to be a shining example for others, that is until something difficult comes into their lives. We have all encountered people who have become so overwhelmed with the difficulties of daily life that their Christian lives have been either ‘put on hold’ or abandoned completely. And, mercifully, we have all seen those comparatively few who are totally rooted in their faith, no matter what may happen to them.
Jesus’ solution to the puzzle of the Parable of the Sower, is not one of agricultural economics. His solution is one of faith, and nothing else. His solution challenges us to become one of the totally rooted Christians whose example leads others into his nearer presence through our acts of love and service.
I hope and pray that we may all join that blessed company of faithful souls who, through our words and our deeds, brings many, many others into a true relationship with Jesus Christ, the one who died and rose again for us all.