15th. Sunday of Year (A)
You may well have thought that the sower did a pretty careless job: sowing on patches of rock and among thorns ….. indeed one popular translation seems to support that idea by making the sower seem a little more accurate in his work by saying that some seeds ‘fell on the edge of the path’! That, however, is not accurate enough for most modern translations say quite clearly:
Some seed fell on the path and birds came and ate it up.
All this is, however, easily understood if we realize that in Palestine of Jesus’ day sowing preceded ploughing; hence, in the parable, the sower is depicted as striding over the unploughed stubble. This enables us to understand why he sows ‘along the footpath’ because he sows intentionally over the path which locals have made walking through the stubble, since he intends even that seed to be, perhaps, sown sufficiently well when he has ploughed up the adventitious footpath. Likewise, he sows intentionally among the thorns standing withered in the fallow, because they too will be ploughed up. Nor need it even surprise us that some grains fall upon rocky ground, for the underlying limestone -- thinly covered with soil -- hardly shows above the surface and is not noticed until the ploughshare jars against it. He sows thus because he is a working man who has not the time (even if he had the patience) to keep stopping and starting, avoiding first this and then that …. He needs must work over the whole field in order to get the job done in preparation for the seasonal weather and, as I have said, to have some hope (by the goodness of God!) for what might appear to be the otherwise totally useless sections.
How many circumstances there were to frustrate, even thwart, the sower’s labours! How much that could quite possibly have disheartened him! But, amazingly, what a wonderful crop resulted:
Some a hundred fold, some sixty, some thirty!!
Beyond all expectations larger than the normal good harvest, which yielded only tenfold!
Obviously Jesus did not intend to give, prescribe, a method of increasing crop production and developing earthly wealth. No! This was parable to show that the rich blessings of God’s Kingdom here on earth will come to fruition despite the insignificant, slow, laborious, beginnings of that Kingdom.
My word that goes forth from My mouth shall not return to Me void, but shall do My will, achieving the end for which I sent it.
In spite of all natural obstructions and human opposition and though it may appear -- humanly speaking – impossible, the Kingdom of God will come for those who have firm faith in Jesus and patient trust in God’s great goodness and mercy; because those wonderfully prophetic words from Isaiah are not only fulfilled in those who hear but do not listen in search of understanding, but most sublimely and over and above all human expectations they are fulfilled in Jesus Himself:
My Word (incarnate) shall not return to Me void, but shall do My will, achieving the end for which I sent (Him).
And so, in Our Lord’s own life on earth among men, He suffered ‘natural obstructions and human opposition’ to such an extent that He died maligned and deserted: an almost transparent failure in the sight of men. But His trust in His Father was unshaken; He committed Himself without reserve to Him:
Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit.
The Kingdom of God in our souls expands to full extent in the same way. With the sower we must do our best: first to work well and then to trust firmly in God. We must, however, work at the whole field; not only in the better sections, but in those which are thorny and stony, on the trodden down and hard pathway. We must try to exercise ourselves not only at that which comes easier to us, but also in those areas of life which we find it more difficult to discipline ourselves. I suppose that for most of us the rough and stony mediocre ground is more plenteous than the fertile. The points is, we must work at our whole being-before-God with simply sincerity, and quiet, unflagging, endeavour; and then trust in God with calm peace, and confident, childlike, expectance. Results are His gift and for His glory.
Then the disciples approached Jesus and said, ‘Why do You speak to the people in parables?’ He said to them in reply, ‘Because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’
It was no arbitrary decision of Our Lord which led to Him speak in parables to the people. No, it was the consequence and punishment of the poor dispositions of those who listened to Him. That is why we must work at the whole field of our lives. It is not enough to be good to our own family, if we are deaf and blind to the needs of others; it is not enough to be sober and thrifty if we are also ill-tempered or wrapped up in the things of this world; it is not enough to say, ‘I don’t do anyone any harm’ if we don’t seek to promote what is positively good. Otherwise, we are, at the best, only half-disposed, and our vision is distorted, our understanding vitiated or, as Our Lord said:
They look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.
A man who is lustful, though he may have many good points – he may be generous hearted and hard working – but he cannot rightly conceive or meditate upon the love of God, because love for him has a twisted meaning; he cannot really imagine or appreciate a disinterested love, a fully personal love because pleasure and passion clouds and distorts his outlook. And such distortion spreads elsewhere and can come to contaminate all we do unless we react against firmly it and any other such vices which have a place in our character and a part in our life. If we are slaves in one aspect of our life, we cannot be truly free in any other, because we are not really ourselves, the selves God intended us to be. As Jesus said in this respect:
To anyone who has, more will be given, and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
And so, People of God, I would recommend you today to aim at being consistent in your effort to let God’s Kingdom take root and come to reign in your lives... not just in one sector but in the whole of your lives, for that alone will bring true, lasting, joy and peace into your hearts:
Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear! Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it; and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.
Yes, you will see God at work in your life, hear Him speaking in your heart, and you will rejoice as they alone can rejoice who have found a love beyond compare which time can never tarnish nor changing circumstances disturb. That, indeed, is the aim of all our religious practices: to recognize and respond with love to God in all aspects and occurrences of life; nothing being too important, nothing too insignificant; to see God’s beauty and loveableness in all persons and in all things, and to rejoice in Him with all our heart:
I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.
May we have that purpose fulfilled both here and in eternity, through Jesus Christ Our Lord.