"The Sower (Sower with Setting Sun)" (1888) by Vincent van Gogh (www.wikiart.org)
Psa 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14
well-known parable of the seed and the sower is the first of seven
parables in Matthew 13. These are known as the “Sermon of Parables” (Mt
13:1-53), and this sermon, as a whole, is the third great sermon
recorded in the first Gospel, the previous two being the Sermon on the
Mount (Mt 5-7) and the Mission Sermon (Mt 10:5-42).
about forty parables in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (the
Fourth Gospel contains no parables), and each expresses some truth about
the mystery of the Kingdom of God, which is the heart of Jesus’
preaching. They impart, Jesus told the disciples, “the secrets of the
kingdom of heaven”, and are meant to enlighten those who hear with
faith, while frustrating those without faith, “because they look but do
not see and hear but do not listen or understand”.
parables are not secret codes for a certain select, but are challenging
calls to conversion. Parables, explains Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, “are
means used by God’s mercy to reach the obtuse and hard-hearted, to give
them something they can grasp that will perhaps initiate in them a
process of conversion.” They reveal by concealing, and in doing so they
test our humility and our willingness to really hear and know the Word of God.
first four parables in Matthew 13 (vs. 1-43) focus on how the kingdom
grows and the transforming power of God’s Word that brings about such
supernatural growth. The final three parables (vs. 44-50), are concerned
with the complete and radical choice demanded by the reality of the
kingdom, which requires a full commitment of the heart, soul, and mind.
reading from the prophet Isaiah describes how the goodness of God is
evident in the rain and snow that waters the earth, thus providing the
means of natural lifeseed and breadfor everyone. Likewise, the word of
God goes forth to all men and it “shall not return to me void”. So the
word of God is likened to a seed; similarly, Jesus made a direct
connection between the seed and the “word of the kingdom”. The seed that
is sowed is not just a collection of words about the kingdom, but is
the Word sent by the Father to dwell among men. This is, of course, the
Incarnation, the coming the Logos, or Word, into the world (cf. Jn 1:9-18).
seed is also the entire body of the teachings of the Incarnate Word, as
well as the “good news” of his saving death and resurrection, by which
the Kingdom is established and revealed. “In the word, in the works, and
in the presence of Christ, this kingdom was clearly open to the view of
men”, states the Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution on the
Church, “The Word of the Lord is compared to a seed which is sown in a
field; those who hear the Word with faith and become part of the little
flock of Christ, have received the Kingdom itself. Then, by its own
power the seed sprouts and grows until harvest time”.
constitution further notes, “While it slowly grows, the Church strains
toward the completed Kingdom and, with all its strength, hopes and
desires to be united in glory with its King” (par 5).
of the seed and sower describes the slow growth and the straining of
the Church here on earth. The path is the world, which is fallen and
fractured, containing every sort of distraction and temptation. It
contains much rocky ground and many thorns. Creation, as St. Paul
observed, “is made subject to futility”, desiring to “be set free from
slavery to corruption”.
But the world is also a place of
authentic choice and of new life for those who are receptive to the
seed. Those who truly hear, Jesus said, will be healed; they are, in the
words of St. Paul, partakers in the “glorious freedom of the children
(This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the July 10, 2011, edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)