June 11, 2010

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Jesus’ parables: The sower and the seed

John F. Fink(Second in a series of columns)

In his parables, Jesus taught the inner principles of the kingdom of God. He made it clear that not everyone would be part of the kingdom. It would depend completely on each individual.

His first parable, and perhaps his best known, is the Sower and the Seed. All three of the Synoptic Gospels tell it—Matthew 13:1-9, Mark 4:1-9 and Luke 8:4-8.

When he told the parable, Jesus said nothing about the kingdom. To most of the crowd, it undoubtedly seemed like nothing more than observations about what was then the way farmers seeded their fields before plowing.

He said that, when the sower spread the seed, some of it fell on a path where birds ate it, some fell on rocky ground where it withered for lack of roots, some fell among thorns that choked it, but some fell on rich soil that produced a great harvest. Then he said, “Whoever has ears ought to hear” (Mt 13:9, Mk 4:9, Lk 8:8).

The most likely reaction of his listeners was probably, “Huh? Hear what? Yeah, that’s what happens when a sower sows seeds, but so what?”

That’s what we would most likely think, too, except that Jesus explained the parable to his disciples. The seed in his story, he said, were those who heard the word of God about his kingdom, but the emphasis is on the various types of soil on which the seed fell, that is, on the dispositions of the people who hear what Jesus taught.

Some hear the word but don’t understand or accept it, others understand and accept it but fall away because of persecution, and others allow the anxieties of the world and the seduction of riches to choke the word. But some people will hear the word, understand it and produce abundant fruit.

With Jesus’ explanation, it should be easy to see where we fit in.

We certainly have heard the word of God preached to us on Sundays or taught to us by religious education teachers. Do we understand it and fully accept it, or do we keep a closed mind, like the seed that fell on a path and was eaten by birds? Is our faith strong enough to endure the persecutions that came to those who first heard the Gospels?

Or has our secular society, with its anti-Christian ideas, choked our faith? Are we too busy with work or too preoccupied to pray and meditate on God’s word? Have we become too interested in the pursuit of worldly goods to pay attention to what Jesus taught us about the use of those goods? Have we accepted our secular society’s values about sex instead of those taught by the Church?

Or, as we hope, have we heard the teachings of Christ, understood them, nourished our faith like the sun and rain nourish the seed that fell on rich soil—although that isn’t mentioned in the parable—and become productive members of Christ’s Church?

If so, we are worthy to become members of the kingdom of God. †

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