THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER (Lk 8:4–15).
When a large crowd gathered, with people from one town after another journeying to Jesus, he spoke in a parable. “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled, and the birds of the sky ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew, it withered for lack of moisture. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew, it produced fruit a hundredfold.” After saying this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”
Then his disciples asked him what the meaning of this parable might be. (10) He answered, “Knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you; but to the rest, they are made known through parables so that they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.
(11) “This is the meaning of the parable. The seed is the word of God. (12) Those on the path are the ones who have heard, but the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts that they may not believe and be saved. (13) Those on rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear, receive the word with joy, but they have no root; they believe only for a time and fall away in time of temptation. (14) As for the seed that fell among thorns, they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along, they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, and they fail to produce mature fruit. (15) But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.”
Gospel Commentary from the Navarre Bible, Commentary to the Gospel of St. Luke (with permission)
- 4-8 Our Lord explains this parable in vv. 11-15.
- The seed is Jesus Christ himself and his preaching; and the different kinds of ground it falls on reflect people’s different attitudes to Jesus and his teaching: our Lord sows the life of grace in souls through the preaching of the Church and through an endless flow of actual graces.
- 10-12 Jesus uses parables to teach people the mysteries of the supernatural life and thereby lead them to salvation.
- However, he foresaw that, due to the bad dispositions of some of his listeners, these parables would lead them to harden their hearts and to reject grace. For a fuller explanation of the purpose of parables see notes on Mt 13:10-13 and Mk 4:11-12.
- 12 Some people are so immersed in a life of sin that they are like the path on which falls the seed “which suffers from two kinds of hazard: it is trodden on by wayfarers and snatched by birds. The path, therefore, is the heart, which is trodden on by the frequent traffic of evil thoughts, and cannot take in the seed and let it germinate because it is so dried up” (St Bede, In Lucae Evangelium expositio, in loc.). Souls hardened by sin can become good soil and bear fruit through sincere repentance and penance. We should note the effort the devil makes to prevent souls from being converted.
- 13 “Many people are pleased by what they hear, and they resolve to do good; but as soon as they experience difficulties they give up the good works they started. Stony ground has not enough soil, which is why the shoots fail to produce fruit. There are many who, when they hear greed criticized, do conceive a loathing for it and extol the scorning of it; but as soon as the soul sees something else that it desires, it forgets what it previously promised. There are also others who when they hear talk against impurity not only desire not to be stained by the filth of the flesh but are even ashamed of the stains that they already bear; but as soon as bodily beauty presents itself to their eyes, their heart is so drawn by desires that it is as if they had done or decided to do nothing against these desires, and they act in a manner deserving condemnation and in a way which they themselves previously condemned when they reflected on their behaviour. Very often we feel compunction for our faults and yet we go back and commit them even after bemoaning them” (St Gregory the Great, In Evangelia homiliae, 15).
- 14 This is the case of people who after receiving the divine seed, the Christian calling, and having stayed on the right path for some time, begin to give up the struggle.
- These souls run the risk of developing a distaste for the things of God and of taking the easy, and wrong, way of seeking compensations suggested to them by their disordered ambition for power and their desire for material wealth and a comfortable life involving no suffering.
- A person in this situation begins to be lukewarm and tries to serve two masters: “It is wrong to have two candles lighted — one to St Michael and another to the devil. We must snuff out the devil’s candle: we must spend our life completely in the service of the Lord. If our desire for holiness is sincere, if we are docile enough to place ourselves in God’s hands, everything will go well. For he is always ready to give us his grace” (St. Josemaria, Christ is passing by, 59).
- 15 Jesus tells us that the good soil has three features — listening to God’s demands with the good disposition of a generous heart; striving to ensure that one does not water down these demands as time goes by; and, finally, beginning and beginning again and not being disheartened if the fruit is slow to appear.
- “You cannot ‘rise’. It’s not surprising: that fall! Persevere and you will ‘rise’. Remember what a spiritual writer has said: your poor soul is like a bird whose wings are caked with mud. Suns of heaven are needed and personal efforts, small and constant, to shake off those inclinations, those vain fancies, that depression: that mud clinging to your wings. And you will see yourself free. If you persevere, you will ‘rise’” (St. Josemaria, The Way, 991).
TOPIC: IN TODAY’S PARBLE OF THE SOWER, WHICH SOIL ARE YOU?
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