Like many folk, I am find that I head off to sleep quicker and easier if my prelude to sleep takes the form of a wee bit of bed time reading. It might only be a couple of minutes, of course. As often as not I find myself more than half asleep even with the book still in my hand. The difficulty with that type of reading is that it is so easy to lose track of what the book is saying. I find myself having to battle to try and focus more and more on what is really being said. Of course, tiredness and keeping focus really don’t go together. When tiredness takes over, really the signal has been given. There is only one solution – put down the book and give way to sleep.
Today we enter into a series of Matthew’s gospel parables. As we know the parable was a frequently used technique of Jesus in teaching and in challenging people.
I wonder how the disciples coped with the demands Jesus put on them by his frequent use of parables? There are some parables that demand a serious focussing in order to discern the one overriding message. But equally, there are many that invite the listener to enter into the reality of the story in many different ways. There is not just one message with most parables; there are several or indeed many.
In the case of today’s “parable of the sower” that is certainly the case. The hearer and the reader must be able to discover the many layers of meaning and engagement called for from this parable. It may often designated as “the parable of the sower” but surely it is equally appropriate to entitle it as the “parable of the soil” given that things seem to hinge on the different conditions of the earth in order to produce the crop or to make that more difficult.
We can try to interpret it at a safe distance from ourselves by seeing it as being a parable about the world, more precisely about the fact that so many situations in the world make the sowing of the seed of God’s word difficult if not downright impossible. But the parable, as a device which provokes and confronts, does not allow the hearer to remain at a safe and uninvolved distance. They must be seen as being personally involved and confronted by the message or messages of the parable. Perhaps this is a line of reflection which we can do well to follow. The parable invites us to see the different areas and aspects of our own lives. To see where the edges of the path are – those places in our lives that are distant from the gospel message . To look to the rocky aspects are – to reflect on our failures to take the gospel seriously – to the places where our choice of life style can end up with the choking of the gospel of Jesus by other pursuits in life which run counter to the gospel.
Of course, this parable is part of the good news and we should be able to see it as such and reflect on it in that vein also. The seed that falls in the rich soil represents surely God’s plan for us, a plan which is also to met with our response since God makes that response possible in his gifts to us.
As we reflect on the Gospel we are invited, as always, to do that with the help of the Old Testament and our first reading. This surely helps us to deepen our understanding of the parable’s meaning for us and to see that it is nothing less than a gift from God
Isaiah uses the image of rain and snow to describe the watering of the earth and growth of the seed for the sower. The parallel is also provided between that and the continual activity which is present through the seed of the Word of God, a word which continually carries out God’s will and which succeeds in its true purpose.
This invites us to give thanks for the continual saving and life giving activity of the one who is eternal sower of the seed of the Kingdom. He sows that seed in us so that we too may be part of that great harvest of His. A harvest, that is, of goodness, love and truth.
12th July 2020.