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From the Staff @ HIEC

Reflection from Hannah - The Parable of the Sower

Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

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Our Gospel reading this week is often called The Parable of the Sower, which examines different possible responses after hearing “the word of the kingdom.” There are those who hear and do not understand; those who hear and receive with joy but lose focus when difficulty arises; those who hear but care more for wealth and earthly possessions; and, finally, those who hear and understand. Each of these responses is paired with a type of soil in a farming metaphor, an experience very familiar to his listeners at this time.

Farmers at this time scattered their seeds and then plowed the land, so it was a simple fact of life that sometimes seeds would fall on the untenable ground. Similarly, it was a simple fact of life that sometimes the word of God, or Christian belief, would be rejected in first-century Palestine. This lack of growth is not a comment on the quality of the seed, but rather a comment on the quality of the ground in which it is sown. It often wasn’t easy to be a Christian during this time, but this parable is a reminder from Jesus that just because his message isn’t well-received doesn’t mean it’s wrong or not worth following. The same seed that flourishes in one environment may wither and fall away in another.

Something remarkable about this passage is the simple acceptance of all these different types of soil. Jesus never condemns the rocky ground or lauds the good soil. The sower scatters their seed equally across these varying lands, just as Jesus passes his message to those who readily listen, and to those who will not. He never gives up on spreading his word, even without a guarantee that it will be received. This is a good lesson for us, as we often save our time and energy for ventures we know will go well, rather than casting ourselves out with no knowledge of where we will land or how successful we may be. And in this parable, we are told that such a wide scattering of our efforts will result in miraculous growth. Although the sower faces failure and disappointment at the loss of some perfectly good seeds, ultimately what is sown on good soil results in a hundredfold crop. This is a true miracle of abundance, which is often difficult for us to believe in.

After reflecting on this passage, consider:

  • Where do you experience the abundance of God?
  • Where do you exert your energy? Where are you holding yourself back?
  • What does this Gospel say to you about your faith in God? In yourself?

And now, let us pray together:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.