The Sower

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
(Matthew 13:1-9)

Scripture Study

Jesus’ first parable, known as the parable of the sower, draws on images that for some ancient Jews would have been quite familiar not only from the agricultural world in which they lived but also from their Scriptures. The different soils represent the different kinds of responses to his ministry.

First, some are completely unreceptive to Christ. They hear the word without understanding it. This description applies to the Pharisees, who have so misunderstood Jesus that they have accused him of being in league with the devil (9:34; 12:24). The reference to those who hear “without understanding” also points to the towns that witnessed Christ’s mighty deeds yet did not repent (11:20–24). These townspeople, and anyone else who fails to grasp the importance of Jesus’ message, are like seed sown on a path and devoured by birds—a symbol for the evil one, Satan (2 Cor 4:4).

Second, some in Israel respond to Jesus’ teaching with immediate enthusiasm: they receive it at once with joy. However, when faced with tribulation or persecution they fall away. This might point to the crowds who initially respond positively to Jesus (7:28; 9:33; 12:23) but whose enthusiasm will vanish during his last days in Jerusalem. People who do not persevere through trial and persecution are like seed that falls on rocky ground and springs up at once, but when the sun scorches it, withers for lack of root.

Third, some hear the word, but worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. This description recalls the warning Jesus gave his disciples about the worries of this world (6:25–34). It also points to the problem of the rich young man who walks away from Jesus because of his attachment to his many possessions (19:16–22). All such would-be disciples are like the seed that fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.

Finally, the true follower of Christ hears the word and understands it. This points to the disciples who have been given “knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom” (13:11); they truly see and hear (13:16–17). The disciples will be explicitly identified as those who “understand” Christ’s teachings in parables (13:51). Jesus says they are like seed falling on rich soil. They will bear fruit—an image for the practical living out of one’s faithfulness to God (3:8, 10; 7:17–20; 12:33). Though many do not respond to Jesus, those who do will produce an abundant harvest, yielding a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, our Gospel for today is the parable of the sower and the seed. It has to do with the growth and development of the kingdom of God. We hear that Jesus “went out of the house and sat down by the sea” and that large crowds gathered around him. This is Jesus speaking to the whole world.

Sitting down, he is, again, in the attitude of the ancient teacher and judge, and he speaks the parable of the sower. The sower sows far and wide, some of the seed landing on the path, where the birds eat it up; some falling on rocky ground, where it was scorched in the sun; some sown among thorns, where the life is choked off; and some sown on rich soil, where it bears thirty, sixty, or a hundred fold.

Keep in mind that Jesus himself, in person, is the seed sown. Jesus is the logos that wants to take root in us. This seed is sown far and wide, through all sorts of means, but in you, let the seed be sown deep, where it can’t be stolen, scorched, or choked.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.