Updated: Jul 29
The parable of the sower in today’s gospel uses tangible elements to connect with Jesus’ message: the seed, the path, the rocky ground, the thorns, the rich soil, and the word. It challenges believers to bear fruits of faith. The prophet Isaiah uses a familiar experience of the created order to explain God’s dynamic presence to his audience and applies tangible elements in the first reading as well, the heavens release snow and rain to make the earth fertile and fruitful. Overall, the theme is that God is at work and comes through with his promises. He invites us to be that seed that is sown on rich soil in order to promote God’s reign on earth.
The metaphor of the seed in the parable of the sower is presented in three phases: 1). Jesus narrates the parable (Matt. 13:1-9). 2). Jesus explains the motive of the parable (Matt. 13:10-17). 3). Jesus interprets the meaning of the parable (Matt. 13:18-23). Unlike other gospel parables, Jesus gives an interpretation of the parable of the sower making it clear that the seed is the word of the kingdom, a message that proclaims the reign of God among the people. The four types of soil used in this parable represent the different categories of people invited to respond to God’s word. Those sown on the path show that the path is so hard and the seed cannot penetrate the soil. The evil one steals the seed away as soon as they try to germinate. The seed on rocky soil lack moisture and cannot survive the heat. Persecutions threaten their survival, so they wither and die. The seed on thorny soil experience worldly anxieties and do not survive the pressure. Only the seed on rich soil stay alive, productive and fruitful.
Jesus’ response to the disciples is a little baffling, the reason why he speaks to the people in parable, “Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.” Why would knowledge of the mysteries be revealed to some and not to others? Isaiah’s prophecy speaks thus, “Gross is the heart of this people.” The gospel message does not survive in hearts that are gross and coarse. Jesus would thank the Father on the contrary, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to little ones” (Matt. 11:25). Gross hearts remain impenetrable and resistant, unwilling to be nurtured by the word. But the Father is pleased to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom to the little ones. They are blessed to hear the gospel.
Here’s Jesus’ explanation of the parable once again:
"The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold."
Let’s put this parable in the context of family life, especially considering the circumstances of today’s world. From its explanation, Christ points us mostly to God’s word in our hearts. But we can apply the message to our lived experiences. Every parent is like the sower with the capacity to sow on various types of soil. Either you sow your kids on family values or expose them to the whims and caprices of secular influences. Either you sow them on the soil of objective truth of God’s word or have them be consumed by the rocky practice of relativism or material culture. If we sow our kids on good soil, they develop quality shoots, roots, and mature enough to produce good fruits. The family is that rich and best soil for both sowing and cultivation through proper guidance, compassionate care, and education. On the rich soil of family values, we enjoy the abundant harvest of healthy spiritual, psychological, and social development -hundred, sixty, or thirtyfold fruits. The reason is that family life emphasizes “the beauty, truth, and goodness of the sacrament of marriage and the communion of the family” (Pope John Paul, Familiaris Consortio, no. 4)
The message of the Kingdom is cast out in the open, available to everyone. But without taking it to our homes, the devil comes and snatches away what is sown in the person’s heart. That is how parenting works. The seeds can fall along the footpath, on rocky ground, among thorns, all depending on how the sower spreads them out. The questions for families today would be these: How can you sow your children on the rich soil, so they bear fruits even after you’re gone? How do you protect them from the scorching sun, the thorny, threatening dangers that hamper fruitfulness? What best methods can help them to overcome unhealthy anxieties when challenges come their way?
Think about the effects of the social media. Can these be the path where the evil one comes and steals away what is sown in the heart? What about the negative influences arising from cultural and peer pressures? Can those be the rocky ground, where the word, though received with joy, lacks deep root for survival? Why would this generation not be able to withstand tribulation or persecution? Could it be that the thorns from technological exposures make them shallow and vulnerable? This accounts for the growing incidents of anxiety and trauma among young people. They have little or no soil. Although they spring up with excitement, and are searching for the truth, they only find either half-truths or personal truths that lack depths. The thorns of immoral lifestyles and the harsh culture of postmodernism are choking our children really hard. Christ says, “…he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.”
We are called now, more than ever, to be the seed sown on rich soil, who bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. So the question remains how much fruit we are bearing in our families. Let’s get back to that rich soil of family values and cultivate our children on hope and perseverance. Let us sow them in prayers, in the sacraments, in what respect means, and in the true meaning of love and compassion. We can use Paul’s message to appreciate the value of this gospel, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Cor. 9:6). Christ rejoices to see us flourish like that seed sown on rich soil, who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. That rich soil is your family and it produces the best seed.
Readings: 1st- Is. 55:10-11; 2nd- Rom. 8:18-23; Gospel- Matt. 13:1-23