Matthew 13:1-23, 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Most of us are quite familiar with this parable. We have heard it many times.
We have heard that a sower went out to sow; that some seed fell on the path and birds came and ate it up; that some fell on rocky ground, sprang up at once but withered for lack of roots; that some fell among thorns that choked them; and that some fell on rich soil and produced fruit a hundredfold.
We also know its meaning as Jesus himself explained this to the crowd. He said that the seed is the word of God. On the path are those that have been heard but are taken away by the devil later. On rocky soil are those that have been heard and received with joy for a while but that fall away in times of temptation because they have no firm roots. The seed which fell among the thorns are the ones that have been heard, but are eventually choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of this life. But the seed that falls in the good soil are the ones that have been heard by an honest and good heart, who holds them fast and lets them bear fruit.
Oftentimes, we reflect on this parable by identifying ourselves with one type of the four types of soil – either we belong to the path, or the rocky ground, or the thorny field, or the good soil. And of course, from the deepest recesses of our hearts, we all want to be the good soil and to bear fruit, don’t we? We don’t want to be one of the three unproductive ones. And yet, more and more, I am beginning to realize that all four types of soil are within each one of us.
And as I was reflecting over this Gospel, what struck me the most is the sower himself. He sowed on all types of soil! Why would he do that? If he would have been a real farmer, and more practical, he would sow only on the good soil, the one that will give him a good harvest. Why would he waste his resources and energy on the unproductive grounds? Yet he sowed on all. That struck me.
Surely this parable is not about farming.
Brothers and sisters, because of the complexity of our human experiences and the mystery of our human nature, we change. Sometimes, we are very inspired and our hearts are burning with the desire to serve God. Yet there are times that we are discouraged and lose hope. Sometimes, our prayers are rich with the felt presence of God. But there are times when the wellspring is dry and we question the Lord why. Yes, we are all these four types of soil in the parable. They are all within us. And yet, the sower sowed on all.
This is how unconditional, how unfailing, how unchanging God’s love for each one of us is. His love does not falter no matter what. No amount of sin can ever change that love. He loves us and sows grace when our soil is good and fertile and we produce a hundredfold. Yet he also loves and blesses us even when we struggle in our faith, even in times of deep pain and suffering, even in times of failure and sinfulness. He loves and blesses us even when we don’t feel his love and when he is seemingly absent or abandoning. He loves us no matter where we are at right now and what kind of soil we are at this very moment. He does not change even if we do. He just keeps on sowing. He just keeps on loving. He just keeps on blessing.
This theological truth becomes more and more real as we grow older in our vocation or in our ministry. More and more we realize how broken and wounded we still are. There are moments of grace but there are also moments of self-doubt and ambivalence. There are moments of passion but there are also moments of spiritual dryness. Yet no matter what moment we find ourselves in, the Lord remains faithful. He just keeps on sowing. He does not get tired even if we do. He does not choose. He is like the sun rising for everybody on earth, or the rain falling on the good and the bad, or the flowers bursting with fragrance for the happy and the sad.
Brothers and sisters, what type of soil are you at this very moment, especially during this pandemic? Are you getting discouraged by what is happening in the country right now? Are you doubting God’s power and presence because of the seeming hopelessness of your situation? Are you giving up because of the loneliness you are facing? Are you grateful to God and to life in general? Remember that no matter what state you are in right now, whether you are on the path, or the rocky ground, or the thorny field, or the good soil, the Sower will keep on sowing no matter what. This is the good news!
After all, this parable is about the sower and not about the soil. Amen.
*image : Van Gogh’s The Sower