Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
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 thirty-fold. Whoever has ears ought to hear."
The disciples approached him and said, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" He said to them in reply, "Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; for anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. Isaiah's prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them.
"But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
"Hear then the parable of the sower. 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 thirty-fold."
Some years ago, I was taught a beautiful lesson about the power of God's word by an incident in a youth ministry program. A young person in the program had grown up in a distant country as a non-Christian. Not long after their arrival in the States, they were adopted by a family in our parish who enrolled this teenager in our high school religious education program. I made every effort to engage this young person. We definitely connected through a common love of sports. I attempted to help this young person come to know and love Jesus by offering a well-rounded program that included regular instruction in the faith, lively small faith group discussions and opportunities for service. I prayed hard that they would come to believe in Jesus as Lord and savior, Good Shepherd and friend. However, after those two years, I was transferred out of the parish. The next year, my replacement invited all of the students in the program to study and pray with the readings assigned to Mass for each day during Lent. Wonderfully, at the end of those 40 days, this young person decided to convert to Catholicism. Daily prayer with the sacred Scriptures was he straw that broke the camel's back.
The prophet Isaiah passes along words hat he received directly from the Lord that refer to the power of God's word: "so shall my word be that goes froth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it." God's word is powerful because it is living and true. It is living in the sense that it has God as the author. Is is living also because it is one of the most significant ways that God has chosen to communicate directly and intentionally with his children. Vatican II's important document on Diving Revelation states: "in the Sacred books the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them" (DV21).
God's word is true because it is divinely inspired and it is one of two fonts of revelation from which God reveals the truth about himself as well about man's ultimate meaning and purpose. In Scripture, we do not find the latest news on the stock market, the most recent discoveries in science, or the best way to cook a turkey. Rather, we discover the answers to life's biggest questions such as, Where do I come from? Where am I going" What is the meaning of life? How do I discover true happiness? What is the meaning of suffering?
The second font of Divine Revelation is sacred tradition, which is the Word of God handed down through the living, ongoing and dynamic work of the Holy Spirit in the church. "Sacred tradition and sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal. Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit. And tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching" (DV9).
In today's Gospel parable of the sower and the seed, Jesus makes it very clear that he wants our hearts to be fertile soil that welcomes the seed of God's word with humility, trust and eagerness. He wants us to cherish his Word and have confidence in its power to transform our lives by surrendering to the Gospel way of life which sets us free from sin and meaninglessness and launches us down the path to the fullness of life.
Jesus also makes it clear that there are may obstacles to the seed coming to fruition, including heat, shallow soil, hungry birds and invasive weeds. In other words, obstacles that keep God's word from taking root in our hears include ignorance of the Scriptures, failing to pray with them, pride that makes us think that we do not need God and his Word, and attachments to earthly goods that take over our lives and prevent us from giving due attention to God and his Word.
Today's parable is a plea from Christ to center our lives deeply in the sacred Scriptures. This includes placing our trust in the great truths revealed therein. It also includes praying daily with them, a practice that enables God's word to transform our hearts and shape our lives with the guidance of our loving Father who truly comes lovingly to meet his children and share a daily word of concern, encouragement and love.