The parable of the sower found in all the Synoptic Gospels is one of the most intriguing examples of Our Lord’s approach to teaching eternal truths. Prior to this parable, the others tended to be pieces of instruction hidden in a few words or phrases. Here we have a whole story, and a very important one that should claim our careful attention.
In fact, Our Lord alludes to the prophet Isaiah exclaiming that from this point on – “it is granted to you (the Apostles) to understand the secret of God’s kingdom while the rest must learn of it by parables, so that they can watch without seeing, and listen without understanding.”
Jesus, the Teacher, declares that the sower goes out to sow his seed. The sower is Christ Himself. It is he who came to till and care for the earth. His teaching is the seed and the souls are the field.
As we move into the next month of this new year, we would do well to ask what have we done so far with this seed – the word of God and the life he offers us? The Scriptures tell us that three amounts sown were lost and only one saved. As he sowed there were some grains that fell to the path, so that they were trodden underfoot, and the birds came and ate them. Other grains fell direct on rocks where they withered quickly as they were deprived of needed moisture. Then some made their way into the weeds and briars but as these grew faster and stronger they overcame the good seeds. Others fell where the soil was good, and when these grew up yielded a hundredfold.
Why is the greater part of the seed lost? To be clear, it is not because of the sower. He scatters the seed drawing no distinction between rich and poor, wise or foolish, strong or weak. Why would the sower even bother to sow his seeds among the weeds and rocks? The short answer is – for us.
Weeds can be uprooted giving way to good plants to grow.
Likewise, rocks can be removed from the ground to create a more fertile field. As with seed fallen on the footpath, we may determine to avoid those who are an impediment to our growth.
Let us not get in the way of the Sower.
Educators, be they parents or teachers, are charged with the sacred duty of guiding children and young. It is we who must provide them with goodness. It is never, in my opinion, acceptable for adults to get in their way by leaving them on a path that is arid and devoid of nourishment because we have hardened our hearts to the Lord. It is equally wrong to attempt to influence the young according to our own versions of the truth. It is dereliction to sentence the young to live among confusion due to our lack of commitment or faith. It is our responsibility to provide for a quality of earth that allows for growth and maturity. This takes many forms for both the parent and teacher: Kindness and firmness, caring and instilling independence, generosity and simplicity. Providence does not demand from all an equal measure of perfection, but receives all those of goodwill – first, second or third place.
Our task as adults is to conform our will to Divine Goodness. This is not an easy task as the stumbling block is most often our own will and willfulness. But with an honest effort to align ourselves to the Gospel and the teachings of the Church we can say as the psalmist wrote: "Those who sow in tears will reap, one day, in joy." (Ps. 125)
Our Lord ends this parable, like he does elsewhere, by crying out: “Listen, you that have ears to hear with.”
This indicates to us that what has been declared in a parable is basically a mystery whose meaning is to be pursued. If we dare to seek its meaning with love and fidelity, we will no doubt not be denied finding it.