Thứ Bảy, 15 tháng 7, 2017

JULY 16, 2017 : FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 103

Reading 1IS 55:10-11
Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

Responsorial PsalmPS 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14
R. (Lk 8:8) The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.
You have visited the land and watered it;
greatly have you enriched it.
God's watercourses are filled;
you have prepared the grain.
R. The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.
Thus have you prepared the land: drenching its furrows,
breaking up its clods,
Softening it with showers,
blessing its yield.
R. The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.
You have crowned the year with your bounty,
and your paths overflow with a rich harvest;
The untilled meadows overflow with it,
and rejoicing clothes the hills.
R. The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.
The fields are garmented with flocks
and the valleys blanketed with grain.
They shout and sing for joy.
R. The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.

Reading 2ROM 8:18-23
Brothers and sisters:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us. 
For creation awaits with eager expectation
the revelation of the children of God;
for creation was made subject to futility,
not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it,
in hope that creation itself
would be set free from slavery to corruption
and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. 
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now;
and not only that, but we ourselves,
who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
we also groan within ourselves
as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

Alleluia
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower.
All who come to him will have life forever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelMT 13:1-23
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."

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;
from 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 thirtyfold."

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."


15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that passage.

1st Reading - Isaiah 55:10-11

Until the eighteenth century it was presumed that Isaiah of Jerusalem wrote all 66 chapters of the book under his name. At that time scholars maintained that chapters 40 through 66 were written by a different author who lived some 150 years after Isaiah, during the Babylonian exile. In the late nineteenth century a scholar put forth convincing arguments for yet a third author for chapters 56 through 66. Our reading for today comes from the concluding chapter of what is now referred to as Deutero- (or 2nd) Isaiah: the chapter which has been titled “Conclusion to the Book of Comfort.” Almost every major theme within chapters 40 through 54 is blended into this chapter with verses ten and eleven (our reading for today) being a concluding announcement of salvation.

10 For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, 11 so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

The word comes gently from God, never intended to remain suspended like clouds in midair, but to soak the earth and to be drawn back toward God like plants and trees. God’s spirit is infused within human beings where it brings forth divine fruits.

2nd Reading - Romans 8:18-23

Last week we heard Saint Paul tell us that Christian life is lived in the Spirit and is destined for glory because Christian life is empowered by the Spirit. This week this theme is continued as he begins to describe our future glory.

18    I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.

Be rational. Don’t lose sight of the rewards which have been promised to those who are faithful. Although suffering is a sign of the authentic Christian experience, it is only a transition to the assured glory that awaits us in the end.

“It is fitting for us, meditating upon the glory of this splendor, to endure all afflictions and persecutions because, although the afflictions of the just are many, yet those who trust in God are delivered from them all.” [Saint Cyprian of Carthage (ca. A.D. 250), Letters 6(2)]

19    For creation awaits with eager expectation

This is material creation apart from human beings. Created for human beings, the world was cursed as a result of Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:17). Since then the material creation has been in a state of chaos; of abnormality and frustration; being subject to corruption and decay.

the revelation of the children of God;

Saint Paul sees the world sharing in the destiny of humanity, somehow freed of its proclivity to decay. This recalls Yahweh’s promise to Noah of the covenant to be made “between myself and you and every living creature.” (Genesis 9:12-13).

20    for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it,

The frustration of material creation is its inability to realize its goal as it should. Before Adam’s sin, material creation was subject to him, just as he was subject to God (Genesis 1:28). Man’s sin disrupted this subordination and introduced abnormality and futility. God cursed the ground because of Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:17).

in hope 21 that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.

God, though he cursed the ground because of Adam’s sin, still gave it a hope of sharing in man’s redemption. Redeemed humanity will live in peace with God in a world transformed by His Spirit. This condition is an aspiration of all creation. Freedom not just from moral corruption, but the law of physical decay found in nature as well; the reign of dissolution and death. For Paul, the created physical universe is not to be a mere spectator of man’s triumphant glory and freedom, but is to share in it. When the children of God are finally revealed in glory, death will no longer have dominion over them and the material world will also be emancipated from this “last enemy.” (1 Corinthians 15:23-28).

“Paul means by this that the creation became corruptible. Why and for what reason? Because of you, O man! For because you have a body which has become mortal and subject to suffering, the earth too has received a curse and has brought forth thorns and thistles (see Genesis 3:18). ... The creation suffered badly because of you, and it became corruptible, but it has not been irreparably damaged. For it will become incorruptible once again for your sake. This is the meaning of ‘in hope.’” [Saint John Chrysostom (ca. A.D. 391), Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans 14]

22    We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now;

This compares the rebirth of nature to a woman’s labor. It groans in hope and in expectation, but also in pain

23    and not only that, but we ourselves,

Not only material creation bears testimony to the Christian destiny, but Christians themselves do so by the hope that they have; a hope based on the gift of the Spirit which is already possessed.

who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,

The Spirit is compared with the first fruits of the harvest, which when offered to God, betokened the consecration of the entire harvest. “First fruits” was also often used in the sense of a “pledge or guarantee” of what was to come.

we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

The second testimony to Christian destiny is the hope that Christians themselves have of it; the first being the hope that material creation has. With the first fruits of the Spirit, the Christian looks forward to the full harvest of glory, the redemption of the body.

“The adoption as sons is the redemption of the whole body.” [Saint Ambrose of Milan (ca. A.D. 380), Letter to Priests 52]

Gospel - Matthew 13:1-23

Jesus is conducting His public ministry in Galilee. Between our reading of last week and today, Jesus has plucked ears of grain on the Sabbath, healed the man with the withered hand, and taught that His true relatives are those who are in the covenant with Him: “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Now He begins teaching in parables.

13:1 On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.

Jesus prefers to teach in the outdoors. It may be that by this time, his followers have gotten to be so numerous that they won’t all fit into an indoor setting.

2    Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore.

The crush of the crowd has gotten so intense that Jesus moves to a boat. Picture Jesus in a boat while the hillside within earshot is covered with people – sort of a natural amphitheater. Sitting is the normal posture of an oriental teacher.

3    And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 

A sower is a farmer. The followers are simple folk; there are probably many who can identify with the rigors of farming. This parable is a simple description of the process of plowing in Palestine, the type of ground upon which the seed is sown, and of the usual results.

4    And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.

It fell not on a road, but soil trampled in hard paths through the fields. The soil could not be plowed so the seed lay on the surface, where birds could get at it.

5    Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.

The fields were sown throughout, even the edges and corners where the limestone base lies very near the surface. Much of Palestine is rocky, and the topsoil is often quite thin. The seed sprouts too soon, unprotected by deeper soil, unable to sink roots.

It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, 6 and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.

In the blaze of the Palestinian sun, the sprouts burn up and shrivel.

7    Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.

Wild thorns are the most common weed in the country. They are not cleared before plowing but turned under by the plow. The soil is sufficiently deep, but the weeds are powerful enough to choke the new sprouts.

8    But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. 9

When the seeds fall on deep, unencumbered soil, they bear abundantly, though not in equal measure. Oddly, the Greek text does not actually use the word for seed, sperma, anywhere in the parable.

Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

This is a common refrain in Matthew (11:15; 13:43). It constitutes an invitation to the listener to think reflectively on the human application of the figure. The audience must participate if the parable is to have its desired effect.

10 The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 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.

The disciples’ question intrudes upon Jesus’ address to the crowd. If we take the setting in the opening verses seriously, the crowd too must hear Jesus’ depressing answer. It is most likely that the sacred writer has inserted a theological consideration at this point. The Greek word mysterion, translated here as “mysteries” corresponds to the Latin word sacramentum which refers to the oath that binds a covenant. Those outside the covenant have not yet understood what is necessary to receive it.

12    To anyone who has,

Who is in the covenant.

more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

Those who are outside the covenant, those Jews who do not recognize the fulfillment of the Old Covenant, will lose their position as the chosen people who have received the revelation of God.

13    This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’

The harshness of this saying reflects the ambiguity which is implicit in Hebrew and Aramaic which do not distinguish grammatically between purpose and result. The sacred writers could not conceive of a divine purpose which did not achieve its result nor of the result of a divine action that was not from a purpose. God is in ultimate control and will win out in the end.

14    Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see. 15 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 heart and be converted, and I heal them.’

This is the longest explicit quotation in Matthew. It is Isaiah 6:9-10 and follows the Septuagint exactly except for one word. It is God’s positive intent to save the Jews if they will turn back to Him and His new covenant. He will work toward this intent right up to the end.

16 “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. 17 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.

This beatitude expresses the privileged role of the disciples as eyewitnesses.

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom

This is the seed of the parable.

without understanding it,

This doesn’t signify intellectual apprehension, but the full acceptance of the gospel.

and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.

The evil one easily snatches away the message of God’s reign in the person who is not prepared to receive it.

20 The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. 21 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.

This second class are opportunists who cannot meet the challenges of suffering or persecution.

22    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.

This third class hears and accepts, but is distracted by secular interests.

23    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.”

This final class hears, understands, and performs.

St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, MS http://www.scborromeo.org


Meditation: "Why do you speak to them in parables?"
What is the best and easiest way to help people understand God's kingdom? Like the rabbis of his time, Jesus very frequently used parables - short stories and images taken from everyday life - to convey hidden truths about the kingdom of God. Like a skillful artist, Jesus sketched memorable pictures with short and simple words. A good image can speak more loudly and clearly than many words. Jesus used the ordinary everyday illustrations of life and nature to point to another order of reality - hidden, yet visible to those who had "eyes to see" and "ears to hear". Jesus communicated with vivid illustrations which captured the imaginations of his audience more powerfully than any abstract presentation could. His parables are like buried treasure waiting to be discovered (Matthew 13:44).
What can the parable about seeds and roots teach us about the kingdom of God? Any farmer will attest to the importance of good soil for supplying nutrients for growth. And how does a plant get the necessary food and water it needs except by its roots? The Scriptures frequently use the image of fruit-bearing plants or trees to convey the principle of spiritual life and death. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit (Jeremiah 17:7-8; see also Psalm 1:3)
How do you listen to God's word?
Jesus' parable of the sower is aimed at the hearers of his word. There are different ways of accepting God's word and they produce different kinds of fruit accordingly. There is the prejudiced hearer who has a shut mind. Such a person is unteachable and blind to what he or she doesn't want to hear. Then there is the shallow hearer. He or she fails to think things out or think them through; they lack depth. They may initially respond with an emotional reaction; but when it wears off their mind wanders to something else.
Another type of hearer is the person who has many interests or cares, but who lacks the ability to hear or comprehend what is truly important. Such a person is too busy to pray or too preoccupied to study and meditate on God's word. Then there is the one whose mind is open. Such a person is at all times willing to listen and to learn. He or she is never too proud or too busy to learn. They listen in order to understand. God gives grace to those who hunger for his word that they may understand his will and have the strength to live according to it. Do you hunger for God's word?
The refusal to believe and understand
Jesus told his disciples that not everyone would understand his parables. Did Jesus mean to say that he was deliberately confusing or hiding the meaning of his stories from his listeners? Very likely not. Jesus was speaking from experience. He was aware that some who heard his parables refused to understand them. It was not that they could not intellectually understand them, but rather, their hearts were closed to what Jesus was saying. They had already made up their minds to not believe. God can only reveal the secrets of his kingdom - that which is hidden to the spiritually blind - to those who hunger for God and humbly submit to his truth.
What can makes us ineffective or unresponsive to God's word? Preoccupation with other things can distract us from what is truly important and worthwhile. And  letting our hearts and minds be consumed with material things can easily weigh us down and draw us away from the heavenly treasure that lasts for eternity. God's word can only take root in a receptive heart which is docile and ready to hear what God has to say.
How God's word takes root in us
The parables of Jesus will enlighten us if we approach them with an open mind and heart, ready to let them challenge us. If we approach them with the conviction that we already know the answer, then we, too, may look but not see, listen but not understand. God's word can only take root in a receptive heart that is ready to believe and willing to submit. Do you submit to God's word with trust and obedience?
One lesson from this parable is clear: the harvest is sure to come. While some seed will fall by the wayside and some fall on shallow ground and never come to maturity, and some be choked to death by the thorns; nonetheless a harvest will come. The seed that falls on good soil, on the heart that is receptive, will reap abundant fruit. God is always ready to speak to each of us and to give us understanding of his word. Are you hungry for his word? And do you allow anything to keep you from submitting to God's word with joy and trusting obedience?
"Lord Jesus, faith in your word is the way to wisdom, and to ponder your divine plan is to grow in the truth. Open my eyes to your deeds, and my ears to the sound of your call, that I may understand your will for my life and live according to it".
Daily Quote from the early church fathersThe shallow and rootless mind, by Clement of Alexandria, 150-215 A.D.
"Let us look, as from a broader perspective, at what it means to be on the road. In a way, every road is hardened and foolish on account of the fact that it lies beneath everyone's feet. No kind of seed finds there enough depth of soil for a covering. Instead, it lies on the surface and is ready to be snatched up by the birds that come by. Therefore those who have in themselves a mind hardened and, as it were, packed tight do not receive the divine seed but become a well-trodden way for the unclean spirits. These are what is here meant by 'the birds of the heaven'” But 'heaven' we understand to mean this air, in which the spirits of wickedness move about, by whom, again, the good seed is snatched up and destroyed. Then what are those upon the rock? They are those people who do not take much care of the faith they have in themselves. They have not set their minds to understand the touchstone of the mystery [of being united with Christ]. The reverence these people have toward God is shallow and rootless. It is in times of ease and fair weather that they practice Christianity, when it involves none of the painful trials of winter. They will not preserve their faith in this way, if in times of tumultuous persecution their soul is not prepared for the struggle. (excerpt from FRAGMENT 168)

FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
SUNDAY, JULY 16, MATTHEW 13:1-23 or 13:1-9

(Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 65; Romans 8:18-23)

KEY VERSE: "But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it" (v 23).
TO KNOW: Jesus was a wise teacher who used examples from everyday life to illustrate the deep mysteries of God's reign. The word "parable" (Hebrew, mashal) can mean a variety of literary forms: similes, axioms, proverbs and allegories. Jesus' parables were primarily stories that invited the hearer to search for the meaning of the Christian truths he was teaching. In the parable of the sower, the seed of God's word was sown on unproductive soil. Most of the effort was wasted because many hearts were not prepared to understand the meaning of Jesus' message. Jesus told his disciples that they were blessed because they had been given the grace to comprehend his words. They must persevere in their task of proclaiming God's reign no matter how few accepted their message or rewarded them for their work. Jesus assured them of their ultimate success, comparing it to the enormous crop that would be produced by their labors. Ten times would have been more than any farmer would have expected, but thirty times, sixty times, and one hundred times was more than they could ever imagine!
TO LOVE: Lord Jesus, open my ears to your revealed truth.
TO SERVE: Do I persist in proclaiming the gospel when I am discouraged by the outcome?

Sunday 16 July 2017

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Week III Psalter.
Isaiah 55:10-11. Psalm 64(65):10-14. Romans 8:18-23. Matthew 13:1-23.
The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest — Psalm 64(65):10-14.
‘Large crowds gathered around Jesus by the lake.’
We’re all familiar with the parable of the sower, but there can always be something new to learn. Richard Leonard SJ says that this is a good sermon for reflecting on the environment.
For many, the facts and figures of our degraded environment fall on deaf ears. They don’t want to change their lifestyle. For many there are other issues that demand their attention, while some hear and want to do whatever they can so the earth bears fruit for future generations.
Jesus wanted people to go away and think about what he had said. Are we open to the wisdom and wonder of this lesson?

OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL

July 16 is the day that the Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Mount Caramel. Mount Carmel is the mountain in the middle of the plain of Galilee on which the prophet Elijah called down a miracle of fire from the Lord, to show the people of Israel who had strayed that "The Lord is God!" and that the prophets of Baal were worshipping a false god.
There is a tradition that traces the Carmelite Order's informal beginnings to the prophet Elijah himself, even though there is no evidence of this.
The formal beginnings are attributed to a group of monks who, in the 13th century, began living and praying on the mountain. They venerated the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and from this verenration was derived the name Carmelite.
In 1226 the rule of the order was apporved by Pope Honorius III, and 21 years later St. Simon Stock, an Englishman, was elected superior of the order. On July 16, 1251, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Simon and gave him the brown scapular and promised her protection to all those who wear the brown habit.
Pope Pius X decreed in the early 20th century that this blessing of the Blessed Virgin would extend to all who wear the medal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was instituted by the Carmelites sometime between 1376 and 1386.

LECTIO DIVINA: 15TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (A)
Lectio Divina: 
 Sunday, July 16, 2017

The parable of the seed
Matthew 13:1-23
1. Opening prayer
Prayer is also the willingness to listen; it is the suitable time for meeting with God. Today, the Sunday of the ‘sower’, we would like to open our hearts to listen to the word of Jesus using the words of St. John Chrysostom that we too may become docile and willing listeners of the saving Word: «Grant, Lord, that I may listen attentively and remember constantly your teaching, that I may put it into practice forcefully and courageously, despising riches and avoiding the worries of a worldly life… Grant me your strength and that I may meditate on your words putting down deep roots and purifying me of all worldly perils» (St. John Chrysostom, A Commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew 44:3-4).
2. Reading
a) the context:
Matthew places the parable of the seed along with the events of the preceding chapters 11 and 12 where he mentions the kingdom of God that suffers violence. The theme of our parable, as also of the whole of the discourse in parables in chapter 13, is the kingdom of God.
The “house” whence Jesus leaves is the house where he lived in Capharnaum and where he is once more with his disciples (v.1: That same day, Jesus left the house) and his leaving is connected with the going out of the sower (v.3: a sower went out to sow). His “leaving” has as its physical or concrete berth the shore of the lake (v.1: he got into a boat and sat there); this moment recalls the time when Jesus had called his disciples (4,18), but, the sea is a place of passage to the pagan peoples, thus, it represents the border between Israel and the pagan world. The background of the discourse in parables is, then, the lake of Genesareth, called a “sea” according to the people. His leaving attracts the crowds. And while Jesus is sitting by the shore of the sea, he is surprised by the crowds coming to him, and is obliged to get into a boat. This boat becomes the chair of his teaching. Jesus turns to his listeners and “told them many things in parables” that is in a manner different from teaching or proclaiming.
b) The Text:
1 That same day, Jesus left the house and sat by the lakeside, 2 but such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat there. The people all stood on the shore, 3 and he told them many things in parables. He said, 'Listen, a sower went out to sow. 4 As he sowed, some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up at once, because there was no depth of earth; 6 but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away. 7 Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 Anyone who has ears should listen!' 10 Then the disciples went up to him and asked, 'Why do you talk to them in parables?' 11 In answer, he said, 'Because to you is granted to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not granted. 12 Anyone who has will be given more and will have more than enough; but anyone who has not will be deprived even of what he has. 13 The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. 14 So in their case what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah is being fulfilled: Listen and listen, but never understand! Look and look, but never perceive! 15 This people's heart has grown coarse, their ears dulled, they have shut their eyes tight to avoid using their eyes to see, their ears to hear, their heart to understand, changing their ways and being healed by me. 16 'But blessed are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! 17 In truth I tell you, many prophets and upright people longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.
18 'So pay attention to the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the Evil One comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the seed sown on the edge of the path. 20 The seed sown on patches of rock is someone who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. 21 But such a person has no root deep down and does not last; should some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, at once he falls away. 22 The seed sown in thorns is someone who hears the word, but the worry of the world and the lure of riches choke the word and so it produces nothing. 23 And the seed sown in rich soil is someone who hears the word and understands it; this is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.'
3. A moment of prayerful silence
In our busy way of acting, which leads to exterior concerns, we feel the need to stop and calm down in silence… at such a time we become receptive of the fire of the Word…
4. Interpreting the text
a) The action of the sower:
The parable speaks of a sower, not of a peasant, and his activity is marked by the contrast between the loss of the seeds (13, 4-7) and the abundant fruit (13, 8). Furthermore, we need to note the difference between the wealth of the description of those who lose the seeds and the concise form of the abundant fruit. But the number of failed and disappointing experiences represented by the various forms of loss of seeds (on the edge of the path…on patches of rock... among thorns...) is contrasted with the great harvest that makes us forget the negative experiences of the losses. Again, in the parable there is the time difference between the initial phase of the sowing and the end phase which coincides with the fruit of the harvest. If in the various attempts at sowing there is no fruit, such lack brings to mind the Kingdom of God at the time of the great harvest. Jesus, the sower, sows the word of the kingdom (13,19) which makes present the lordship of God over the world, over people and that bears the final fruit. The parable has such persuasive force as to bring the listener to trust in the works of Jesus, which, while marked by failure or disappointment, will finally succeed.
b) Apart, Jesus communicates to the disciples the reason for speaking in parables (13,10-17):
After telling the parable and before his explanation (13,18-23) the disciples go up to Jesus (the verb “to go up to” expresses the intimate relationship with Jesus) and put an explicit question to him, they cannot see why Jesus speaks to the crowds in parables (v.10: Why do you talk to them in parables?). The reply to their question is in v.13: «...The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding». It is as if to say: the crowds neither perceive nor understand. Jesus does not mean to force them to understand. Indeed until now Jesus has spoken and acted clearly, but the crowds have not understood; but, as the time has come for him to go on revealing his message in all its radical nature – namely understanding – he has recourse to the language of parables, which although more obscure may stimulate the crowds to think more, to reflect on the obstacles that prevent their understanding of the teachings of Jesus. This seems like a repetition of the times of Isaiah, when the people were closed to the message of God (Is 6,9-10), and as such a situation of refusal foreseen by biblical tradition repeats itself in the crowds that “see-listen” but do not understand.
Compared to the crowd, the disciples hold a privileged position (13,11). Jesus shows this in the first part of his reply when he distinguishes between those included and those excluded from knowing the kingdom. The knowledge of the mysteries of God – that is God’s plan – is possible through the intervention of God and not through one’s own human efforts. The disciples are presented as those who understand Jesus’ parable not because they are more intelligent, but because it is he himself who explains his words to them.
The lack of understanding on the part of the crowds is the cause of his speaking in parables: they do not understand Jesus, thus they show clearly their obstinate incomprehension or better their inability to discern. The disciples, on the other hand, are declared blessed because they can see and listen.
c) The explanation of the parable (13,18-23):
After Jesus expressed his reasons for speaking in parables, he showed the fate of the word of the Kingdom in each of his listeners. Although there are four kinds of soil listed, there are only two types of listeners compared: those who listen to the Word and do not understand it (13,19) and those who listen to the Word and understand (13, 23). It is interesting to note that Matthew, in contrast with Mark, tells the story in the singular. It is the personal commitment that is the benchmark of real listening and true understanding. The first category of listeners shows that they listen to the Word (19), but do not understand it. Understanding the Word here is not to be understood on the intellectual level but on the wisdom level. It is necessary to enter into its deep and saving meaning. In the second (13, 20-21) the Word is heard and welcomed with joy. Such a welcome (lack of roots) becomes unstable when the initial enthusiasm wears out, perhaps because of experiences of suffering and persecution inevitable in every journey of faithful listening to God.
The third possibility evokes material preoccupations that can choke the Word (13, 22). Finally the positive result: the seed lost in the threefold soil is compensated by the fruitful result. Briefly, the parable brings out three aspects of the act of active and persevering faith: listening, understanding and bearing fruit.

5. Meditation for ecclesial practice
- What can the parable say to the Church of today? Which soil does our ecclesial community represent? On the personal level, what interior availability and understanding do we manifest in our listening of the Word?
- Is it not true that the dangers Jesus pointed out to his disciples concerning the welcoming of the Word are relevant to us too? For instance, fickleness before difficulties, negligence, anxiety for the future, daily worries?
- The disciples were capable of asking Jesus, of questioning him about their worries and difficulties. On your journey of faith to the Word of God, to whom do you address your questions? The replies that Jesus communicates to us in our intimate and personal relationship with him, depend on the sort of question we ask.
- The figure of the sower recalls that of the Church in its commitment to evangelisation: to know how to communicate in a new way the person of Jesus and the values of the Gospel. The Church has to stand out for the authoritative character of its teaching, for its outspokenness and for the force of its actions. Today we need to be confident, eager and tireless evangelisers. Every ecclesial community is urged by the parable of the sower not to be selective of persons or social contexts for the proclamation of the Gospel; we must have a broad vision and dedicate ourselves, even in what seem to be impossible situations, to communicating the Gospel. Every pastoral action of evangelisation experiences a first moment of ephemeral enthusiasm, which, however, may be followed by a cold reaction and opposition. Pastoral attempts are comparable to the threefold attempt of the sower, in the end they are rewarded by the threefold harvest. It is certain that the word of Jesus buds and bears fruit in hearts open to his action, but we must not cease from shaking our sluggishness, our indecision and the hardness of hearing of many believers.
6. Psalm 65 (64)
You visit the earth and make it fruitful,
you fill it with riches;
the river of God brims over with water,
you provide the grain.
To that end
you water its furrows abundantly,
level its ridges,
soften it with showers and bless its shoots.
You crown the year with your generosity,
richness seeps from your tracks,
the pastures of the desert grow moist,
the hillsides are wrapped in joy,
the meadows are covered with flocks,
the valleys clothed with wheat;
they shout and sing for joy.
7. Closing prayer
Lord, your parable of the sower concerns each one of us, the ways of our lives, the hardness of daily life, the difficulties and the moments of softness that are part of our interior scene. We are all, from time to time, sometimes path, rocks and thorns; but also good, fertile soil. Deliver us from the temptation of negative forces that try to eliminate the force of your Word. Strengthen our will when passing and changing emotions render the seduction of your Word less efficacious. Help us to keep the joy that our meeting with your Word creates in our hearts. Strengthen our hearts so that in times of tribulation we may not feel defenceless and thus exposed to discouragement. Grant us the strength to stand up to the obstacles we place to your Word when the worries of the world come or when we are deceived by the mirage of money, seduced by pleasure or by the vanity of appearances. Make us good soil, welcoming persons, capable of rendering our service to your Word. Amen!