Jesus, the Sower That Sows the Seed of Life
Meditation for Sunday, July 13th
Rome, July 13, 2014 (Zenit.org) Monsignor Francesco Follo
1) The words of the Word that must be seeded.
The parable of today’s Roman Rite liturgy in the first place speaks of Jesus, our Savior, who wants to introduce his mission and the sense of his presence among us with the comparison of the sower.
In an earlier passage, the Evangelist St. Matthew writes: “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (9:35). Jesus sees himself as the one who is sent to “preach the Gospel of the Kingdom.” When Jesus begins his public ministry, he refers himself to a text from the prophet Isaiah that says: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me … He has anointed me to proclaim glad tidings to the poor … to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Lk 4:17-19). Jesus says that these prophetic words come true in Him: He was sent “to announce a beautiful and happy news” to “preach the acceptable time.” This is the deeper meaning of this “autobiographical parable” (Benedict XVI). As the sower goes out to plant the seed, so Jesus exits the house of Nazareth, to sow in all the good news that God saves humanity.
When Pope Francis speaks of a Church which goes forth (Evangelii gaudium 24), he is inspired by the Sower that without succumbing to fatigue runs through the field of the world to the places of its fragility, its worthlessness, its weaknesses and its contradictions, even up to the point of blasphemy against Him. The Sower never ceases to throw the good seed. It seems to us that he throws the seed at random. However I think that we can interpret this way to sow the seed as Jesus teaching us the way to be missionaries. Mission is not about strategy or particular activity to add to our daily existence. Mission is, above all, a matter of spreading a word full of a Presence and nourished daily by an experience of fraternity that once again, every day and to every single human being asks the questions “Who am I?”, “Where do I come from?” and, especially, “Where am I going and why?”
From these questions unavoidably it emerges that the world of planning, of the exact calculation and experiment that is the knowledge of science, though important for the human life, is not enough. We need not only material bread, but also we need love, meaning and hope, a sure foundation and a solid ground that helps us to live with an authentic sense even in crisis, in darkness and in our daily difficulties and problems. We need to believe and to look at life with the eyes of faith.
Faith is not a mere intellectual assent of man to some particular truths of God. It is an act by which I entrust myself freely in a God who is our Father and loves me. It is adherence to a “You” that gives me hope, trust and love without measure.
Faith is to believe in this love of God that never fails in front of the wickedness of man, evil or death, but is capable of transforming all forms of slavery, giving the possibility of salvation.
Have faith, then, is to meet the “You,” God, who sustains us and gives us an indestructible love which not only tends to eternity, but also gives it. It is trust in God with the attitude of a child, who knows that all his difficulties and all his problems are safely in the “you” of his mother. This possibility of salvation through faith is a gift that God gives to all men.
I think that in our daily life, characterized by problems and situations at times dramatic, we should meditate more often the Word of God sown in us, to understand that to believe in a Christian way means to surrender with confidence to the deep meaning that sustains us and the world. It is a meaning that we are not able to give ourselves, but only to receive as a gift. This is the foundation on which we can live without fear. We must be able to accommodate this liberating and reassuring certainty of faith to proclaim the Word with our words and bear witness of it with our lives as Christians.
The parable of the sower, who is the Lord sowing so abundant, helps us to grow in the awareness and commitment to accept the Word of God and using it productively. There are many risks and many situations in which the Word of God bears no fruit, not because of the action of God, who could not be more abundant, but because of our distractions, superficiality and temptations. The sower Jesus plants the seed everywhere (it seems even wasting it), not discarding any soil but considering each one worthy of trust and attention. Thus the Church, through the Bishops, the Priests and all the Faithful, should give the Word to all and should do it tirelessly.
This is the vocation of every Christian. We are all sowers of the Word, from the Pope to the last baptized person. Not all of us are sowers to the same degree and with the same responsibilities, but we are all responsible to bring the Word to the world, knowing that the Word is our life even before to be our voice.
Every morning every Christian should leave his home not just to earn a material living, but also a spiritual one “going out to sow Christ, wheat that becomes Bread”, without being discouraged if some seeds were to fall on bad ground.
2) The seed and the soil.
The figure of the sower appears at the beginning of today’s parable and then disappears. The protagonists are the seed and the soil, and the situation presented by the parable is the one where it seems that all is lost, and the failure of the Kingdom and of the Word is total or excessive. With this parable Jesus tells us that it is not so. It is true that there are many failures, but it is certain that somewhere there is success. It is a lesson in trust.
In addition, it should be noted that in this parable Christ turns his attention to the “land” of the souls of men and of human conscience and shows what happens to the Word of God according to the various types of land of which is made the field of humanity. Jesus speaks of a seed that was taken away and has not grown up in the heart of man because he has succumbed to the evil and did not understand the Word. Then he talks about the seed that fell on rocky ground, on the hard ground where it was not able to put down roots and therefore, could not resist the first test. We hear him talk about the seed that fell among thistles and thorns and was choked by them (these thistles and thorns are the illusions of well-being). Finally, He talks about the seed that fell on good fertile soil and bears fruit. Who is this fertile land? The one who hears the word and understands it. He listens and understands. It is not enough just to hear the Gospel of the new and eternal Covenant, which is the word of this Word made flesh. It must be accept with the mind and the heart.
Over the course of two thousand years the earth has already been thoroughly sown with this word. Christ as the Word has made fertile this ground of human history through the redemption and the blood of his cross. And in the word of the Cross his sowing continues, beginning “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21: 1). All the sowers of the Word of Christ draw the strength of their service from the unspeakable mystery that has become – once and for all – the union of God the Word to human nature and to every man (such as the teaching of the Second Vatican Council in Gaudium et Spes, 22). The words of the Gospel fall on the soil of the souls of men, but especially the Eternal Word itself, generated by the work of the Holy Spirit from the Virgin-Mother, has become a source of life for humanity.
May the Virgin Mary help us to be like her, “good land” where the seed of the Word will bear much fruit.
The consecrated Virgins in the world are among those who have taken in a particular way to model the Virgin Mary. Following the example of Mary, their word becomes prayer, gratitude, and gift of love. With this gift of love their word becomes a proclamation of the Word of truth that unites man to the loving life of God. In the virginal gift of self they recognize that Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, is King of Love, in whose merciful goodness is reasonable to have a complete trust. With their lives they prove the truth of the sentences of Saint Ambrose “Your word is kept not in the tomb of the dead, but in the book of the living” (see patristic reading below)
Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (340 – 397): From the beginning of the treatise On the Mysteries
(Nn 1-7: SC 25 bis, 156-158)
We gave a daily instruction on right conduct when the readings were taken from the history of the patriarchs or the maxims of Proverbs. These readings were intended to instruct and train you, so that you might grow accustomed to the ways of our forefathers, entering into their paths and walking in their footsteps, in obedience to God’s commands. Now the season reminds us that we must speak of the mysteries, setting forth the meaning of the sacraments. If we had thought fit to teach these things to those not yet initiated through baptism, we should be considered traitors rather than teachers. Then, too, the light of the mysteries is of itself more effective where people do not know what to expect than where some instruction has been given beforehand. Open then your ears. Enjoy the fragrance of eternal life, breathed on you by means of the sacraments. We explained this to you as we celebrated the mystery of “the opening” when we said: Effetha, that is, be opened. Everyone who was to come for the grace of baptism had to understand what he was to be asked, and must remember what he was to answer. This mystery was celebrated by Christ when he healed the man who was deaf and dumb, in the Gospel which we proclaimed to you. After this, the holy of holies was opened up for you; you entered into the sacred place of regeneration. Recall what you were asked; remember what you answered. You renounced the devil and his works, the world and its dissipation and sensuality. Your words are recorded, not on a monument to the dead but in the book of the living. There you saw the Levite, you saw the priest, and you saw the high priest. Do not consider their outward form but the grace given by their ministries. You spoke in the presence of angels, as it is written: The lips of a priest guard knowledge, and men seek the law from his mouth, for he is the angel of the Lord almighty. There is no room for deception, no room for denial. He is an angel whose message is the kingdom of Christ and eternal life. You must judge him, not by his appearance but by his office. Remember what he handed on to you, weigh up his value, and so acknowledge his standing. You entered to confront your enemy, for you intended to renounce him to his face. You turned toward the east, for one who renounces the devil turns toward Christ and fixes his gaze directly on him.