Gospel: Matthew 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.”
My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord!
When you stop and think about faith, my brothers and sisters, it truly is a mysterious thing. Many devout parents have to bear the sorrow of knowing that the faith they love and cherish has not passed down the generations. Despite their having done everything possible, their children have not chosen to embrace the faith in which they were raised. It’s easy for people in such circumstances to blame themselves; maybe we should have tried harder, or perhaps we should have set better examples or even the pressing question of what did I do wrong? Or maybe even should have sent them to a better school or catechetical program. It’s often said that faith is caught and not taught. This may be true in many cases, but families, where a vibrant and healthy faith is the norm of prayer and regular practice, can still produce atheist children. In contrast, families, where there is not an obvious ounce of faith, can produce children who grow to be ardent Christians. Ultimately, this mystery is only known to God.
And yet we need not despair, even if we have a certain sense of regret or failure. One of our Eucharistic prayers reminds us that not only pray for the shepherds of the Church, whose faith sustains that of the whole community, but we also pray for those whose faith is known to God alone. Many people in the world can be described as “people of goodwill” because of the grace of God. However, little room anyone makes for God in their life, God will always occupy that space and make it fruitful.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus preaches in a parable, and his disciples question why he does this; wouldn’t It be better to speak plainly, in black and white? But when you think about it, faith does not offer easy solutions to complex questions, and the grey areas in life are often precisely where there is room for faith to grow and mature.
As we listen to the readings today, especially the Gospel passage, we see time and time against that Jesus constructs his parable around the daily lives of his listeners. In a mixed economy of the pastoral and agricultural, he moves conveniently between the two groups to bring them home to his teaching. The seed and the sower is a favorite image of his because it allows him to bring out the miraculous growth and transformation that the good news can achieve in and through us. It also builds his message on the authentic way that nature works, a pattern that will become the foundation of our understanding of sacramental life.
There are, however, various ways in which we block the transmission of his word and prevent it from taking root in our hearts, and producing its fruit is the way we live. We can be too busy with other things; we can be shallow and not be able to deal with the challenges which life throws at us. We can become too distracted by what the world offers us. Its riches, as well as its doubts and difficulties. What is asked of us is to have an open heart but then also to have the depth to understand what God is saying to us. We have a way that is transformed by God living and working through us.