Jesus doesn’t often explain his parables but he does so in the case of Parable of the Sower which is set before us for our consideration today. It is a bit more complicated than many of his other parables and the disciples query him. They clearly do not understand its meaning and so they question him asking why he speaks so often in parables when it is obvious that a lot of the people do not understand them.
Jesus knows that not everyone understands the parables and he explains that he employs this way of teaching the people because he wants them to think very deeply about the message he is preaching. He wants them to realise that they need to go below the surface of the words he is using; he wants people to realise that his message is a deep one and that to understand it requires real insight.
Jesus wants his listeners to realise that they need to go to the inner meaning of his words. Yes, the parables can be taken as literal stories but there is much more to them than that. We need to realise that each of them has a symbolic meaning, they each have a deeper purpose and his intent in speaking in parables is to help people to come to more profound understanding of his Gospel.
Christ does not want people to remain on the surface, he wants them to unravel his words and come to a real appreciation of his Gospel of love. When he says to the disciples ‘happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear’ we come to the realisation that there are two ways at looking at his words. Firstly, there is sight; which means that we see what is on the surface. But then there is what we might call insight, which means looking below the surface in order to see the deeper meaning of what Jesus is telling us.
Plain sight is superficial but insight is something much more profound. To come to insight, we need to think very carefully about the words of Jesus, we need to do some real work in order to be able to appreciate the profundity of his message. We need to meditate on the words of Jesus, to turn them over in our minds and gradually to uncover their hidden meaning. The problem with the Scribes and the Pharisees is that they remain on the surface and they fail to unlock the meaning of Jesus’ stories and parables. They take everything at face value and fail to get below the surface of his teaching.
The Word of God is indeed a seed that is planted in our hearts and it will only grow and flourish if it finds in us a certain receptivity and openness to the Gospel of Christ. We need to prepare ourselves so that we are able to receive the Word of God. We want our hearts to be fertile places where the Word can be planted in us and grow to produce a rich harvest. We know very well that if we are not open to the Word it will not flourish. Our hearts can then be compared to that rocky soil and the Word of God will not grow in us; it will be crowded out by the cares of the world.
The Parable of the Sower is a very profound one and it repays deep meditation. We need to reflect on our own lives and ask ourselves whether our hearts are rocky ground or whether it is filled with thorns. What we want is our hearts to be rich soil which will allow God’s Word to yield a plentiful harvest.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket