Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, September 17, 2016 — The Parable of the Sower

Saturday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 448

“For the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.”

Christ of the Cornfield by Frank Dicksee

Reading 1 1 COR 15:35-37, 42-49

Brothers and sisters:
Someone may say, “How are the dead raised?
With what kind of body will they come back?”You fool!
What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies.
And what you sow is not the body that is to be
but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind.So also is the resurrection of the dead.
It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible.
It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious.
It is sown weak; it is raised powerful.
It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.So, too, it is written,
“The first man, Adam, became a living being,”
the last Adam a life-giving spirit.
But the spiritual was not first;
rather the natural and then the spiritual.
The first man was from the earth, earthly;
the second man, from heaven.
As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly,
and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly.
Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one,
we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.

Responsorial PsalmPS 56:10C-12, 13-14

R. (14) I will walk in the presence of God, in the light of the living.
Now I know that God is with me.
In God, in whose promise I glory,
in God I trust without fear;
what can flesh do against me?
R. I will walk in the presence of God, in the light of the living.
I am bound, O God, by vows to you;
your thank offerings I will fulfill.
For you have rescued me from death,
my feet, too, from stumbling;
that I may walk before God in the light of the living.
R. I will walk in the presence of God, in the light of the living.

AlleluiaSEE LK 8:15

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart
and yield a harvest through perseverance.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 8:4-15

When a large crowd gathered, with people from one town after another
journeying to Jesus, he spoke in a parable.
“A sower went out to sow his seed.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled,
and the birds of the sky ate it up.
Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew,
it withered for lack of moisture.
Some seed fell among thorns,
and the thorns grew with it and choked it.
And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew,
it produced fruit a hundredfold.”
After saying this, he called out,
“Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”

Then his disciples asked him
what the meaning of this parable might be.
He answered,
“Knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God
has been granted to you;
but to the rest, they are made known through parables
so that they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.

“This is the meaning of the parable.
The seed is the word of God.
Those on the path are the ones who have heard,
but the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts
that they may not believe and be saved.
Those on rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear,
receive the word with joy, but they have no root;
they believe only for a time and fall away in time of temptation.
As for the seed that fell among thorns,
they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along,
they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life,
and they fail to produce mature fruit.
But as for the seed that fell on rich soil,
they are the ones who, when they have heard the word,
embrace it with a generous and good heart,
and bear fruit through perseverance.”


Commentary on Luke 8:4-15 From Living Space

We saw yesterday that Jesus was going around preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, accompanied by his twelve chosen disciples and a number of women who supported the work. Jesus, we are told, is surrounded by people who have come from every nearby city. There is an intimation of universality, ‘catholicism’, about the message he is going to give.

We are given an example of some of the teaching that he was giving them. It takes the form of a parable, the well-known parable of the sower. As in Matthew’s version, the parable is told in two stages. The first is the parable itself. The emphasis is on the sower sowing. He scatters the seed all over – as Jesus is now doing with the people. Some of it falls on the path, some on rocks, some among brambles and some on good soil.

It describes a typical situation in Palestine at the time. The field was largely a public place, at least while it was fallow. So there were paths meandering across it where people took short cuts. The land was not very fertile so there were pieces of rock jutting out of the soil. In the fallow season, it was not looked after and wild plants like brambles grew up. Also, unlike other farming cultures, the sowing took place before the ploughing.

The central message is that, even though some of the seed that the sower plants will wither and die, there is some which will find fertile soil and flourish. So it is with the Word of God and the Word of Jesus. It is a message of confidence and hope for the future of the Kingdom. In the Gospel, it is Jesus’ disciples who are the fertile soil.

As he finished the parable Jesus called out to all, inviting them to hear. He did not mean that they just physically hear. They are meant to listen carefully, to assimilate fully and to implement effectively all that he says. He is the Sower, the seed is the Word, those spoken to are the soil.

Clear and all as it is, the disciples ask for an explanation of the parable. Jesus tells them that the inner secrets of the Kingdom are for them. Why this privilege? Because they are disciples, because they are followers, because they are ready to listen. The rest hear in parables and only in parables: seeing, they do not see; hearing, they do not understand. They do not really want to see or hear because, as the Gospel says elsewhere, if they were to see and understand, they would have to turn their lives around and they are not ready for that.

The disciples are those who have done just that; they have left their boats, their nets and their families, their security and gone with Jesus. That is what seeing and hearing means.

Then follows the explanation which really carries the original parable further than its simple message. In fact, it becomes more like an allegory where each part has a meaning of its own rather than the one point that a parable normally makes. And, whereas in the parable the emphasis was on the sower, here the emphasis is very much on the soil which receives the seed. Each example is made to represent a particular way in which the message is received or not.

The seed that falls on the path is like those who hear the word but it is snatched away from them before they have even a chance to respond. The overwhelming pagan world around them was just too strong an attraction.

The seed that falls on the rock where there may be some moisture in the crevices is like those who hear the word with great enthusiasm and joy (a favourite Lucan term). But they are not able to put down any long-lasting roots and, at the first hint of opposition or temptation, they fall away. They represent the many early Christians who must have given up under the pressures of persecution.

The seed that falls among the brambles represents those who do hear and accept the word. But, gradually the pressure of the secular world and its values is too much. They try to live in both worlds at once but are gradually choked up with concerns about money and material and social wants and the pursuit of pleasure. Eventually, the word dies in them. Many Christians today could identify with this group.

The seed that falls on good soil represents those who hear the word in all openness and accept it fully. The word takes root deep within them and overflows in all kinds of good works.

It is quite clear to which group we are called to belong. To which one, in fact, should I honestly identify myself?


Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
• In today’s Gospel, we will meditate on the parable of the seed. Jesus had a very popular word to teach by means of parables. A parable is a comparison which uses the visible things of life that are known to explain the invisible and unknown things of the Kingdom of God. Jesus had an enormous capacity to find very simple images to compare the things of God with the things of life which people knew and experienced in their daily struggle to survive. This presupposes two things: to be within the things of life, and to be within the things of God, of the Kingdom of God. For example, the people of Galilee understood all about seeds, of land, of rain, of the sun, of salt of flowers, of the harvest, of fishing, etc. Now, there are exactly these known things that Jesus uses in the parables to explain the mystery of the Kingdom. The farmer who listens says: “The seed in the ground, I know what this means. Jesus says that this has something to do with the Kingdom of God. What could this ever be?” It is possible to imagine the long conversations with the people! The parable enters into the heart of the people and urges them to listen to nature and to think about life.
• When he finishes telling the parable, Jesus does not explain it, but he usually says: “Who has ears to hear, let him hear” This means: “This is: You have heard and so now try to understand!” From time to time he would explain to the disciples: People like this way of teaching, because Jesus believed in the personal capacity to discover the sense of the parables. The experience which people had of life was for him a means to discover the presence of the mystery of God in their life and to have courage not to be discouraged along the way.
• Luke 8, 4: The crowds follow Jesus. Luke says: a large crowd got around him and people from all the towns ran to him from all the towns. So then he tells them this parable. Mark describes how Jesus told the parable. There were so many people that he, in order not to fall, went into a boat and sitting down he taught the people who were on the seashore (Mk 4, 1).
• Luke 8, 5-8°: The parable of the seed is a mirror of the life of the farmers. At that time, it was not easy to live from agriculture. The ground was full of rocks; there was little rain, much sun. Besides, many times, people, to shorten the way, passed through the fields and stepped on the plants (Mk 2, 23). But in spite of that, every year the farmer sowed and planted, trusting in the force of the seed, in the generosity of nature.
• Luke 8, 8b: Anyone who has ears to hear let him hear! At the end, Jesus says: “Anyone who has ears to hear, let him hear!” The way to be able to understand the parable is to search: “Try to understand!” The parable does not say everything immediately, but moves the person to think. It does it in such a way that the person discovers the message beginning from the experience which the person has of the seed. It urges the person to be creative and to participate. It is not a doctrine which is presented ready to be taught and decorated. The parable is not water in a bottle, it is the source.
• Luke 8, 9-10: Jesus explains the parable to the disciples. At home, alone with Jesus, the disciples want to know the meaning of the parable. Jesus responds by means of a difficult and mysterious phrase. He says to the Disciples: “To you is granted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God, for the rest it remains in parables so that “they may look but not perceive, listen but not understand”. This phrase gives rise to a question in the heart of the people: What is the purpose of a parable? Is it to clarify or to hide things? Did Jesus uses the parables in order that people continue in their ignorance and would not convert themselves? Certainly not! In another place it is said that Jesus used the parables “according to what they could understand” (Mk 4, 33). The parable reveals and hides at the same time” It reveals for those who are “inside, within” who accept Jesus Messiah Servant. It hides for those who insist in seeing in him the Messiah the glorious King. These understand the images of the parable, but do not understand its meaning.
• Luke 8, 11-15: The explanation of the parable, in its diverse parts. One by one, Jesus explains the parts of the parable, the seed, and the earth up to the harvest time. Some scholars think that this explanation was added afterwards; that it would not be from Jesus’, but from one of the communities. This is possible! It does not matter! Because in the bud of the parable there is the flower of the explanation. Buds and flowers, both of them have the same origin, that is, Jesus. This is why we also can continue to reflect and to discover other beautiful things in the parable. Once, a person in a community asked: “Jesus says that we have to be salt. For what does salt serve?” The persons gave their opinion starting from the experience which each one had regarding salt! And they applied all this to the life of the community and discovered that to be salt is difficult and demanding. The parable functioned well! The same thing can be applied to the seeds. All have a certain experience.
Personal questions
• The seed falls in four different places: on the road side, among the rocks, among the thorns and in the good earth. What does each one of these four places mean? What type of earth am I? Sometimes, people are rock; other times thistles; other roadside, other times good ground. Normally, what are we in our community?
• Which are the fruits which the Word of God is producing in our life and in our community?
Concluding Prayer
Your kingship is a kingship for ever,
your reign lasts from age to age.
Yahweh is trustworthy in all his words,
and upright in all his deeds. (Ps 145,12-13)
Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
17 SEPTEMBER 2016, Saturday, 24th Week of Ordinary Time

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1 COR 15:35-37.42-49; LK 8:4-15 ]

Like the Christians in Corinth, we too, speculate about the resurrected body in the next life.  Like them, we are keen to know, “How are dead people raised, and what sort of bodies do they have when they come back?”  And the response of St Paul to such questions was harsh.  He told them off saying, “They are stupid questions.”  Why are these stupid questions?  Well, one thing for certain is that the resurrected body would be vastly different from that of an earthly body.  Otherwise, we do not have a transfigured perfect body but a resuscitated earthly body.

Though the resurrected body has some continuity with the earthly body, there is also a discontinuity as well.  The analogy given by St Paul is that of a seed sown on the ground and dies, and the plant or tree that appears as a result.  The seed is so small and insignificant, yet the transformation is beyond imagination.  More so if we speak of the mustard seed and the full grown mustard tree.  Hence, St Paul concludes, “it is the same with the resurrection of the dead: the thing that is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; the thing that is sown is weak but what is raised is powerful; when it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit.”

Indeed, the resurrected body is a spiritual body.  In itself, this term appears to be paradoxical as one is either a body or a spirit.  So what then is a spiritual body?  St Paul tells us that Christ, the heavenly man, the last Adam who “has become a life-giving spirit” pours forth that same Spirit in us, the Spirit that the Father raised from the dead.  Hence, like the soul which only has the earthly body as its embodiment, “so does the spirit have its own embodiment.”  A body that is so filled with the Holy Spirit is what the resurrected body is all about.

At the present time, by virtue of our baptism, we already have a share of this Spirit as the sons and daughters of God, the brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ.  However, the indwelling of the Spirit in us is not full, or rather, we are not fully conscious of His presence.  We are still not full of grace because of the vestiges of sin that remain in us.  We can therefore only say we have a foretaste of the resurrected life.  Indeed, as long as we allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and His grace to work in us, we are filled with joy, peace and love.   If our spirit is one with the Spirit of Christ, surely, it will impact our body as well.  After all, we know that the body is the window of the spirit and many of our illnesses are psycho-somatic, or at least the consequence of not living an integrated life.   Yes, how we feel and what we think affects the health and state of our body.  But if the Spirit of God lives in us fully, then this body of ours would also be so perfected and raised to a level and state that is unimaginable.

So how then can we be so filled with the Spirit that our body becomes transfigured in Him?  The gospel gives us the key to a spirit-filled body.  It is through His Word.  Unless His Word dwells in us, how can His Spirit fill our hearts and minds?  Jesus, who is the Word of the Father and the One whom the Father sends in His name, seeks to give us His Spirit.  But the way to avail of His Spirit is primarily through the receptivity of His Word.

Within this context, we can better appreciate the parable of the Sower. In the first place, we must be clear that just as the resurrected body is a gift from God, so too is the Word.  Salvation is always the initiative of God.  This means that grace has the primacy in everything.  We cannot earn our salvation.  We cannot arrive at God through our human ingenuity or through human merit alone.  Salvation is pure grace given by God.  This is the fundamental meaning of the parable of the Sower.  Jesus’ intent is to emphasize that the kingdom of God is brought about by the sheer graciousness of God’s love and generosity.  Like the sower, He sows His seed.  Both the sower and the seed do not come from us but from God Himself.

Again, one might ask, why is it that some seeds fell on the edge of the path, some on rock, some among thorns and some on good soil?  It is not fair, we might argue. Again, this is sheer grace!  In John’s gospel, Jesus Himself said, “No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me.”  This is true in life as well.  Whether we are born rich or poor, healthy or weak, intelligent or dull, is not within our control.  They are the givens in life and we simply have to be grateful for whatever the Lord has given to us, since He has sovereignty over how He wants to distribute His gifts.

However, this primacy of God’s grace does not dispense us from exonerating ourselves from the work of salvation.  The truth is that although everything is the grace of God, God has given each of us sufficient graces to be saved, since He wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:4)  The part we are called to play in the work of our salvation is that of response and receptivity.  He has given us all the necessary graces to come to know and find salvation in Him.

The question is not so much what we do not have, but whether we are receptive to His grace that comes to us in different ways.  It is immaterial whether the seed falls on the edge of the path, on rock, among thorns or fertile soil.   Even within the situation we are in, regardless of our status in life, we can be saved, that is, find real happiness on earth and in heaven, since happiness is not tied down to one’s wealth, power, popularity, status or even intelligence.  Rather, it has to do with one’s inner state of mind and soul, whether he or she finds love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal 5:22)   Indeed, as St Paul says. “The Kingdom of God does not mean eating or drinking this or that, it means righteousness and peace and joy brought by the Holy Spirit.”  (Rom 14:17)

In the light of God’s grace in giving us His Word through His Son, Jesus Christ, we must at least show our gratitude by disposing ourselves to receive His Word that comes to us each day in so many different ways.  God’s Word, which is His grace, can come to us through prayer, meditation on the Word of God, the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, through the blessings of nature and created things, through our daily experiences and world events happening each day, and most of all, through the kindness and love of our friends.   If only we are attentive to His grace coming to us, we would have more than enough to see us through.

Consequently, we must ask, “what is it that hinders us from receiving the full installment of His grace which He wants to give to us?”  Perhaps we do not have our priorities right.  Just like the pathway, we marginalize God in our lives.  For many of us, prayer and relationship with God is bottom in our list of things to do each day.  We give higher priority to work, pleasure, food and human relationships than God in our lives.

Or perhaps, we are just like the rock that puts up barriers to the grace of God at work in us.  This rock could very well represent our pride and ego, the biggest obstacles to faith.  We do not want to let go till we can find an explanation for everything.  Or sometimes, we know the truth but we just refuse to admit to ourselves that it is so.  Quite often too, when the truth is given to us by someone else, we are not receptive because we are too proud to acknowledge that they are right.  So we need to break that ego of ours if God were to be able to reach out to us.

Thirdly, we could be in the situation of the thorns.  We are simply too preoccupied with many things.  We give all the reasons why we have to attend to these demands, as if without us, the whole world will collapse.  We have this messianic-complex that the salvation of the whole world depends on us.  So we try to please everyone and exhaust ourselves spiritually, physically and mentally, so that we are ill disposed to prayer or to meditation.  God is so far away from us even though deep in our hearts, we cry out for Him.   Of course, the thorns could also symbolize those people in our lives we cannot tolerate or forgive, or all the sins in our lives which we cannot give up.  The thorns of resentment, bitterness, anger and hatred will also choke us so that we have no space for the Spirit of God to fill our hearts.  By refusing to let go of sin, our hearts are only able to receive a trickling of God’s grace.

But blessed are those whose hearts are like the fertile ground!  Those who are docile to the Spirit and receptive to His grace that comes through the Word of God, preached, proclaimed or mediated by the Church, or our fellow brothers and sisters, will be so suffused with His presence that their minds and hearts will be transformed to be like His. Putting on the mind of Christ and clothing ourselves with the love of God in our hearts, our bodies, even on this earth, will be radiant like the heavenly Jerusalem, because our faces will glow with joy, our hearts filled with love and our minds filled with peace.  In this way, as St Irenaeus says, “the glory of God is found in man fully alive!”

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
Parable of the Sower

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One Response to “Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, September 17, 2016 — The Parable of the Sower”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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