Commentary on Matthew 13:18-23
Parables of the Kingdom (cont’d)
We come today to the explanation of the parable of the sower. Perhaps we should rather say an interpretation. It is presented as coming from Jesus but it is likely to have come from the tradition of the early Church. There is quite a different emphasis between the original parable and this interpretation. The parable focuses on the sower and the ultimate and inevitable success of his work. The interpretation, however, looks much more at the soil in which the seed falls. The interpretation reflects the experiences of the early Church as it tried to spread the Gospel. The four different kinds of soil are taken to represent four kinds of responses to the Word of God which it has received.
The first kind is like the seed on the stony path. The Word of God never even gets started but gets plucked away by the evil influences by which the person is surrounded. In our strongly secular world today it is not easy for the Word to take root with so many competing enticements.
The second kind is like the seed that falls on the rock. The Word of God is received with great enthusiasm; the person becomes a devout and active Christian. But, if obstacles arise which make the living of the Christian life difficult, the person falls away, maybe quickly, maybe gradually. As the Gospel says, the person has no roots; the faith has not gone deep, it is has not been really assimilated. This must have been the case with many in the early Church who enthusiastically embraced Christianity but when persecution came, abandoned their faith. In our own time, we see this often enough when people, for instance, are removed from a protected environment where it is easy to live the faith to one where the faith is ignored or even ridiculed.
The third kind is like the seed that falls among the briars and brambles. I would suggest that a very large number of us are touched by this category. Anxieties about many things and the lure of material goods can gradually choke off our commitment to the Gospel in its fullness. Our witness becomes seriously compromised and “there is no yield”, that is, we make no real contribution to building the Kingdom and changing the world. We sit on the fence and try to have the best of both worlds; we try to serve God and mammon, which Jesus says is not possible. I am sure many of us have matter for reflection here.
Finally, there is the fourth kind of seed which falls on good soil. This is the one “who hears the message and takes it in”. These hear the Word, accept the Word, make it their own and it overflows into all they are and do and say. Much fruit for the world comes from such persons.
These four types can still be found and it is for each one of us to determine to which group we belong.