Hear the word of God and understand it (Matt 13:23)
There never has been a better year to understand the parable of the Sower. Like many others I have been working regularly in the garden in co-operation with others. It is a delight to observe and nurture the growth of plants of every sort, flowers, vegetables, fruit, herbs, weeds, saplings, damson trees that have borne fruit for the first time in ten years, plants that survived the spring sun, drought and frost, the summer winds and rain. With patience one is often surprised. Observant eyes see shrubs that have recovered after almost total wilting. It is good to stand back and admire the gifts of God the Creator who provides the conditions for growth, challenges the worker with major variations in weather, reminds us gently that planning ahead depends on factors over which we do not have control. Growth depends on the gift of God. It has always been so in both physical and spiritual life. Therefore the one who hears and understands God’s word gets ready to co-operate.
When experts say modern science will solve our problems they are only half true. With more information we can plan better but human beings take time to comply. For instance, Africa has an immense variety of plant life and minerals and now benefits greatly from modern science yet human beings have exploited that continent unwisely and greedily, colonialism has been destructive, corruption even now stops advances. The parable asks people to work together, avoid short-term selfish exploitation, show concern for their neighbours. We find we are not very good at being truly human and truly Christian. So Jesus advises how we can learn and live better. In the modern world that means making sure the physical and spiritual conditions are suitable, sharing out resources so that droughts and warfare do not ruin vast areas of land and large populations. Good planning is the Christian thing. If people are self-indulgent and wasteful then others will suffer. In the parable Christ calls everyone to understand and respect God’s creation and prepare well for co-operation.
The parable also highlights the dilemma of those who reject any overall purpose to human existence. They notice how the weeds and brambles of selfishness choke life and they can’t see the way ahead clearly. It’s as if a fog of uncertainty spoils their hopes so they decide to reduce expectations and lose idealism, falling by the wayside, getting entangled in the brambles of self-advancement only. Love yourself first becomes their motto. Jesus understands these attitudes and says in response that he has seen the future and he is the Way. Keep your faith intact and have a picture of God’s overall plan in your mind. Jesus assures you that there will be a wonderful result if you persist to work with trust in God’s plan for generosity to all. Sow the word of God and expect God to give you a bumper crop.
Jesus the Lord understands that God is ever active and ever generous. We are free to receive and respond. To reject his gifts and ignore responsibility means we do not even start to be genuinely human. To be narrow minded and shallow means we live for show and soon fade away. To have low expectations is to produce next to nothing. Do your spiritual gardening by working hard, co-operating, being observant, being grateful God has created the conditions for a good life and has asked us to be ready to share his riches.
One simple resolution to take from the gospel of the Sower is to practise random acts of kindness. Jesus invites you to understand better what he is about by listening carefully and acting generously. Kindness can build on itself and make a real difference. Support a charity and learn how it plans to help the needy; plant flowers in a derelict space; collect litter; study the economy. Receive God’s call to reflect on the Good News, experience the satisfaction of co-operating with your neighbor and so with Jesus. Begin slowly, with a single act of generosity.
Today’s Gospel challenges us to understand the world from the perspective of Jesus and sow our own seeds of random kindness and see how God will produce a hundred-fold in the lives of so many both here and in the life to come.