A BEAUTIFUL PARABLE OF JESUS IN THE FIELD OF FARMING
(A biblical reflection on the 15th Ordinary Sunday [Year A] – 16 July 2017)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:1-9 (longer version: Matthew 13:1-23)
First Reading: Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalms: Psalm 65:10-14, Second Reading: Romans 8:18-23
The Scripture Text
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about Him, so that He got into a boat and sat there; and the whole crowd stood on the beach. And He told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched; and since they had no root they withered away. Other seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:1-9 RSV)
Methods of farming in Jesus’ day were very different from the methods modern farmers use. Today’s farmer plows the field before scattering the seed, but in biblical times farmers reversed the process. The first-century farmer scattered the seed on the ground first and then turned over the soil. We must keep this in mind when reading today’s Gospel.
Because the seed rested on top of the ground for a while before the farmer plowed the soil, the wind sometimes blew it to an area the farmer did not intend it to be. This explains how some of the seed landed on the foot path and how some of it ended up on the rocky ground or among the thorns.
In the analogy in today’s Gospel, the seed represents the word of God and the different places where the seed landed represent different kinds of people and their response to the Gospel message. The rocky soil stands for the person who hears God’s word but does not allow it to take root. Letting the seed take root means letting the Gospel message make a difference in a person’s life. It means living out one’s commitment to Jesus by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick or lonely.
Some of the seed landed among thorns which represent worldly cares like fame, power, and money. When these become the center of a person’s life, there isn’t much time or energy left for prayer and spiritual matters.
Some seed landed on the footpath. This symbolizes the person who hears God’s word but doesn’t take time to study Scripture and, therefore, doesn’t understand it. As a result, the Gospel message cannot make much of a difference in this person’s life.
Finally some of the seed fell on good soil where it produced a yield of thirty, sixty, or a hundred-fold. The good soil represents people who are spiritually fruitful because they not only hear God’s word but also understand it and live it. Since a farmer in Jesus’ day would have been extremely proud of such a large harvest, we can assume Jesus is proud of us when His word takes root and grows in our lives.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, God, open my heart to the power of God’s word in the Scripture. Help me to learn God’s ways. Make me into good soil that receives the seed of Your precious word and bears in me the fruit of your love.
Jakarta, 13 July 2017
A Christian Pilgrim