Is 55:10-11; Rom 8:18-23; Mt 13:1-23
Little Tommy attended first grade Sunday school faithfully. He loved his teacher, Mrs. Smith. Mrs. Smith told great Bible stories, and she would always end the story by saying, “And, boys and girls, the MORAL of the story is …” Little Tommy enjoyed learning about the morals of each Bible story. But when Tommy entered second grade, he moved up to another Sunday school class, taught by Mrs. Jones. She told Bible stories, too, but she never ended them by giving the moral of the story. After a few weeks Tommy’s mom asked him how he liked his new Sunday school teacher. Tommy said, “Mrs. Jones is okay. The only problem is that she doesn’t have any morals.”
Coming a few Sundays we will be reflecting on the parables of Jesus, and I’m glad, the stories/parables of Jesus do have morals, or applications.
The people were accustomed to Jesus teaching in parables about the kingdom of God because Jesus gave most of his teaching about the kingdom in parables. They would automatically compare themselves to the characters in the parable and see whom in the parable they were like. Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 13, repeats seven parables Jesus taught on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The parable of the sower is the first. But what did Jesus mean by the Parable of the Sower?
Jesus’ parable of the seed sown in various soil types was an attempt to boost the morale of his frustrated disciples. They were upset and discouraged because they realized that their master was facing opposition and hostility from the scribes, Pharisees and priests. The synagogues refused to admit him to preach. So Jesus had to go to beaches and hillsides. Some of the Pharisees were planning to trap him, and the common people were more interested in his ability to heal them than in his preaching. Using the parable of the sower in today’s Gospel, Jesus assured his confused disciples that the “Good News” he preached would produce the intended effect in spite of opposition and controversy.
Some people took Jesus’ message to heart and produced fruit. Others didn’t take his message to heart at all and produced no fruit, or they took his message to heart for a while and then gave up and so produced only a little fruit. It even happened to his disciples. Judas betrayed Jesus and then took his own life? We would expect better from someone who had been personally taught by Jesus for three years and had shared Jesus’ company. Not all of the seed that Jesus sowed bore fruit as it should have or as we would expect.
The same could happen in a family. One family comes to mind, the Borromeo family in northern Italy. Carlo, whom we call Charles, St. Charles Borromeo, became a bishop, while his twin brother, Antonio, became the head of crime in northern Italy even hiring killers. Why do some produce fruit for the kingdom and others apparently not? It depends on whether we take Jesus and his message seriously.
We know that some the growth we experience in life, such as growing physically, just happens automatically as we grow older. Other kinds of growth require intentional effort on our part – such as growing in enough knowledge to get a degree or growing in certain skills; i.e., athletic or artistic or knowing how to get along socially with others or managing our finances so we can support ourselves.
Growing in God’s grace and holiness is like this second kind of growth. It is intentional on our part. It is not accidental. It involves making a choice that Jesus is more important to us than anything or anyone else. It means choosing to believe that he has come to teach us the way to God and choosing to follow him faithfully. It also involves patience as we wait for the fullness of the kingdom.
Jesus’ message for us in today’s parable is to know first of all that the Kingdom of heaven is not an entitlement. Just because the seed of grace has been planted in our hearts, if we do nothing with it, it will die. God is sowing the seed. The seed will continue to grow. All it takes is a simple and humble heart that is willing to hear and receive it.