Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Bulletin Date: 
Sunday, July 16, 2017

What Kind of Soil Are We?

Have you heard a good story lately? Like the Rabbis of his time, Jesus very frequently used parables – short stories and images taken from everyday life – to convey hidden truths about the kingdom of God. What can the parable about seeds and roots teach us about the kingdom of God?

Jesus' parable of the sower is aimed at the hearers of his word. Any farmer will attest to the importance of good soil for supplying nutrients for growth. There are different ways of accepting God's word and they produce different kinds of fruit accordingly. There is the prejudiced hearer who has a shut mind. Such a person is unteachable and blind to what he or she doesn't want to hear. Then there is the shallow hearer. He or she fails to think things out or think them through; they lack depth. They may initially respond with an emotional reaction; but when it wears off their mind wanders to something else.

Another type of hearer is the person who has many interests or cares, but who lacks the ability to hear or comprehend what is truly important. Such a person is too busy to pray or too preoccupied to study and meditate on God's word. Then there is the one whose mind is open. Such a person is at all times willing to listen and to learn. He or she is never too proud or too busy to learn. They listen in order to understand. God gives grace to those who hunger for his word that they may understand his will and have the strength to live according to it.

Jesus told his disciples that not everyone would understand his parables. Did Jesus mean to say that he was deliberately confusing or hiding the meaning of his stories from his listeners? Very likely not. Jesus was speaking from experience. He was aware that some who heard his parables refused to understand them. It was not that they could not intellectually understand them, but rather, their hearts were closed to what Jesus was saying. They had already made up their minds to not believe. God can only reveal the secrets of his kingdom – that which is hidden to the spiritually blind – to those who hunger for God and humbly submit to his truth.

What can make us ineffective or unresponsive to God's word? Preoccupation with other things can distract us from what is truly important and worthwhile. And letting our hearts and minds be consumed with material things can easily weigh us down and draw us away from the heavenly treasure that lasts for eternity. God's word can only take root in a receptive heart which is docile and ready to hear what God has to say. The parables of Jesus will enlighten us if we approach them with an open mind and heart, ready to let them challenge us. If we approach them with the conviction that we already know the answer, then we, too, may look but not see, listen but not understand. God's word can only take root in a receptive heart that is ready to believe and willing to submit.

One lesson from this parable is clear: the harvest is sure to come. While some seed will fall by the wayside and some fall on shallow ground and never come to maturity, and some be choked to death by the thorns; nonetheless a harvest will come. The seed that falls on good soil, on the heart that is receptive, will reap abundant fruit. God is always ready to speak to each of us and to give us understanding of his word. Are you hungry for his word? And do you allow anything to keep you from submitting to God's word with joy and trusting obedience?

God Bless! Fr. Elmer