Where you are planted

parable_SowerThe parable’s focus on the seeds is an allegory for those who hear the word of the kingdom proclaimed. The parables describe the varying receptiveness to what they hear; all hear the same word. Yet each type of person is identified as what was sown in a certain place. This might strike us as odd since we are biased to understand the “seed” as the Word of God proclaimed, but understanding of the parable rests on the interaction of the unvarying seed with the various types of ground. Continue reading

Generosity and Persistence

In the traditional understanding of the parable of “The Sower and Seed,” the focus is often on the soil as a description of our hearts, of our openness to the word of God being sown into our lives. The soil/heart is described as a well-trod path, rocky ground, a bramble of thorns, or rich fertile soil. There is some insight there to be sure, but it does not necessarily give insight into a remedy.  Some have described it as “the soil under your feet”. All one must do is to look down, assess the conditions where you stand in life, and move. Move to the rich fertile soil – and yes, along the way you will have to deal with birds, the weeds and the scorching sun.

At least two things stand out for me about the Sower: generosity and persistence.

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Saying Yes

Over the years while leading Bible studies, participating in RCIA to help folks fully enter the Catholic Church, or just in the odd discussion, I try to make a point about the most basic purpose of Sacred Scripture. It is simply this: for God to reveal God’s self to us – an invitation to a personal and communal covenant relationship. God tells us about God’s self through stories, the people’s experience of God in the history of Israel, and most especially in his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Think about the stories of our ancestors in faith. Basically, they all begin with an invitation to begin, follow, and slowly learn about God. My reading of the stories of Abraham and Sarah, Moses, King David, the prophets, and more all began with an invitation. Their encounter with God led them to a journey of an ever-deepening relationship with God. Along the way there are plenty of questions – some as simple as Moses’ inquiry about the name of God: “if I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what do I tell them?” (Ex 3:13)  The same pattern is played out in Jesus’ calling the apostles from their fishing boats, tax collection stations, and other endeavors. Calling them to leave all behind and journey with him for three years: from Galilee to Calvary. Continue reading

What do you hear?

Next Sunday is the celebration of the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time. You can read a complete commentary on the Gospel here.

1 On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore.3 And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.5 Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,6 and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.7 Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.8 But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.9 Whoever has ears ought to hear.” Continue reading

Preparing good soil

In the chapters and verses leading up to today’s Gospel, opposition is growing, pushing back against Jesus and his ministry. Some do not like that he has cured people on the Sabbath or that Jesus emphasizes mercy and compassion over rules and regulations. Things get pretty rancorous; some go as far as to accuse Jesus of being in league with Satan. Other just keep asking for another miracle, another sign. And yet others believe. Through all of this, Jesus keeps sowing the seeds of faith. Continue reading

From mystery to Truth

The Purpose of the Parables. Verses 10-17 are formally an interlude between the first parable and its explanation, but they are essential to the understanding of the chapter as a whole, as they set out the division between the enlightened disciples and the unresponsive crowd which is the focus both of the structure of the chapter and of much of its contents.

Unlike the telling of the parable, this is a private conversation between Jesus and the disciples who have initiated the conversation with the direct question: Why do you speak to them in parables? One presumes that the disciples have noticed that some of the listeners are perplexed and do not understand. – so why use this cryptic form of teaching rather than plain statement? Continue reading

Will they produce fruit?

Commentary. Matthew 13 is a “day of parables.” The parable of the sower is spoken in public to great crowds (vv. 1–3), but its explanation and the teaching about parables are spoken only to the disciples (vv. 10–11). More parables are then spoken to ‘the crowds’ (v. 34), but the crowds are again left behind (v. 36), and the second explanation and further parables are spoken to the disciples in ‘the house’ (which Jesus had left in v. 1). The unresponsive crowds are thus clearly distinguished from the disciples to whom alone explanation is given, and this distinction is spelt out in vv. 11–17. Continue reading

A sower went out to sow…

Matthew 13:1–23 1 On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore.3 And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.5 Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,6 and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.7 Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.8 But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.9 Whoever has ears ought to hear.” Continue reading

Can I get an “Amen?”

isaiah55As you probably know, this summer we have been taking a look at the people, events and issues of the Protestant Reformations of the 16th century. Among the Reformers there was a far greater emphasis placed on Scripture and preaching the Word. John Calvin’s typical Sunday homily seems to have been about 2 hours. John Knox’s homilies often had intermissions. Hard to imagine, heh? But it was a different era – not just because Sunday was dedicated to church, worship, and little else – but because for that generation of people, Scripture was coming alive for the first time. When the Zurich reformer Zwingli first began to preach he started at the beginning of the Gospel according to Matthew. Sunday after Sunday he worked his way through the whole Gospel, proclaiming, teaching, cajoling, and encouraging people to embrace and be embraced by God. The Word of God set people ablaze. Continue reading

Speaking in parables

parable_SowerThe Purpose of the Parables. Verses 10-17 are formally an interlude between the first parable and its explanation, but they are essential to the understanding of the chapter as a whole, as they set out the division between the enlightened disciples and the unresponsive crowd which is the focus both of the structure of the chapter and of much of its contents. Continue reading