The Gospel Reading is from the Gospel of Luke (8:5-18)
The parable of the sower is one of the longest and most important in the scriptures, similarly presented in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, while the Evangelist Matthew put it at the beginning of a sequence of seven parables known as the “Parables of the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 13).
The Lord Jesus chose to teach by parables as a way of delivering a story with a spiritual message. He often used images and symbols taken from daily life in Palestine, and in this particular parable of the sower, He chose farming and ploughing to reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.
In this instance, this parable became one of the few that Jesus Himself explained after His disciples asked Him to do so. It begins with the Lord saying: “The Farmer came out to sow His seeds,” which Jesus later explained is the word of God. He chose to omit who the Sower is, but it is clear to us that the Sower is the same Christ who came to proclaim the Kingdom of heaven and is also the incarnated Word of God. The Word took on flesh, He dwelt among us and we saw His glory; Christ united Himself with His teachings (His seeds). “If anyone loves me, he keeps my words,” (John 14:23). We come to know Christ as the Sower who plants the seeds of the word, and these words fall on the listeners, who receive them in different ways.
Jesus divided the listeners of the Word into four categories: those on the road, those on the rock, those of the thorns, and those of good earth.
It becomes abundantly clear that the issue of infertility and inability to bloom does not lay with the quality of the seeds or the Sower himself, but rather with the quality of the soil where the seeds happen to fall. And here we liken the soil to the human soul, where the quality and readiness of the soul determines the fertility or infertility of the seeds, and production of the desired harvest.
For the seeds that fall on to the road, these are the ones who hear the word, but then Satan comes and takes the Word out of their hearts so that they do not believe and cannot be saved. These are the groundless and have made themselves vulnerable to all kinds of ideas, heresies and ideologies. They are those who leave no place for the Word of God and for the faith, and Satan comes through distorted teachings and many heresies, and “removes the Word from their hearts so that they will not believe and be saved.”
As for those of the rock, their acceptance of the word is “immediate and fast,” but it also fades quickly and disappears, “because they have no foundation, they believe for awhile, but in testing times, they fall back.” This happens during times of adversity and persecution, even at the level of personal challenges.
Then there are the ones of the thorns, who suffocate the word with the worries and pleasures of life, and therefore eliminate any place or fertile soil for the seeds to produce.
Finally, we come to the good land who “hear the word, keep it in a good and wholesome heart, and by their patience are fruitful”.
It is evident that for the people of the good land, the bearing of fruits requires a number of things.
One such imperative being patience and vigilance. This is to hear the word of God and then to keep it in a good heart; that is to live the divine commandment, eventually giving fruits in patience. The holy fathers have always spoken about the virtues of attentiveness and vigilance, and the importance of patience in preserving and applying the Divine Word; patience is fertile ground for the fruit to flourish.
The word of Christ and His teaching divides the faithful into these four categories, as hearing the word requires of the listener a certain attitude and reaction because “the Word of God is a double-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). It is the word that separates life from death, and eternal life from eternal condemnation.
The success of the evangelisation and proclamation of the Gospel is primarily reliant on the willingness of the listeners and their response to the Word. Neither the Sower nor the seeds should be blamed here, as both are good, but rather the quality of the soil, the quality of the human soul that receives this seed from the Sower carries the onus. This parable ends with the Lord saying: “Who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Jesus often finished His teachings with this phrase, with the intention to remind us to listen attentively in a state of understanding the word and a willingness to implement the word into our daily lives.
Who is willing to hear the Word of the Lord and comply with its commandments? To be vigilant and alert to its teachings and keep it in a pure heart, i.e. in pure and good soil, waiting patiently for the fruits? This is the second new birth; the “birth through the word” that the Apostle Peter speaks of; hearing the Word of God, which is the “uncorrupted planting”. This action of hearing is associated with work and implementation, which in turn develops the fruits of the Holy Spirit with the human soul and gives much fruit, the fruits of obedience, patience and hope.
“Thou were born again not from a corrupt plant, but from an uncorrupted plant from the living “Word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).
+ Metropolitan Basilios (Kodseie)