The parable for today is the parable of the sower. In our lifetimes, many, if not most, of us have not actually seen a farmer walking across his plowed field and manually throwing seed in order to plant his next crop. As a result of industrialization, scientific advances and technological improvements, most farming in our time and place, is done by large conglomerates with highly advanced machinery and techniques. Mom and pop farms are disappearing just like mom and pop stores. But the concept is simple enough for most of us to understand and identify with.
One of the more interesting things about this parable is that Christ actually provides an explanation of it’s meaning, to his disciples, calling it a “mystery of the kingdom of God”, while at the same time acknowledging and accepting the fact that the meaning of this parable remains a ‘mystery’ for most other people. Apparently Christ was not above piquing the curiosity of the multitudes who came to see and hear him, probably as a stimulus to get them to think and to learn more about the kingdom of God.
In medieval times, common people were simply not allowed access to the Holy Scriptures of the Church, and before the invention of the printing press in the early to mid-1400’s, there were very few copies available for people to read. But in our times, we can simply pick up a Bible and read to our heart’s content, and in today’s parable we are even given an explanation which Christ himself provided only to his disciples. We become as if members of His most intimate inner circle.
In today’s Gospel lesson I would like to focus a bit more on the meaning of the “seed” as “the word of God”. In the Old Testament the ‘word of God’ or the ‘word of the Lord’ was received by the prophets and given to His people through them. In 1 Samuel (3:1) we are told, “Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.” (Not unlike our own times, it would seem.) This was shortly before the Lord started speaking through Samuel regularly. We know that the Lord spoke to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and all the other prophets listed in the Old Testament. We also know that the prophets were often not welcomed or esteemed by their people, as Christ said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!” (Mt. 23:37)
In the book of Revelation (20:4-6), we find these words:
“Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God… . And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. …This is the first resurrection. …they shall be priests of God and of Christ.”
We see that human punishment can be severe, but the spiritual rewards are great.
Christ told us, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (Jn. 15:20)
If the shepherd of the sheep is muzzled, how is he to give guidance or warning to his flock? If a meeting is desired to be guided by the Holy Spirit, how can the silence of God’s ministers be expected?
Christ also told us, “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” (Mt. 15:11) Often we are not careful with our words. We should be more mindful of them, and try not to use them carelessly. I have heard it said that one word of criticism is equivalent to fifty words of praise. Let us try to control our criticisms so that we do not have to gush effusively in order to try to compensate for them; that is, if we have such a desire to begin with.
During our Paschal Divine Liturgies we always hear (John 1:1) that,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
In the book of Genesis (1:2-3) we read,
“… the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.
And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”
In the New Testament book of Ephesians (6:17), we learn that:
“the Word of God is the sword of the (Holy) Spirit.”
The book of Hebrews (4:12) explains that,
“…the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged
sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow,
and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
The Apostle St. Peter tells us:
“Since you have purified you souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit
in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,
having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible,
through the word of God, which lives and abides forever.” (1 Pet. 1:22-23)
Finally, from the O.T. Book of Isaiah (55:10-11), we find these words of God:
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and return not to there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
May these reminders about the nature of “the word of God” serve to help us and to guide us in our own lives. Amen. Glory be to Jesus Christ!
Fr. Walter Hvostik