Unity not uniformity – Friday, 16th Week in ordinary time – Mt 13:18-23
One third of Jesus’ teachings were in parables. His objective was to make His message as simple as possible so that the message of the kingdom would take root and bear an abundant harvest. Chapter thirteen has seven parables relating to the kingdom of heaven and the first of these parables is the parable of the sower.
Realistically speaking, this title of this parable is misleading. The parable is not about the sower or the seed as much as it is about the soil. There is no preferential treatment shown or given by the sower whose identity is assumed to be Jesus himself. The seed scattered is the same; the real focus of the story is the soil or the listeners of this parable.
Jesus chose the idyllic setting of the Sea of Galilee to tell this parable; it was here that He had handpicked the twelve. Now in the face of a growing following, He sat in a boat while the crowd stood on the beach.
Chapter thirteen begins by telling us that that Jesus told the crowds ‘many things’ in parables. We can safely assume that Matthew’s collection of seven such parables, in this chapter, were only some of the many wonderful parables that Jesus shared in order to spread His message.
The readers of Matthew’s Gospel would have had no problem understanding this parable for they were living its consequences. Matthew’s community was no care free hippie generation. Their decision to follow Christ clandestinely or openly meant that consequences followed. The range of rejection and persecution was spread over thickly from family to state. The possibility of being put to death for one’s belief always loomed large.
It is no wonder that Matthew places this parable first among the seven. The parable served as a reminder to Matthews’s early Christian community of the soil they could be in response to the divine sowers actions. It was natural that given the amount of persecution they faced the response would be as varied as those in the parable.
Some fell on the path and are snatched by the evil one to give up their faith immediately. Some who fell on rocky ground were those that were enamoured by the message of Jesus but gave it up as quickly in the face of persecution. Then there were those in the early Church who were fascinated by the message of Jesus but rejected it, for that meant giving up the lifestyle of wealth and the thought of giving up their wealth choked their desire.
Finally we come to those in Matthew’s community that took solace and consolation from this parable; those who endured the onslaught of rejection and persecution. Their fidelity to the message of Christ paid off, for their lives bore fruit and witness in the kingdom.
Interestingly there is no uniform output even from those who were receptive to the seed. Following Christ may bring us unity but not uniformity. That’s why spiritual comparison is a futile exercise. Each of us, before the Lord, knows the kind of soil we are. The kingdom is thus a partnership of the divine and the human. Think about it, God could be a solo artist in bringing about His kingdom, yet he wants me to partner in His divine plan.
Fr Warner D’Souza