Our gospel recently was Jesus’ well-known parable on the sower and the seed. Jesus used a lot of agricultural imagery in his teaching, because this would have been very familiar to the people of his day, who lived a very rural existence. Of course, the way farming was done in those times was nothing like the way it is carried out today. With a sack of grain slung over one shoulder, the sower would reach into the sack, grab a handful of seeds, and scatter them about. Because of that technique, some seed landed in weeds, on the footpath, and in shallow rocky ground. Plowing usually took place after the sowing.
While a fair amount of seed might be wasted, that which landed on good soil and was plowed in would produce a generous harvest on a good year. God scatters his word and blessings about. Not all seeds come to fruition due to indifference or opposition. In fact, judging by Jesus’ parable, he is saying that three-quarters of the people who receive his word never respond to it in a way which leads to their spiritual growth!! Nevertheless, the parable is also saying that the harvest will be plentiful in our lives if we receive the seed of God’s word as good soil in which we allow God to weed out what does not belong, plow us over and soften us for his word to take root, and incorporate within us the nutrients of his blessings.
The question which the apostles ask Jesus in the gospel “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” is worth considering. Many a poet has been asked the meaning of a poem he or she wrote; most are reluctant to do so, preferring that people mull things over and try to figure out the meaning on their own. In this way, the listener is both more challenged and invested in the poem. Jesus, as a good storyteller, probably had the same approach. Keep them guessing, pondering the meaning and how the stories applied to their own lives, and coming back for more stories.
So which type of soil described by Jesus in today’s parable best reflects the state of your own heart: totally hard, shallow, conflicted or fertile?