The Gospel of Matthew has a series of seven parables. These are the high point of Matthew’s Gospel. In this section everything is centered on the Kingdom of God.
Parables were a popular way in the orient, the Old Testament, and the teaching of the Rabbis. Parables are “sayings,” “metaphors”,” proverbs” or “similes.” Examples of parables are: the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the Mustard Seed, etc. Parables end with a cryptic statement that summons one to hear the all-powerful Word of God and act on it.
This Parable of the Soil is the only parable where Jesus interprets or gives a commentary on the deeper meaning of the parable! In this parable the sower sows the seeds before it can be harvested. Not all seeds bear fruit. There are numerous reasons for this. First, the seeds fall upon the pathway , Second the seed fall on rocky ground and cannot grow, Third, the seeds fall upon rich soil and takes root and multiplied
The emphasis in today’s parable focuses not on the seeds, nor the sower, but rather on the soil! At this point of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus is preaching not only to His disciples but to the crowds. This marks a new relationship that Jesus has with His followers. The message is universal, i.e. for all. It is a message of crises. The time is short; the kingdom of God is at hand. Those who have ears, listen. The theology of the Cross is being sharpened.
The message is clear. Despite some failures, the soil ultimately succeeds. The harvest grows. There is no mention of the weather, i.e. rain, water, sun shine, etc. This is a story of the inevitability of the Reign of God! No matter the conditions the soil will yield success.
We have the power to thwart or divert the power of the Word. Stewarts of life have the power to nurture life. As stewards of life we need to nourish and care for the soil. The average yield for a crop in the time of Jesus was 7.5 fold. At the most 10 fold. But here it is 100 fold! This is unheard of! The point here is that success happens in spite of frustrations. The parable brings light and truth to those with faith. The reign of God is made present in the ministry of Christ.
The Armenians have this understanding of parables. “Three apples fall from a tree. The first is for the teller of the story, the second is for the listener of story, and the third is for the one who takes it to heart!
Carl Jung says that “greatest gifts of the human spirit are faith, hope, love and insight.” Parables give us insight. Insight brings our lives together and helps us embrace the Reign of God.
Fr. Ken O’Malley, C.P., is the local superior at Holy Name Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.