July 12; 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time; Year A

15th OT2 19 20The Sower sows Himself

Today, many preachers may choose to skip the homily. The congregation has already been treated to a lengthy gospel passage and our Lord seems to have done an excellent job in unpacking His own teaching, which leaves little room, for us mortal preachers to expand upon it. Furthermore, it’s the familiar parable of the Sower. We would be hard pressed to find someone in the audience who has never heard of this parable or who is unfamiliar with its meaning. Here are the essential elements – the sower, the seeds and the four types of soil.

The problem with our text and most other translations is that, the word “seed” does not appear anywhere in the original Greek version. It is simply added in by the translators. In the Greek version, Jesus simply says that a sower went out to sow, and “some” fell to the ground. In other words, Jesus is saying the sower is definitely sowing, but what exactly he is sowing is left vague. Translators only assume that it is seed, since that is what you would typically expect sowers to sow. That isn’t an illogical assumption. By filling in the blanks, the translators do not allow the reader the luxury of figuring out exactly what mysterious thing the sower is doing.

So, what is this “some” or “seed”? In verse 19, our Lord reveals that the seed is the “word of the kingdom.” It is the “Logos.” Remember that the “word” or the “Logos” is not a thing. It is a person - Jesus Christ is the Word Incarnate. If the “Sower” is Christ, and the seed-word is Christ, then the “Sower” is sowing Himself.

Pope Benedict said that this parable is a sort of autobiography of Jesus; it was how He was already living out His mission and ministry. Christ gives Himself freely and abundantly to all, even in the face of rejection and indifference. He is the seed that falls into the ground and dies. Rejected by so many, He finally emerges victorious over death and His enemies, and His victory bears fruit aplenty in the Church. And the amazing thing is that He accomplished all of this whilst respecting the freedom of His audience. The parable is a story of Jesus!

Pope Benedict writes, "God does not force us to believe in Him, but draws us to Himself through the truth and goodness of His incarnate Son. Love, in fact, always respects freedom." Freedom is the basis of our relationship with God. Freedom allows us to make a response to the gift of the Word, to choose between accepting the Word or rejecting it. Human freedom helps us to understand the different kinds of responses to Christ and His message. This is what we see in the parable. We have the well-trodden path of the hardened heart; the rocky ground of those who look for instant gratification but are weak in making commitments; then, there's the thorny ground where the heart is overtaken by too many other distractions. All of these are definite blocks to the reception of the gospel and yet, the sower is not daunted and he continues to sow without hesitation or regret.

In the parable, the sower is throwing seed everywhere, even in places where the seed has little chance to grow. The good news is that the Word, Jesus Christ Himself, is offered to all and sundry, the good and the bad, the excited and the indifferent, the pious and the impious. It’s a beautiful reminder that Christ never tires and He never gives up sowing in our lives even though He has to contend with the garden of our hearts overgrown with debris, weeds, thorns and rocks. He patiently waits for our response.

How can we respond? How can we make a deeper commitment to His Word so that it can yield a good harvest? “Seeing” Christ in His sacraments and “hearing” His Word are important. But we can’t, and we shouldn’t stop here. So many see but do not perceive, and others listen but do not hear. Seeing and hearing Christ are truly laudable but they are not enough to guarantee lasting happiness. Seeing and hearing must lead to following. This is because the Word is not just a text to be studied, but a person to be imitated and followed. Christians are not People of the Book, as Muslims would call us, or as Protestants would profess. We are People of the Living, Dynamic Word who became flesh, and dwelt among us and left us a lasting sign and memorial of His presence, in the Blessed Sacrament. For only a heartfelt response to this Living Word, to allow His message to take root and transform us, can ultimately yield a bountiful harvest.