This past weekend, we heard the Parable of the Sower at Mass . The Parable of the Sower is one of the most familiar of all of Jesus’ parables. So familiar is this text that as soon as it begins – “A sower went out to sow” – one can almost recite the text from memory as it is being proclaimed from the ambo.
Next week, we will hear the Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat . First century Jews lived in an agrarian culture, so it's no wonder that a lot of Jesus's teaching used crops and farmers as examples. As laborers in God’s vineyard, much of our work can be likened to tilling soil, sowing, and watering seeds.
In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus talks about how people respond to the Gospel. The four types of soil are familiar to us, as it seems that those we minister to fit into one of these four categories. As parish leaders, we hope to find success in great numbers – a bountiful harvest – but as we all know, immediate, massive growth is not typically God’s way. Making disciples is generally a slow process that requires listening, building relationships, and docility to the Holy Spirit.
In the Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat, Jesus encourages patience with the presence of wickedness in the world. In an increasingly secular society, we may feel like our ministerial efforts are being sabotaged by the world around us. Seeds of untruth, falsehood, and error are generously dispersed by the enemy causing confusion among the faithful, the unchurched, and those who have drifted away.
In ministry, it can sometimes feel like one step forward, and two steps back. Yet Jesus assures his listeners that the children of the kingdom will be vindicated, and the wicked will be dealt with at the end of time.
These parables remind us that, in evangelization, resistance and slow progress are par for the course. But nowhere in the Scriptures does the sower stop sowing, and nowhere do the laborers give up. God has patience with all sinners, and we never know which seeds will grow. We never know who will eventually repent and become an instrument in God’s plan of salvation, like St. Paul!
As ministers, sometimes we take on a bit more responsibility than God intends. St. Paul himself warns us of an overdeveloped sense of responsibility when he writes to the Corinthians, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth.” ( 1 Cor 3:6-7 ) Our job is to plant and water seeds. God’s job is to make things grow. That doesn’t mean that we don’t care about the outcome; it simply means that God is in control.
As we enjoy the long days of summer and begin to prepare for the busier season ahead, let us re-commit ourselves to a constant process of growth, like the seed that falls on rich soil. Let us seek to be more like Jesus, to treat others as he did, to pray as he prayed, to love as he loved, and to honor God in every area of our lives ( UTG, Marker 9.2 ), so that we can take up the job of tilling, sowing and watering with newfound enthusiasm and vigor in the months ahead.