Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The parable of the sewer’s sower sews seeds and they fall a bunch of different places. Does the sower care where they fall? I would think so, but then again that pitcher of seeds has only so much control. To sow is to be knowledgeable that not every seed will be fruitful. Of course some will get lost. Every farmer who broadcasts seeds knows this, but is this parable addressed to the agricultural community? I don’t think so! It is aimed at the church goer, the followers of that Storyteller. Look at that priest at the front of the church (and the Eucharistic ministers) and watch them broadcast that seed. Is the parable addressed to them? Perhaps. Should they be mindful of their aim? Are they mindful of the harvest? Should they pitch more to the left or right? Look where that Eucharist host lands. Its size is but a few wheat seeds, does it hit rock or soil, or will it get crowded out once it walks through the door?
That might be a modern way of looking at this parable, after all many will hear it within the walls of a church. For the original audience though, what would they hear and see? They likely would be outdoors, perhaps overlooking a field, and they might have been the ones that tossed the seeds about that plot. Many of Jesus’s audience were peasant farmers, and they were quite familiar with the task of broadcasting seed. Perhaps Jesus spoke from one of the peasants own fields.
There is a chance too that while Jesus spoke of this parable, those peasants might have been gazing on another field which was planted by the Romans. Both the peasants and the Romans fields were quite distinguishable. For the peasant of Galilee, theirs was the age old hoe to scrape the ground and a bag of seed to toss. Theirs was an individual effort, and labor intensive. They reaped what they had sown, and I am sure that with every swing of that hoe they prayed to their God that their efforts not be in vain. For the Romans things were different. They were not peasant farmers, they were among the first agriculturalists. Their tool was not the hoe, and they were not the independent farmer. Theirs was the large scale industrial farming ma de possible with the plow. Many tilled the soil, many planted the seeds, and few reaped the rewards.
How much different this story must have sounded to the peasant. That peasant could have planted the seeds on their own plot, or on the field of the Romans. For that peasant all sorts of things could have entered their thought. Theirs could have been hostility toward the Romans for forced labor and stolen grain. Theirs could have been amazement at the productivity through the use of the plough and organized labor. They might have even found humor when those great Roman wheat fields became overgrown with mustard weed, perhaps proof certain that their God had avenged the poor peasant.
Perhaps the moral of the parable derives something from the audience who first heard it? I am not certain that I am the one to explain the meaning of any parable, and most have endless interpretations anyway. The interpretation does to some extent depend on the audiences personal experiences. A parable on farming would certainly resonate strongly with farmers, this story would have particular poignancy to a farming community that was under such radical change. If there is one point that might be applied to this it is that all of the harvest is dependent on God. Technical marvels might play a role, though it was God that gave the intellect for their development. An expanded labor force can certainly harvest a greater yield, but whether it be wheat or weeds is still in God’s hands. Perhaps too it was easy for the Jewish peasant to see the curse that was the Roman Empire, but perhaps they were blind to some of the blessings those occupiers brought. For all of the bitterness they caused, that Roman Empire also had its successes. It had the ability to cultivate fields, irrigate them, and deliver grains to its people through its roads. Not all of their efforts were evil, and I wonder how many peasants envied their success?