A person can always get into a bit of trouble when writing on a parable, especially if that person tries to explain the true meaning of those little stories. That trouble comes from the very design of the parable, first they are not intended to have only one true interpretation and second they tend to bring up as many questions as answers. They are designed to prompt one to think and ponder upon an easily remembered story. Both he sower and the mustard seed (Mk 4:26-34) are ones I have thought and rambled about in the past. Frequently my writing on the Mustard plant and its seeds border on botany lessons, and again today I will give a brief botanical description of one aspect of a Mustard Tree. In Jesus’s parable he describes it as “But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants.” The Mustard Tree can survive a variety of environments. It is salt tolerant, and can survive in both the arid desert and well watered soil. It can grow both in nutrient deficient rocky soil, and in the fertile field. When grown in a harsh environment such as the desert and rocky barren soil, it takes the shape of a gnarly indistinct shrub. Passers by would scarcely notice it. When planted near a stream or well watered and fertile soil it grows into a magnificent tree; a perfect place for the desert wander to find shade from a burning noontime sun.
Jesus spent a lot of time with farmers! Today He tells the parable of the farmer who plants good seed while his enemy sabotages his efforts with weeds. The story goes that the wheat and the weeds should grow together and then be separated at harvest. The point is that both good and evil do coexist in this world, but will eventually be separated. To anybody that has ever seen a wheat field infested with weeds, it is easy to understand the difficulty of trying to de-weed a field. The grain farmer also is aware that the part of the wheat that is retained during the harvest is the seed grains. In ancient times trying to gather grain from a weed infested field might actually be a reasonable occurrence. The point being that Jesus parable is closely related to actual scenario’s His audience might have dealt with. As a side note could I draw attention to the gospel passage where Jesus is reprimanded for gleaning some wheat from a field in the Sabbath? It would not have mattered to him if that particular field was overgrown with weeds, in gleaning that grain he did indeed separate the wheat from the weed. As Jesus gleaned that wheat, he also gleaned his followers from a symbolically weed infested area. I mention these points only because Jesus did indeed separate wheat from weed, he separated good from evil. His gospel, good news, draws a fruitful harvest.
His parable draws attention to that very fact that good and evil are allowed to exist together according to Gods plan. We are given that choice through free will. The parable is also a reminder that evils fate does have its consequences. Though that parable describes evils destruction at the harvest, it might be wise to note that we do not know when that harvest will be. Is it wise or useful to think of the harvest only at the end of our lifetime or some time in an infinitely distant future? Personally I don’t think so! I would rather like to think of that field harvested perpetually throughout the season. Though good and evil do coexist free will does allow us to strive for good. We too can glean even a few wheat grains from a field of weeds. Interpreting this parable it also helps to think like Jesus audience, especially those farmers within that audience. Those farmers did know that while much of the weeds invasion was beyond their control, they could at least predict to a small extent if a field would be overgrown with weeds. Much of the success depended on the amount of rainfall. Too much in one direction produced weeds and in the other wheat. It required diligence. In a spiritual life that diligence is prayer. It is the Son of Mans Angels that destroy the weeds at the harvest, what better way is there to attract an Angel other than prayer? While weeds exist in that field, one cannot lose sight that the Wheat also exists, though evil exists in this world one cannot overlook the good. If weeds can overtake a wheat field, can’t wheat also transform a field of weeds? All that it takes is effort and prayer to reap a successful harvest.
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel MK 4:1-20
“A very large crowd gathered around him
so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down.
And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land.
And he taught them at length in parables, “
The parable of the sower is a familiar parable. It also is interesting that for this particular parable Jesus explains what it means as he defines who the sower is, what the seed is and the meaning of where the seed falls.While there are many various ways of looking at the parable, it frequently is only given a casual thought. The meaning of the parable that is given at the end is simply accepted as the solution. The above quote is from the beginning of the parable story and it describes the setting that Jesus gave the parable. He is telling the story, or put in the context of the parable, he is “sowing the word.” Where are the people listening to this word? Are they on the rocky ground, in the thorns, or on the fertile soil? The narrative says they are beside the sea on land. Here is a couple of quotes from the bible that describes where they stood when receiving this word:
“And he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters, which shall bring forth its fruit, in due season. And his leaf shall not fall off: and all whosoever he shall do shall prosper.”- Psalm 1:3
“For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.” Jeremiah 17:8
Perhaps it is just coincidence that Jesus tells this parable by the water, but the description of a tree planted by water is the Old Testament description of prosperity for the people. In those Old Testament stories, the water is Gods grace and the tree represents the peoples. These peoples are firmly planted by the waters edge receiving that graceful word.
The next part of Jesus’s parable concerns me for I am that soil that seed falls upon. We are given four choices; a path, a patch of riddled with thorns, a rock, and fertile soil. Which is me? How do I figure this out? For the first part, I figure I read this little parable, so that must make me fertile soil. Right? I like to think so, but I think in this it involves more than just reading; perhaps what I do is important also. Its not just the words, but how I react to those words. In that case, I certainly must be the path. I hear the word and want to believe in it, but in many instances I reject those words because another bit of prose is more appealing and in that instance the word goes away. I guess that fertile patch of soil could have been trampled on a bit ? If a patch of soil can be trampled down, then how much does my receiving of the word depend on my environment? If I turn on a television and look around the globe, there are many different cultures each with its own agenda regarding God. In a country that is strongly atheistic, can that word grow? What about a secular society? A communist country? Is the path, the path many varied societies take in regard to that word? In a path can there be at least a small patch of fertile soil, a pot-hole perhaps? Karol Józef Wojtyła I think was one of these pot-holes,a little crack in a well trodden path. When the word fell upon him, not only was it able to grow but it tilled that path better than any plough man could make and revitalised it back to the fertile soil of its past. Karol was born in Communist Poland, declared atheistic by its government; but the word fell on him and it grew so well within him that the entire path of that nation changed; a tramped down path became once again a fertile field.