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'A sower went out to sow'

‘A sower went out to sow;’ that is how Jesus’ famous parable begins and it would have struck a familiar chord with His listeners, many of whom would have worked on the land. But, from the point of view of an experienced farmer, this Sower is something of a failure. He seems to waste the seed – he scatters it with great liberality and does not only sow on fertile ground but even on the pathways and bad soil. Surely he needed to be more sensible? And yet, he goes on to reap a rich harvest. The good soil does not, as was common at the time, produce ten times the seed sown but produces the near-miraculous return of thirty, sixty, even one hundredfold!

We can think of today’s parable in two ways. First of all, we can think of ourselves as the soil over which Jesus continually scatters His life-giving word. Those different types of soil in the parable represent periods in our lives. Sometimes we hear the Lord’s word but it changes nothing because we live on a superficial level; sometimes we receive Jesus with enthusiasm, but falter as soon as we are faced with difficulties; sometimes negative feelings choke the Lord’s word in us. Other times we fare better and truly embrace discipleship. How does the field of our lives look at the moment? What do we need to do about it?

But we can also think of ourselves as the Sower because the Lord continues to scatter His seed through us. We all have a part to play, we all have a corner of the field over which we sow the word of God - perhaps it might be our family or friendship group.

Our great task, however, is to help the Lord sow His seed with the generosity of the sower - not only on fertile ground, where we are welcomed, but also in situations where we may fail.

We can be consoled by the fact that Jesus Himself was not always a successful evangelist – His teaching was often rejected, ridiculed or ignored. To be a good Sower we need faith, perseverance and patience. As one commentator puts it, ‘the Sower knows that he has to wait; the process demands that he wait on the weather, the working of the soil, the slow thrust of life, before he can see the fruit of his labour…There is a time of work, of waiting, of slow emergence’ – even out of the most hopeless circumstances.

As we listen to today’s readings, let us both cultivate the soil of our soul and freely scatter the seed that we have received.

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