Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
Jesus said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables? (Mark 4:13)
Telling stories is a well-used and widely accepted method to make a point. Who among us has not heard Aesop's fable about the tortoise and the hare? Is there anyone who does not know the moral of that story? "Slow and steady wins the race."
Jesus' use of stories to make a point is, consequently, not unusual. However, the disciples never seem to catch on immediately. Were they dullards? I suppose the case could be made. Indeed, Scripture scholars have been poring over the parables for almost two thousand years and are still coming up with different insights about their meaning. So as I was reading the Gospel for today's Eucharist, I was intrigued not so much by the parable itself as I was by the remark that Jesus makes before explaining it to his disciples.
The answer to Jesus' question lies in our ability to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our prayer and in our meditation is essential if we are to "hear" what God has to say to us. In order to hear, we have to listen. Unfortunately, all too often our prayer is filled with speaking and very little listening. Once again, I find myself harking back to the work of St. Peter of Alcantara and the so-called "golden leaflet." God's voice does not boom like thunder. Rather it is the soft breeze that Elijah encountered on Horeb. We hear God's voice in the subtle and slight details that we encounter in our natural world.
Listening to God today forced me to ask myself a question that I have encountered before when reading this parable. Namely, is this a parable about the sower? the seed? or the ground on which it is sown? My temptation is to make it a parable about the ground on which the seed is sown. Perhaps this is because I have a tendency, like most people, to think that "it's all about me." Rarely is that the case. Therefore, I turned my attention to the sower today. He broadcasts the seed, God's word, on all sorts of ground knowing that its chances of sprouting are remote. He does it just the same. There is always hope, no matter how hard the hearts of men and women may be.