Receiving the Seed in Good Soil

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Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time


Mark 4:1-20

On another occasion, Jesus began to teach by the sea. 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, and in the course of his instruction he said to them, “Hear this! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain. And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.” And when he was alone, those present along with the Twelve questioned him about the parables. He answered them, “The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that

   they may look and see but not perceive,
   and hear and listen but not understand,
   in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.

Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown. As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once and takes away the word sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who, when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy. But they have no roots; they last only for a time. Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Those sown among thorns are another sort. They are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit. But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”


Opening Prayer: Lord, help me to pray with an open heart so that the seed you sow in me doesn’t die, but bears abundant fruit. 


Encountering Christ:


  1. I Wasn’t Talking to You: It sounded like Jesus didn’t want people to understand his preaching. Instead of speaking clearly, he spoke in parables that he later had to explain to his disciples. Once he explained it, they understood, but why didn’t he speak that way to the crowds who came to listen? Did he only want to help a few select people instead of everyone? That can’t be the correct interpretation of this passage.


  1. The Crowd Is the Field Jesus Is Sowing In: To explain himself, Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah was speaking to people who had hardened their hearts against the prophetic word he was sent to speak to them. Because their hearts were hardened, they would not have accepted and understood the Lord’s word even if he had presented it clearly. Yet, there were a few who listened with open hearts, and God’s word found good soil in their hearts that day. Jesus wasn’t saying he didn’t want anyone to understand. He was saying that even if he spoke clearly, many wouldn’t understand—because they didn’t want to. Yet the word he speaks to open hearts bears fruit, just as the parable says. The seed he is sowing is reaching everyone, but not every heart provides the good soil needed to bear fruit.


  1. Waiting: A lot of the spiritual life, like farming, is about waiting. Even when a seed falls into good soil, it doesn’t bear fruit immediately. It lays dormant in the soil for a while, then begins to grow when conditions are right. The Apostles and those in the crowd who had open hearts began “growing” in understanding and finally bore abundant fruit when the right conditions were available. The descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost provided the right conditions. Like the Apostles, we too need the Holy Spirit to fully understand what Jesus taught.


Conversing with Christ: Lord, I know that it’s only possible to speak of God in images—to tell us what your Father is like, not how he actually is, because he is beyond our understanding. Help me to understand your parables so I can get a glimmer of you and your Father—of your goodness, your kindness, and your love for me, so I may be converted and be forgiven.


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will be open to your word to me and to the Holy Spirit’s help in understanding it and using it to bear fruit—thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.


For Further Reflection: The Holy Spirit, Fire of Divine Love by Father Wilfrid Stinissen, OCD.


Father James Swanson is from Miles City, Montana, joined the Legionaries of Christ in 1983, and currently works in Atlanta, Georgia. He enjoys books, craft beers, and extreme birding.

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