15th Sunday of ordinary time – A
July 10, 2017 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
He spoke to them at length in parables.
INTRODUCTION: Today we arrive at the section of Matthew’s Gospel
which is known as the Parable Discourse, chapter 13. Matthew structures
his gospel around five discourses: Sermon on the Mount, Discipleship,
Parables, Church, End. For the next three Sundays we will be hearing
from this chapter, the parables (the kingdom in MYSTERY). Today’s
passage has three parts, the parable of the sower, an explanation of the
purpose of the parables, and an explanation of the parable of the sower.
HOMILY: As we heard the Gospel today we first heard the parable of
the sower, later we heard an explanation of the meaning of the parable.
The parable is probably close to the words of Jesus, the explanation is
probably the words of Matthew. We will look at these two parts of the
Gospel separately. First the parable. Then Matthew’s explanation of the
parable. Then we will try to apply the parable to our times and
First the Parable. Matthew takes the parable from Mark’s Gospel
with very few changes. Perhaps the most significant change is that at
the end of the parable Mark’s order of fruitfulness is 30, 60, 100.
Matthew reverses the order 100, 60, 30.
In the parable there is a formal balance and contrast between 3
situations of waste and failure and three situations of gain and
success. There is a certain rhythm established: seed, situation the seed
encounters, outcome. The seed remains the same throughout. The
situation the seed encounters changes: path, rocky ground, thorns. In
the first three encounters the seed fails to mature. There is a
progression in the growth of the seed: 1) the seed falls on the path, no
chance, devoured before it puts roots out; 2) the seed falls on rocky
ground, seems to be growing but withers under the heat of the sun; 3)
the seed falls among the thorns, grows higher, buds but when it is
almost ready. it is choked. Finally the seed falls on good ground and
yields grain. In Palestine a good yield was considered to be 10 fold,
7 ½ was average. The 100, 60, 30 harvest then is not simply bountiful
but truly extraordinary. The message to the disciples is one of
encouragement to not be faint-hearted or discouraged. In spite of all
failures, the Kingdom of God comes at last. And when it comes it comes bountifully.
After the disappointments and rejections of the previous chapters in
Matthew, this was an important message for the disciples. It is an
important message for us too.
In Matthew’s Gospel we do not have the word parable until the 13th
chapter. This is the third of Matthew’s discourses: the Parable
discourse. Matthew has 7 parables in this section. He only shares the
parable of the sower and the mustard seed with Mark.
In verse 8 Matthew reverses Mark’s order of fruitfulness, he starts with
100, 60, 30. In verse 10 those near to Jesus ask him: “Why do you
speak to them in parables?” In Mark they ask for an explanation of the
parable. In Mark Jesus speaks in parables, in order that the people may
not understand. In Matthew Jesus speaks to the crowds in parables
because they refused to see and hear or understand his clear message.
In Matthew Jesus speaks in parables as a punishment for their non
Second, explanation of the parable. Here the emphasis is on the
different kinds of hearing and what happens after.
Dispositions of those who receive Jesus’ preaching:
1) those who never accept the word of the kingdom, hear without
Bad soil: lack of understanding, superficial hearing
Obstacle to belief: evil one
2) those who believe for a while but fall away because of persecution.
Bad soil: superficiality, initial rootless enthusiasm
Obstacle to belief: tribulation (setback) or persecution
3) those who believe but in whom the word is choked by worldly anxiety
and the seduction of riches.
Bad soil: division within oneself.
Obstacle to belief: worldly cares (anxiety) and desire for wealth
(lure of money, seduction by wealth).
4) those who hear, understand and respond to the word and produce fruit
Good soil: message of Jesus taken in and yields remarkable
TRUE DISCIPLE: hear, understand, do (bear fruit, yield)._
WHAT KIND OF SOIL AM I?
Third, application to us. We have the promise that the kingdom
of God will prevail over difficulties, even our failures: path, rocky, thorns, good.
What kind of soil am I? do I hear but not understand, do I give up when
trials or difficulties come, do I suffer from anxiety or the attraction
of wealth and riches? Do I really believe that God is able to change me
from one kind of bad soil to good soil?
If we look at a field we notice that the greater part of the field
is the good ground, not the path, the rocky ground or the thorns. Are
we so focused on the negative in our life and the world that we can’t
see the good ground? The meaning of the parables is not immediately
clear. Parables are told to engage us, to get us wrestling with what
they mean. Am I willing to do this work in my life. What kind of
hearer am I?