Lectio Divina: Mark 4:1-20
1) Opening prayer
All-powerful and ever-living God,
direct Your love that is within us,
that our efforts in the name of Your Son
may bring the human race to unity and peace.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - 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."
• Sitting in the boat, Jesus taught the crowds. In these verses, Mark describes the way in which Jesus teaches the crowd: on the seaside, sitting in the boat, with many people around listening to Him. Jesus was not a cultured person (Jn 7:15). He had not frequented the superior school of Jerusalem. He had come from the country side, from Nazareth. He was someone who was unknown. He was a craftsman and a country man. Without asking permission from the authorities, He began to teach the people. He spoke in a very different way. People liked to listen to Him.
• Jesus helped people perceive the mysterious presence of the Kingdom in the things of life by means of parables. A parable is a comparison. He uses the known and visible things of life to explain the invisible and unknown things of the Kingdom of God. For example, the people from Galilee understood when He spoke of seeds, soil, rain, the sun, salt, flowers, fish, harvest, etc. His parable uses these things which were known to the people to explain the mysteries of the Kingdom.
• The parable of the sower is a picture of the life of the farmer. At that time it was not easy to get a livelihood from agriculture. The land was full of stones. There were many bushes, little rain and much sun. Many times people, in order to take a shortcut, passed through the fields and stepped on the plants. (Mk 2:23). But in spite of that, every year, the farmer sowed and planted, trusting in the force of the seed, in the generosity of nature.
• He who has ears to listen, let him listen! Jesus begins the parable saying, “Listen!” (Mk 4:3). Now, at the end, He says, “He who has ears to listen, let him listen!” The way to understand the parable is by listening and thinking, “trying to understand!” The parable does not give us everything ready made, but induces those who listen to think and discover, based on the lived experience that they have of the seed. It induces creativity and participation. It is not a doctrine that arrives ready made to be taught and decorated. The parable does not give bottled water, but rather, leads one to the fountain or source. The farmer who listens, says, “Seed in the ground, I know what that is!” But Jesus says that this has something to do with the Kingdom of God. What would this be? One can already guess the long conversations of the crowd. The parable affects the people and moves them to listen to nature and to think about life.
• Jesus explains the parable to His disciples. At home, alone with Jesus, the disciples want to know the meaning of the parable. They do not understand it. Jesus is surprised at their ignorance (Mk 4:13) and responds with a difficult and mysterious phrase. He tells His disciples, “To you is granted the secret of the Kingdom of God; but to those who are outside everything comes in parables, so that they may look and not perceive, listen but not understand, to avoid changing their ways and being healed!” This phrase leads people to ask themselves “then what good is the parable? To clarify or to hide?” Perhaps Jesus uses parables in order for people to continue to live in ignorance and not reach conversion? Certainly not! Because at another point Mark says that Jesus used parables “according to what they could understand” (Mk 4:33).
• The parable reveals and hides at the same time! It reveals to “those who are inside,” who accept Jesus, the Messiah, the Servant. It hides for those who insist on considering Him the glorious king. They understand the images of the parable, but they do not grasp the significance.
• The explanation of the parable in its different parts. One after another, Jesus explains the parts of the parable, seed and soil, up to the harvest time. Some scholars hold that this explanation was added later and would have been given to some communities. This is quite possible, because in the bud of the parable there is already the flower of the explanation. Bud and flower, both have the same origin which is Jesus. For this reason, we can continue to reflect and discover other beautiful things in the parable. Once a person asked in community, “Jesus has said that we should be salt. For what does salt serve?” This was discussed and at the end more than ten different purposes for salt were discovered! These meanings were applied to the life of the community and it was discovered that to be salt is something difficult and demanding. The parable functioned! Salt not only has uses, but in Jesus' time it had high value. The Romans used it as money and in the difficult hot climate it was needed by the human body to survive. Salt was valuable and gave life! The same for the seed. Everybody has some experience of the seed.
4) Personal questions
• What experience do you have with seeds? How does this help you understand the Good News better?
• What type of soil are you?
5) Concluding prayer
Fix your gaze on Yahweh
and your face will grow bright,
you will never hang your head in shame. (Ps 34:5)