Lectio: Matthew 13:18-23
1) Opening prayer
be merciful to Your people.
Fill us with Your gifts
and make us always eager to serve You
in faith, hope and love.
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 13:18-23
Jesus said to his disciples: "Hear the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the Kingdom without understanding it, and the Evil One comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirty fold."
• Context. Beginning with chapter 12, on the one side we see there is opposition among the religious leaders of Israel, the scribes and the Pharisees; on the other side, within the crowds who listen to Jesus and are amazed because of His marvelous actions, gradually, little by little, a group of disciples is being formed, with uncertain features, but who follow Jesus with perseverance. To twelve of these disciples Jesus has given the gift of His authority and His power. He has sent them as messengers of the Kingdom, giving them demanding and radical instructions (10:5-39). Now at the moment when controversy breaks out with His opponents, Jesus recognizes His true kinship, not in the lines of the flesh (mother, brothers), but in those who follow Him, listen to Him, and fulfill the will of the Father (12:46-50). This last account offers us the possibility to imagine that the audience to whom Jesus addressed His words is two-fold: on the one side, the disciples to whom He has given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom (13:11) and who have the ability to understand them (13:50) and, on the other side, the crowds who seem to be deprived of this deep understanding (13:11, 34-36). To the large crowds who gather to listen to Jesus is presented, above all, the parable of the sower. Jesus speaks about a seed that falls (or not!) on the earth. Its growth depends on the place where it falls; it is possible for it to be hindered so that it cannot bear fruit. This is what happens in the first three types of earth “along the road side” (the ground hardened by the passing of men and animals), “the rocky earth” (formed by rocks), “on the thorns” (it is the earth covered with thorns). Instead, the seed that falls on “good ground” bears excellent fruit, even if at different levels. The reader is directed to be more attentive to the yield of the grain than to the action of the sower. Besides, Matthew focuses the attention of the listener on the good earth and the fruit that this earth is capable of producing in an exceptional manner.
The first part of the parable ends with an admonition: “Anyone who has ears should listen” (v. 9); it is an appeal to the freedom of the listener. The word of Jesus may remain a “parable” for a crowd incapable of understanding, or it can reveal “the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven” for those who allow themselves to be upset or affected by its force. It is the acceptance of the Word of Jesus that distinguishes the disciples from the indeterminate crowds; the faith of the first ones reveals the blindness of the others and obliges them to look “beyond” the parable.
• To listen and to understand. It is always Jesus who leads the disciples on the right path for the understanding of the parable. In the future through the disciples, it is the Church to be guided in the understanding of the Word of Jesus. In the explanation of the parable the pair of verbs “to listen” and “to understand” appears in 13:33: That which has been sown in the good ground is the one who listens to the Word and understands it...” It is in the understanding that the true disciple is distinguished from the crowds, who listen to Jesus’ words only occasionally.
• Hindrances to understanding. Jesus recalls, above all, the negative response to His preaching on the Kingdom of Heaven given by His contemporaries. Such a negative response is connected to the various impediments among them. The earth on the edge of the road is that transformed by pedestrians into a trodden road; it is totally negative: “Throw the seeds on the pavement of the street, everybody knows that it serves nothing: the necessary conditions for growth do not exist. And, then people go by, step over it, and ruin the seed. The seed should not be thrown just any place” (Carlos Mesters). Above all, there is the personal responsibility of the individual: to accept God’s Word in one’s own heart. If it falls on a “trodden” heart, which is obstinate because of its own convictions and indifferent, he sides with the evil one. Then the rocky earth: If the first impediment was constituted by an insensitive, indifferent heart, now the image of the seed that falls on the rocks, on stones, and among bushes indicates a heart immersed in a superficial and worldly life. Such life styles are energies that prevent the Word of God from bearing fruit. They begin to listen, but immediately it is blocked, not only by tribulations and trials that are unavoidable, but also because of the involvement of the heart in concerns and riches. It is a life that is not deep but superficial, worldly. It is similar to instability. The good earth is the heart that listens and understands the Word; this one bears fruit. Such fruit is the work of the Word in the heart that accepts it. It is a question of an active understanding that allows one to get involved by God’s action present in the Word of Jesus. The understanding of His Word will continue to be inaccessible if we neglect the encounter with Him and, therefore, we do not allow it to overflow in us.
4) Personal questions
• Does listening lead to the deep understanding of God’s Word or does it remain only an intellectual exercise?
• Are you a heart that accepts, that is available, docile to attain a full understanding of the Word?
• The crowds traveled far to hear Jesus. They invested time and effort, yet they are identified as having hard or rocky hearts. At some level, they came to say yes, but don’t. Do we also come to say yes but don’t really?
5) Concluding Prayer
The Law of Yahweh is perfect, refreshment to the soul;
The precepts of Yahweh are honest,
light for the eyes. (Ps 19:7-8)