The Double Message of The Sower and the Seed

Photography © by Andy Coan

Photography © by Andy Coan

I’ve always loved gardening. The seeds I’ve planted include carrot, cucumber and, of course, zucchini. In each case, I’ve planted seeds in neat rows, expecting nearly all of them to sprout and yield fruit.

But the farmer in Jesus’ parable (Mat 13:1-23) uses the broadcast method. Lots of seed cast everywhere. And predictably, many of these seeds do not produce. Some get eaten by birds.  Some sprout but then wither. Some seedlings get choked out by weeds. Finally a few yield varying amounts of grain.

At the end of the story, Jesus says “they who have ears, let them hear.” In other words, he wants us to learn something and take some action steps.

The Seed

To respond to this parable adequately, we must view it from two different angles. The first is to look at the story as if we are the seed.

Many who hear the gospel never seem to “get it.” The message is stolen before it ever takes root.

Then there are the 50% of Catholic kids who receive the sacraments but disappear somewhere between age 18 and 25. Shallow roots fail to equip them to take the heat of our pagan culture.

Then there are the 89% of lifelong, regular churchgoers who, according to George Gallup, have values and lifestyles identical to those of their pagan neighbors. Their faith has been neutralized by bad theology and worldliness; although they look like wheat plants, their religion is fruitless.

Then there are those who stay out of serious sin, manage to do some good for some people, but all in all produce a mediocre harvest.

Finally, there are the few who are not satisfied with just getting by. They sink their roots deep into Scripture, Tradition, prayer and the sacraments, and produce a bumper crop. We call these people saints.

In speaking to us as seed, Jesus is saying, “Be careful. If you don’t make the effort to get thoroughly rooted in your Catholic faith, you just might not make it. If do you manage to survive, you might produce absolutely nothing. But you are called to bear much fruit (John 15), to yield 100 fold, to be a saint, to leave a mark on the lives of many that will last forever.  Don’t settle for anything less!”

The Sower

On the other hand, we can look at the parable as if we were the farmer. Vatican II and all the Popes since have stated repeatedly and unequivocally that each of us is called to be an evangelizer, to tell others that Jesus Christ changes lives eternally and that the place to encounter him most fully is within the Catholic Church. “But,” you may protest, “I tried it a few times and got nowhere. I just don’t have the personality, don’t have the gift.”

Jesus, the Son of God, indisputably had both the personality and the gift. Yet when he sowed seed, much of it still ended up as bird food. Consider the thousands he fed with loaves and fishes, the multitude that heard his sermon on the mount, the throngs that welcomed him on Palm Sunday.  Yet on the day of Pentecost, there were only 120 left in the cenacle, awaiting the Holy Spirit. Notice, though, that the fruit borne by these 120 plants eventually filled the whole world!

To get the few that bear fruit, lots of seed must be sown by lots of people. So regardless of whether or not we think we have green thumbs, we are being commanded through this parable to get the seed out there, sowing it everywhere we go, undeterred by the birds, the weeds, and the scorching sun.

The parable of the sower has a twofold message: as seed, our job is to get busy growing. As farmers, our job is to get busy sowing.

Editors Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) — Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalms 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23 or 13:1-9. This series for reflections on the coming Sunday Readings usually appears on Wednesday.


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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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2 Comments

  1. The role we play in the parable is the ground. Be good soil. The fruit comes from the One who gives increase and life.

  2. Unfortunately many of us struggle to live the best part of this parable, the good seed. However the sowing comes from the theology. The preaching part has a significant influence on where the seed lands. And a significant part of the 89% comes from the poor theology from the pulpit.

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