A lady was picking through a bin of frozen turkeys, but she couldn’t find one big enough for her family. Before she dug deeper she decided to ask someone so she asked a stock boy, “Do these turkeys get any bigger?”
The stock boy replied, “No ma’am, they’re dead.”
Communication, isn’t it wonderful? Sometimes we think we are communicating but it turns out that our words don’t mean to others what they mean to us. In our gospel lesson today we heard one of the most well-known parables of Jesus, the sower and the seed. And this was certainly a case where words were said but real communication did not occur. When we consider how Jesus explains the story to his disciples we realize that the story is really not about the sower or really even about the seed. The story is really about the ground; it’s about the types of soil the seed falls upon. And as listeners we are left to consider what kind of soil we are. Are we the hard soil of the path, the rocky, the thorny, or the good and fertile soil? In this story everyone falls into one of those categories.
The seed that fell on the path is a picture of what happens when someone hears God’s word, but doesn’t understand the word of the Kingdom. And before we go any further we need to define our terms. We need to know what Jesus means when he talks about the word of the Kingdom. For Jesus the Word of the Kingdom is all about faith in Him. It is about believing and having confidence in Jesus. And what exactly are we supposed to believe about Jesus? We believe that He is the One sent from God who has come to us; he is the one who through faith in Him brings us new life.
So with that in mind, and in today’s context, the seed on the path would be people who hear about Jesus and have heard that Jesus is supposed to the Savior of the world and that he died for people’s sins, but frankly it really doesn’t make much sense to them. They may hear or even sing Christmas songs or the old spirituals. They may see billboards or some signs with Christian messages but they just don’t get it. They don’t understand. Jesus seems as relevant to them as Cleopatra or Napoleon Bonaparte. And so they just kind of forget about it and put it aside as some religious talk.
The next type of soil is rocky soil. Jesus calls this person a shallow person. This person hears the Word of the Kingdom and gets all excited about Jesus. This person believes that Jesus is the one that God sent to save humanity. This person believes that God will give her or him a new life. And this person’s Christian life starts off well for a little while but then this new life begins to get hard and perhaps just inconvenient. As time goes on the demands of the Christian life seem to get, well demanding. This business about loving God more than anyone, or giving money back to God, or perhaps the business about forgiving people who really hurt their feelings just seems too much. And then there is that part about loving neighbors, people around us who may not really be very lovable and all this begins to grow too hard. And this new way of living becomes rather like a New Year’s resolution. Remember how we do those? We say, this year I am going to exercise regularly or I am going to diet, or stop spending frivolously, or go to bed at good time or get up at a good time or something that we have decided in a moment of inspiration that if we did whatever it is we would be a better person. So, after January 1st we start off with great intentions to being this better person. Then, what happens? If you are like 99% of the population, after several weeks, or maybe several months, then the urge to do this new thing goes away and it becomes a way of life that really is something we are not interested in anymore. Christianity becomes like the New Year’s resolution for the rocky soil kind of person.
The next type of soil is the soil with weeds in it. This person is not shallow per se but this person’s commitment gets compromised. This one hears the message and believes. His or her life changes, in this case it is longer than a couple of days or weeks or months. This person really changes. But then things slowly begin to change. What happens is that as time goes on things begin to get in the way of her or his living the Christian life. So that as time goes on, perhaps over years; slowly this person begins to drop this change of life. The heart doesn’t really change, exactly, but things begin to crowd out what were once priorities. Jesus references the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches or the lure of wealth as the types of things that choke out the good intentions and habits that had been formed in this person. The cares of the world refer to the stresses of life, the frustrations and anxieties that eat at us from work, or home, or from within. These inner worries begin to take the center stage of what we think about and these thoughts become what are important to us. Or the other thing Jesus mentions is the deceitfulness of riches. He calls it deceitful because money and wealth seem to promise that if we had more, then we would be happier. It is a lure because it, like the anxieties that the world brings, it draws our attention from what is really important.
Finally we have the good soil. This is when a person hears the good news of the Kingdom and believes in Jesus and turns to Him and is given that new life. This person resists the temptations to be sidetracked and resists compromises. This person’s life really does change and keeps on changing. This person tries to love God the most and tries to give a portion of his or her money to God and to pray. Whenever this person hears what God wants us to do, he or she tries to do it and to keep on doing it. And Jesus tells us that this person bears fruit, that is, this person influences all kinds of people he or she comes in contact with.
But I want you to see is the underlying reason that Jesus gives for the unchanged or for this changed life and particularly for the life that stays changed. The reason He gives is that this person hears and understands the message. This person understands the Word of the Kingdom. These aren’t just words that we say in the Creed. These are not just words to listen to in the Eucharistic prayers. It isn’t a matter of hearing words like the stock boy heard what the woman asked him in the store. He heard the words but he really didn’t understand what the lady was saying. This message of the Kingdom is a powerful spiritual reality about who God is and about who we are. If we truly grasp this, we can be truly changed. This message of the Kingdom underscores the fact that God came to earth in the humble form of a human being who was born in questionable circumstances and was raised in what we would call today, a slum. This God-man was betrayed by a close friend and denied by an even closer friend. He was unjustly condemned to die the most painful and most humiliating of deaths devised by humanity. God, God in the flesh submitted himself to this. He who had made this world, He who was holding it together, allowed Himself to be so killed and abused like this. Why, why did He do this? It was so that we, humanity could be reconciled back to God. So again, the message of the Kingdom is about who God is. God is the One who loves us so much that he would do what Jesus did for us. Who are we? We, humanity, are the ones created in God’s image and we are the ones that God loves. And God loves us so much He wants us to have His life within us. Jesus said that if we truly hear and understand this message it changes us; it transforms us. And as St. Paul says in Ephesians chapter 3, that if we can understand, that is if we can comprehend the breadth, the length, the height and the depth of the love of Christ; which is beyond total comprehension; we will be filled with all the fullness of God.
May God help us, to hear and understand the message of the Kingdom and be transformed. Amen