Sandwiched between today’s Gospel parable and its explanation, Jesus gives us some puzzling words: ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. […] The reason I speak to them in parables is that “seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.”(Mt 13:11, 13).
It seems here that Jesus doesn’t want His listeners to become His disciples; that’s certainly what the disciples themselves understood. But in a sense, Jesus was testing to crowds: He was testing them to see who cared enough to try and understand His Words.
You see, Jesus wants everyone to be saved (cf. 1 Tim 2:4), but He doesn’t want a ‘superficial saving’. Jesus could just automatically decide that everyone is saved and that would be the end of it; but that’s not what He’s looking for. Jesus doesn’t just want us to be ‘saved’; He wants us to be converted! Today’s Gospel parable is a wake-up call. We can’t simply hear the Word of God and leave it at that; we need to allow God’s Word to penetrate the depths of our being, the depths of our souls; we need to allow it to change our lives, our hearts, our minds. [My word] shall not return to me empty, said the Lord through Isaiah (Is 55:11).
This means, then, that we need to open our ears, our hearts and our minds to receive the Word. We control what kind of soil we are! Are we satisfied to be merely emotionally uplifted by God’s Word, comforted by His talk of mercy, appeased by His words of love? Or are we trying to gain access to His mercy and follow Him more closely? We control what kind of soil we are; we control how much we allow God’s Word to change us. Will we allow it to bear fruit in our lives, or will we allow the seeds to be taken away or be choked?
This is the question that Jesus is asking each one of us today. This is the question the Spirit continues to ask us everyday. What kind of soil are we? Will we bear fruit?
Jesus spoke this message in a parable knowing that not everyone would understand (cf. Mt 13:11-16). But Matthew is careful to tell us that He was speaking to great crowds (Mt 13:2), many of whom were not His disciples. He hid His message so that only those who were seeking the truth, seeking to follow God, would understand Him. In a sense, He was testing to crowds to see who had good soil.
But this question isn’t just about how we respond to Scripture: it’s really about how we respond Jesus, who He is, and to what He’s calling us.
Faith, and the life that flows from it, are rooted in a choice, a choice to follow Jesus; a radical choice to follow Jesus: No one can serve two masters (Mt 6:24).
As we hear these words today, may we ponder them in our hearts; may we examine ourselves to see what kind of disciple we truly are: Are we just listeners, or are we followers who bear good fruit? Are we building our lives on Jesus and His Word, or are we building them on what society tells us?
O God, show us the light of your truth so that we might return to the right path; give us the grace to reject whatever is contrary to the name of Christ, and to strive after all that does it honour (adapted from today’s Collect). Amen.