Video Lessons on the “four pillars” of the Catechism
The goodness of God’s Word
FIRST READING—The prophet uses comparisons that were meaningful to an agrarian society in an arid climate to describe the power of the divine word of God and the salvation that it promised. He told the people that the seeds of faith planted by God’s prophets would not return to Him empty and barren. God’s words would take root in receptive hearts and flourish when nourished by the good deeds of those who heard His words and obeyed His commandments.
The seeds of faith
PSALM—The psalmist presents God as a divine farmer who controls the rain and the fertility of the earth. The abundant rainfall causes the dried-up furrows of the earth to soften and to be ready to receive a planting that yields a fruitful harvest. The Fathers of the Church compared the way God nourishes the earth with rain to bring about an abundant harvest with the Gospel message of salvation in Jesus Christ. He is the Living Word of God come down from Heaven to refresh the hearts of men and women and to save all who respond to Him with the “living water” of the Sacrament of Baptism through spiritual rebirth in water and the Spirit. As the prophets promised, God’s Word, Jesus Christ, does not return to Him empty and barren, but everything He taught becomes fruitful when nourished by the good deeds of those who heard obeyed His teachings. We help to fulfill Christ’s mission when the Word of God becomes visible in our lives.
The Christian destiny of glory
SECOND READING—St. Paul writes that the work of Christ is not only to redeem humanity from the separation with God caused by our original parent’s sin of rebellion but to provide the means for the renewal of all Creation. Paul reveals that all Creation is “groaning” in its longing for the Second Coming of Christ and the promised transformation and glorification, which will return Creation to its original state. The natural world suffers from disorder and chaos, but this is not the way God established the Creation of the world when the Holy Spirit divided the waters of chaos and seven times pronounced all of creation “good.” God intended the natural world to be the perfect home for humankind, where they could live in perfect communion with their Creator. This perfect communion between God, humans, and nature is the re-created order Jesus promises to restore when He returns to inaugurate a new Heaven and earth.
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jean-François Millet (1814–1875) first gained widespread notoriety with his iconic pastel painting of a sower shown at the 1850/51 Paris Salon.
Jesus’ parable of the Seed and the Sower
GOSPEL—Jesus tells the Parable of the Seed and the Sower. In His parable, the Sower casts his seeds in every direction and into every kind of soil condition. It was a typical farming technique in which the farmer expected most, but not all, of the seed to produce healthy plants. It was a method that was like Jesus’ teaching. Jesus “broadcasted” the “good news” of God’s message of salvation in every direction: to the receptive faithful, to those looking for entertainment by a Galilean rabbi who performs miracles, to skeptics, and to those who were hostile to His message.
We need to assess our use of the word of God
We need to read the word of God every day, starting with a prayer to the Holy Spirit for the gifts of attentive reading and the ability and willingness to apply the message we receive to our daily living. When we listen to the word of God as read and preached in the Church during the Holy Mass, we need to pay full attention to the message given by God Who uses the priest as His instrument. We also need to ask God’s special grace to remove all types of blocks, like laziness, anxiety, worries, and the burden of unrepented sins, any of which can prevent the word of God from influencing and transforming our lives. When we receive Jesus, the Word of God and the Source of the word of God, in Holy Communion we need to ask him to transform our lives so that we may see Jesus in all of us (for we are all brothers and sisters in Him), and share with each of them Jesus’ unconditional love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.
We need to keep our spiritual soil fertile and prepared for the word of God
We need to keep our hearts open to the word of God instead of closing it with pride, prejudice, fear, or laziness. We have to remove from our hearts the weeds like evil habits and addictions, evil tendencies, hatred, jealousy, fear, and greed. We should not allow the trials and tribulations of this world, the cares of this world, our ambitions, or our desires for worldly success and happiness to choke out the messages that God gives through His word.
A challenge for examination of conscience
The questions we need to ask ourselves are: Am I merely hearing God’s word without understanding it? Does God’s word meet with a hard heart in me? Am I too anxious about money, security, provision for retirement or old age? Is God’s word taking root in me? Converting me? Transforming me? Enabling me to sacrifice? And what about the “fruits” that we are being invited to produce: justice and mercy, hospitality for the immigrant and those with AIDS, the dispossessed, the unborn, the single mother? By refusing to consider these things, we may be missing the healing that the Word of God can bring into our lives. The parable of the sower challenges us to see how deeply the word of God has taken root in our lives, how central God is to the very fabric of our day-to-day life. Jesus also invites his followers to embrace the Faith of the sower: to trust and believe that our simplest acts of kindness and forgiveness, our humblest offers of help to anyone in need, may be the seeds that fall “on good soil” and yield an abundant harvest.
What kind of soil are we?
How do we respond to the Word of God and to the various Acts of God in our lives? Do we allow the trials and tribulations of this world to overwhelm the tender seed growing within us? Do we pull back when people harass us because we are believers? Do we decide, because things are not working out the way we think they ought, that God doesn’t care for us, or that He is powerless, weak, and not to be heeded? Do we allow the cares of this world, our ambitions, or our desires for success and happiness, to choke out the messages that God sends us through the various events of our daily lives and through the various people we encounter? How we respond to the Word of God is the key to how fruitful the Gospel is going to be in our lives. Unlike the situation in nature, we can, as it were, change the kind of soil that we are. God allows the seed to land on the hard paths, on the rocky ground, and in the thickets of our lives in the hope that in those places it will find a place to mature and bear fruit, that those things which impede growth will be removed, and that the soil may be just a little deeper than it at first appears to be in those rocky places. Jesus challenges us in the parable of the sower to sow seeds of encouragement, joy, and reconciliation regardless of the “soil” on which it is scattered, and to imitate the seed’s total giving of self that becomes the harvest of Gospel justice and mercy.
Visit Fr. Tony’s Homilies each week for an introduction to the Sunday readings, scripture lessons, homily starter anecdotes, a summary of each of the scripture readings, and Gospel exegesis. Fr. Tony’s Life Messages have be used with permission.
Praying with the Word
Jesus, you seek to sow your Word in my heart in many ways. Help me to be more attentive and responsive to your Word.
Three sets of questions suitable for individual or group use (from general to in-depth).
Responding to God’s Word
Spend some time thinking about how the Word can bear more fruit in your life. Also, think of how you can be a sower of the Word this week.
Loving God, We thank you for sending your Son Jesus to sow the seed of your life-giving word in our hearts, so that it might do your will and achieve your purpose in our world. Open our hearts to receive this word.Increase our desire to live it out wholeheartedly. Amen.
Video by Larry Broding. Visit Word-Sunday.com website for detailed commentary and other resources regarding the readings for this Sunday.
INTRODUCTION — Today’s readings focus on the power of God’s word for those who actually embrace it. This theme begs several questions for us who have heard the word proclaimed many times over. Does what we hear change our thinking or our actions in any way? Is the problem with the proclaimer or the homilist, or is it really with us? The promise is that God’s word can make a difference in our lives … if we are open to it.
|Lord Jesus, you spoke in parables about those who hear God’s word: Lord, have mercy.||Christ Jesus, you taught that God’s word has power for those who hear it: Christ, have mercy.||Lord Jesus, you invite us to be open to receive what we hear from you: Lord, have mercy,|
NCR SUNDAY RESOURCES – Joan DeMerchant
EXCERPT – We will never succeed in all of our projects and goals. We will never fulfill all of our hopes and dreams. We will never remain connected to all of the people who we love… Instead of lamenting about all the things in our life that did not happen, this parable calls us to rejoice in the things that did happen—in the goals we were able to achieve, in the hopes that we were able to realize, in the relationships that still support us to this day. They are God’s gifts to us. There might be many of our hopes and dreams that did not materialize, but the ones that did are enough to provide a bountiful harvest, a rich life.
BUILDING ON THE WORD – Fr. George Sigma
EXCERPT — This year has been extremely difficult for so many people. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic turned the world upside down, halting everyday life in an unimaginable way and causing many people to suffer and die from the virus. Likewise, the murders of Breonna Taylor in March and George Floyd in May by police officers added two more names to the list of the many black people who have died at the hands of cavalier law enforcers. We have seen the sadness, frustration and rage that Floyd’s murder in particular sparked. The visual confirmation of a murder in broad daylight showed the world yet another example of inhumane treatment and outright disregard for black life. As a black woman, I feel despair. Can Scripture help? I hope so.
AMERICA MAGAZINE – Jamie Waters
EXCERPT – The Church, you and me, are now responsible for the sowing and for the harvesting. What that means is that our families and our parishes are responsible for that work… The local parish, the faith-sharing group to which you belong, the family within which you live, all are agents of evangelization, of seed-sowing and of harvesting. Every Christian community needs to be an apostolic community, one that bears the Word toothers in some way. We are never limited by our personal or corporate inadequacies. The word of God will accomplish the purposes for which it was sent. Ours is only to spread it far and wide and to leave the rest to the Lord.There will surely be obstacles to the growth. Pray that we ourselves do not become those obstacles.
ECHOING GOD’S WORD – Rev. Clement D. Thimbodeau (1932-2017)
EXCERPT – Resistance to God’s call to change our ways is “hardness of heart.” A modern example would be resistance to the Church’s teachings on faith and morals (such as contraception, abortion, euthanasia, and capital punishment). Sometimes the seeds of the Church’s teachings just fall on rocky ground, or on the barren path of our hearts. The Evil One is very active today!
EXCERPT – On the paths of life, unrooted, our freedom is pecked at by passing birds. For others, the freedom dries and withers. Still others choke their choice in fear and worldly anxiety. But then, others take it all in. They embrace the limit of life, the gift of being good but not God. They cherish the gift of dependence as creatures. And they bear fruit a thousand times more splendid than the bounty of trees.
SUNDAY WEB SITE – Father John Kavanaugh, SJ
The Catena Aurea (or, Golden Chain) is a compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels and contains passages from the Church Fathers. In this masterpiece, Aquinas seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Fathers to provide a complete commentary on all four Gospels.
Click on banner above to show/hide an annotated list of the Church Fathers that Aquinas compiled in his multi-volume commentary of the Gospels.
- 1. The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.
- 2. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
- 3. And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
- 4. And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
- 5. Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
- 6. And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
- 7. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
- 8. But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
- 9. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
CHRYSOSTOM. When He had rebuked him that told Him of His mother and His brethren, He then did according to their request; He departed out of the house, having first corrected His brethren for their weak desire of vainglory; He then paid the honour due to His mother, as it is said, The same day Jesus went forth out of the house, and sat down by the sea side.
AUGUSTINE. (De Cons. Ev. ii. 41.) By the words, The same day, he sufficiently shews that these things either followed immediately upon what had gone before, or that many things could not have intervened; unless indeed ‘day’ here after the Scripture manner signifies a period.
RABANUS. For not only the Lord’s words and actions, but His journeyings also, and the places in which He works His mighty works and preaches, are full of heavenly sacraments. After the discourse held in the house, wherein with wicked blasphemy He had been said to have a dæmon, He went out and taught by the sea, to signify that having left Judæa because of their sinful unbelief, He would pass to the salvation of the Gentiles. For the hearts of the Gentiles, long proud and unbelieving, are rightly likened to the swelling and bitter waves of the sea. And who knows not that Judæa was by faith the house of the Lord.
JEROME. For it must be considered, that the multitude could not enter into the house to Jesus, nor be there where the Apostles heard mysteries; therefore the Lord in mercy to them departed out of the house, and sat near the sea of this world, that great numbers might be gathered to Him, and that they might hear on the sea shore what they were not worthy to hear within; And great multitudes were gathered unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat down, and all the people stood on the shore.
CHRYSOSTOM. The Evangelist did not relate this without a purpose, but that he might shew the Lord’s will therein, who desired so to place the people that He should have none behind Him, but all should be before His face.
HILARY. There is moreover a reason in the subject of His discourse why the Lord should sit in the ship, and the multitude stand on the shore. For He was about to speak in parables, and by this action signifies that they who were without the Church could have no understanding of the Divine Word. The ship offers a type of the Church, within which the word of life is placed, and is preached to those without, and who as being barren sand cannot understand it.
JEROME. Jesus is in the midst of the waves; He is beaten to and fro by the waves, and, secure in His majesty, causes His vessel to come nigh the land, that the people not being in danger, not being surrounded by temptations which they could not endure, might stand on the shore with a firm step, to hear what was said.
RABANUS. Or, that He went into a ship and sat on the sea, signifies that Christ by faith should enter into the hearts of the Gentiles, and should gather together the Church in the sea, that is in the midst of the nations that spake against Him. And the crowd that stood on the sea shore, neither in the ship nor in the sea, offers a figure of those that receive the word of God, and are by faith separated from the sea, that is from the reprobate, but are not yet imbued with heavenly mysteries. It follows; And he spake many things unto them in parables.
CHRYSOSTOM. He had not done thus on the mount; He had not framed His discourse by parables. For there were the multitudes only, and a mixed crowd, but here the Scribes and Pharisees. But He speaks in parables not for this reason only, but to make His sayings plainer, and fix them more fully in the memory, by bringing things before the eyes.
JEROME. And it is to be noted, that He spake not all things to them in parables, but many things, for had He spoken all things in parables, the people would have departed without benefit. He mingles things plain with things dark, that by those things which they understand they may be incited to get knowledge of the things they understand not. The multitude also is not of one opinion, but of divers wills in divers matters, whence He speaks to them in many parables, that each according to their several dispositions may receive some portion of His teaching.
CHRYSOSTOM. He first sets forth a parable to make His hearers more attentive, and because He was about to speak enigmatically, He attracts the attention by this first parable, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow his seed.
JEROME. By this sower is typified the Son of God, who sows among the people the word of the Father.
CHRYSOSTOM. Whence then went out He who is every where present, and how went He out? Not in place; but by His incarnation being brought nearer to us by the garb of the flesh. Forasmuch as we because of our sins could not enter in unto Him, He therefore came forth to us.
RABANUS. Or, He went forth, when having left Judea, He passed by the Apostles to the Gentiles.
JEROME. Or, He was within while He was yet in the house, and spake sacraments to His disciples. He went therefore forth from the house, that He might sow seed among the multitudes.
CHRYSOSTOM. When you hear the words, the sower went out to sow, do not suppose that is a tautology. For the sower goes out oftentimes for other ends; as, to break up the ground, to pluck up noxious weeds, to root up thorns, or perform any other species of industry, but this man went forth to sow. What then becomes of that seed? three parts of it perish, and one is preserved; but not all in the same manner, but with a certain difference, as it follows, And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside.
JEROME. This parable Valentinus lays hold of to establish his heresy, bringing in three different natures; the spiritual, the natural or the animal, and the earthly. But there are here four named, one by the wayside, one stony, one thorny, and a fourth the good ground.
CHRYSOSTOM. Next, how is it according to reason to sow seed among thorns, or on stony ground, or by the wayside? Indeed in the material seed and soil of this world it would not be reasonable; for it is impossible that rock should become soil, or that the way should not be the way, or that thorns should not be thorns. But with minds and doctrines it is otherwise; there it is possible that the rock be made rich soil, that the way should be no more trodden upon, and that the thorns should be extirpated. That the most part of the seed then perished, came not of him that sowed, but of the soil that received it, that is the mind. For He that sowed put no difference between rich and poor, wise or foolish, but spoke to all alike; filling up his own part, though foreseeing all things that should come to pass, so that He might say, What ought I to have done that I have not done? (Is. 5:4) He does not pronounce sentence upon them openly and say, this the indolent received and have lost it, this the rich and have choked it, this the careless and have lost it, because He would not harshly reprove them, that He might not alienate them altogether. By this parable also He instructs His disciples, that though the greater part of those that heard them were such as perished, yet that they should not therefore be remiss; for the Lord Himself who foresaw all things, did not on this account desist from sowing.
JEROME. Note that this is the first parable that has been given with its interpretation, and we must beware where the Lord expounds His own teachings, that we do not presume to understand any thing either more or less, or any way otherwise than as so expounded by Him.
RABANUS. But those things which He silently left to our understanding, should be shortly noticed. The wayside is the mind trodden and hardened by the continual passage of evil thoughts; the rock, the hardness of the self-willed mind; the good soil, the gentleness of the obedient mind, the sun, the heat of a raging persecution. The depth of soil, is the honesty of a mind trained by heavenly discipline. But in thus expounding them we should add, that the same things are not always put in one and the same allegorical signification.
JEROME. And we are excited to the understanding of His words, by the advice which follows, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
REMIGIUS. These ears to hear, are ears of the mind, to understand namely and do those things which are commanded.
- 10. And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
- 11. He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
- 12. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
- 13. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
- 14. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
- 15. For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed: lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
- 16. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
- 17. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) The disciples understanding that the things which were spoken by the Lord to the people were obscure, desired to hint to Him that He should not speak in parables to them. And his disciples came to him, and said, Why speakest thou to them in parables?
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom, xlv.) Wherein it is worthy admiration, that the disciples who desire to learn of Him, know when they ought to ask Him, for they do not this before the multitude. This Matthew declares, when he says, And they came to him; (Mark 4:10) and Mark more expressly says, that they came to him when he was alone.
JEROME. We must enquire how they could come to Him at that time when Jesus was sitting in the ship; we may understand that they had at the first entered into the ship, and standing there, made this enquiry of Him.
REMIGIUS. The Evangelist therefore says, came to him, to express that they eagerly enquired of Him; or they might indeed approach Him bodily, though the space between them was small.
CHRYSOSTOM. And observe moreover their goodness, how great their thought for others, that they enquire about what concerns others, before what relates to themselves. For they say not, ‘Why speakest thou to us in parables?’ but to them. And he answered and said unto them, Because it is given to you to know the mystery of the kingdom of heaven.
REMIGIUS. To you, I say, who adhere to Me, and believe in Me. By the mystery of the kingdom of heaven, He intends the Gospel doctrine. To them, that is, to them that are without, and who would not believe on Him, the Scribes namely and Pharisees, and to the rest who continue in unbelief, it is not given. Let us then, with the disciples, come unto the Lord with a pure heart, that He may think us worthy to interpret to us the evangelic teaching; according to that, They who draw near to his feet, shall receive of his doctrine. (Deut. 33:3)
CHRYSOSTOM. In saying this, He does not imply any necessity or fate, but shews at once, that they, to whom it is not given, are the cause of all their own miseries, and yet that the knowledge of the Divine mysteries is the gift of God, and a grace given from above. Yet this does not destroy free will, as is manifest from what follows, for to prevent that either these should despair, or those be remiss, when they hear that to you it is given, He shews that the beginning of all lays with ourselves, and then He adds, For whoso hath, to him shall be given, and he shall abound; and whoso hath not, from him shall be taken what he hath. As much as to say, Whoso has the desire and the zeal, to him shall be given all those things which are of God; but whoso lacketh these, and does not contribute that part that pertains to him, to him neither are the things which are of God given, but even those things that he hath are taken from him; not because God takes them away, but because he hath made himself unworthy of those that he has. Wherefore we also, if we see any hearkening carelessly, and having exhorted him to attend, he do not heed us, let us be silent; for should we persevere in urging him, his sloth-fulness will be the more charged against him. But him that is zealous to learn, we draw onwards, pouring forth many things. And He well said according to another Evangelist, That which he seemeth to have; (Luke 8:18.) for, in truth, he has not even that he has.
REMIGIUS. He that has a desire to read, shall have given to him power to understand, and whoso has not desire to read, that understanding which by the bounty of nature he seems to have, even that shall be taken from him. Or, whoso has charity, to him shall be given the other virtues also; and from him who has not charity, the other virtues likewise shall be taken away, for without charity there can be nothing good.
JEROME. Or, To the Apostles who believe in Christ there is given, but from the Jews who believed not on the Son of God there is taken away, even whatever good they might seem to have by nature. For they cannot understand any thing with wisdom, seeing they have not the head of wisdom.
HILARY. For the Jews not having faith, have lost also the Law which they had; and Gospel faith has the perfect gift, inasmuch as if received it enriches with new fruit, if rejected it subtracts from the riches of ancient possession.
CHRYSOSTOM. But that what He had said might be made more manifest He adds, Therefore speak I unto them in parables, because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. Had this been a natural blindness, He ought to have opened their eyes; but forasmuch as it is voluntary, therefore He said not simply, ‘They see not,’ but, Seeing they see not. For they had seen the dæmons going out, and they said, He casts out dæmons by Beelzebub; they heard that He drew all men to God, and they say, This man is not of God. (John 9:16) Therefore because they spake the very contrary to what they saw and heard, to see and to hear is taken from them; for they profit nothing, but rather fall under judgment. For this reason He spake to them at first not in parables, but with much clearness; but because they perverted all they saw and heard, He now speaks in parables.
REMIGIUS. And it should be noted, that not only what He spake, but also what He did, were parables, that is, signs of things spiritual, which He clearly shews when He says, That seeing they may not see; but words are heard and not seen.
JEROME. This He says of those who were standing on the shore, and separated from Jesus, and who because of the dashing of the waves heard not distinctly what was said.
CHRYSOSTOM. And that they should not say, He slanders us as an enemy, He brings forward the Prophet declaring the same opinion, as it follows, That there might be fulfilled in them the prophecy of Isaiah, who said, With the hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand, and seeing ye shall see and shall not behold. (Is. 6:9)
GLOSS. (non occ.) That is; With the hearing ye shall hear words, but shall not understand the hidden meaning of those words; seeing ye shall see My flesh indeed, but shall not discern the divinity.
CHRYSOSTOM. This He said because they had taken away their own sight and hearing, shutting their eyes, and hardening their hearts. For not only did they not hear at all, but they heard obtusely, as it follows, The heart of this people is waxed gross, and they have heard hardly with their ears.
RABANUS. The heart of the Jews is made gross with the grossness of wickedness, and through the abundance of their sins they hear hardly the Lord’s words, because they have received them ungratefully.
JEROME. And that we should not suppose that this grossness of the heart and heaviness of the ears is of nature, and not of choice, He adds the fruit of their own wilfulness, For they have shut their eyes.
CHRYSOSTOM. Herein He points out how extreme their wickedness, how determined their aversion. Again to draw them towards Him, He adds, And be converted, and I should heal them; which shews that if they would be converted, they should be healed. As if one should say, If he would ask me I would immediately forgive him, this would point out how he might be reconciled; so here when He says, Lest they should he converted and I should heal them, He, shews that it was possible they should be converted, and having done penitence should be saved.
AUGUSTINE. (Quæst. in Matt. q. 14.) Otherwise; They have shut their eyes lest they should see with their eyes, that is, themselves were the cause that God shut their eyes. For another Evangelist says, We hath blinded their eyes. But is this to the end that they should never see? Or that they should not see so much as this, that becoming discontent with their own blindness and bewailing themselves, should so be humbled, and moved to confession of their sins and pious seeking after God. For Mark thus expresses the same thing, Lest they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. From which we learn, that by their sins they deserved not to understand; and that yet this was allowed them in mercy that they should confess their sins, and should turn, and so merit to be forgiven. But when John relating this expresses it thus, Therefore they could not believe because Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them, (John 12:39) this seems to be opposed to this interpretation, and to compel us to take what is here said, Lest they should see with their eyes, not as though they might come to see after this fashion, but that they should never see at all; for he says it plainly, That they should not see with their eyes. And that he says, Therefore they could not believe, sufficiently shows that the blindness was not inflicted, to the end that moved thereby, and grieving that they understood not, they should be converted through penitence; for that they could not, unless they had first believed, and by believing had been converted, and by conversion had been healed, and having been healed understood; but it rather shews that they were therefore blinded that they should not believe. For he speaks most clearly, Therefore they could not believe. But if it be so, who would not rise up in defence of the Jews, and pronounce them to be free from all blame for their unbelief? For, Therefore they could not believe, because he hath blinded their eyes. But because we must rather believe God to be without fault, we are driven to confess that by some other sins they had thus deserved to be blinded, and that indeed this blinding prevented them from believing; for the words of John are these, They could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes. It is in vain then to endeavour to understand it that they were therefore blinded that they should be converted; seeing they could not be converted because they believed not; and they could not believe because they were blinded. Or perhaps we should not say amiss thus—that some of the Jews were capable of being healed, but that being puffed up with so great swelling pride, it was good for them at first that they should not believe, that they might understand the Lord speaking in parables, which if they did not understand they would not believe; and thus not believing on Him, they together with the rest who were past hope crucified Him; and at length after His resurrection, they were converted, when humbled by the guilt of His death they loved Him the more because of the heavy guilt which had been forgiven them; for their so great pride needed such an humiliation to overcome it. This might indeed be thought an inconsistent explanation, did we not plainly read in the Acts of the Apostles that thus it was. This then that John says, Therefore they could not believe, because he hath blinded their eyes that they should not see, (Acts 2:37) is not repugnant to our holding that they were therefore blinded that they should be converted; that is to say, that the Lord’s meaning was therefore purposely clothed in the obscurities of parables, that after His resurrection they might turn them to wisdom with a more healthy penitence. For by reason of the darkness of His discourse, they being blinded did not understand the Lord’s sayings, and not understanding them, they did not believe on Him, and not believing on Him they crucified Him; thus after His resurrection, terrified by the miracles that were wrought in His name, they had the greater compunction for their great sin, and were more prostrated in penitence; and accordingly after indulgence granted they turned to obedience with a more ardent affection. Notwithstanding, some there were to whom this blinding profited not to conversion.
REMIGIUS. In all the clauses the word ‘not’ must be understood; thus; That they should not see with their eyes, and should not hear with their ears, and should not understand with their heart, and should not be converted, and I should heal them.
GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) so then the eyes of them that see, and will not believe, are miserable, but your eyes are blessed; whence it follows; Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.
JEROME. If we had not read above that invitation to his hearers to understand, when the Saviour said, He that hath, ears to hear let him hear, we might here suppose that the eyes and ears which are now blessed are those of the body. But I think that those eyes are blessed which can discern Christ’s sacraments, and those ears of which Isaiah speaks, The Lord hath given me an ear. (Is. 50:4)
GLOSS. (ord.) The mind is called an eye, because it is intently directed upon what is set before it to understand it; and an ear, because it learns from the teaching of another.
HILARY. Or, He is speaking of the blessedness of the Apostolic times, to whose eyes and ears it was permitted to see and to hear the salvation of God, many Prophets and just men having desired to see and to hear that which was destined to be in the fulness of times; whence it follows; Verily I say unto you, that many Prophets and just men have desired to see the things that ye see, and to hear the things that ye hear, and have not heard them.
JEROME. This place seems to be contradicted by what is said elsewhere. Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad. (John 8:56)
RABANUS. Also Isaiah and Micah, and many other Prophets, saw the glory of the Lord; and were thence called ‘seers.’
JEROME. But He said not, ‘The Prophets and the just men,’ but many; for out of the whole number, it may be that some saw, and others saw not. But as this is a perilous interpretation, that we should seem to be making a distinction between the merits of the saints, at least as far as the degree of their faith in Christ, therefore we may suppose that Abraham saw in enigma, and not in substance. But ye have truly present with you, and hold, your Lord, enquiring of Him at your will, and eating with Him.1
CHRYSOSTOM. These things then which the Apostles saw and heard, are such as His presence, His voice, His teaching. And in this He sets them before not the evil only, but even before the good, pronouncing them more blessed than even the righteous men of old. For they saw not only what the Jews saw not, but also what the righteous men and Prophets desired to see, and had not seen. For they had beheld these things only by faith, but these by sight, and even yet more clearly. You see how He identifies the Old Testament with the New, for had the Prophets been the servants of any strange or hostile Deity, they would not have desired to see Christ.
- 18. Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.
- 19. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
- 20. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
- 21. Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
- 22. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
- 23. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) He had said above, that it was not given to the Jews to know the kingdom of God, but to the Apostles, and therefore He now concludes, saying, Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower, ye to whom are committed the mysteries of heaven.
AUGUSTINE. (De Gen. ad lit. viii. 4.) It is certain that the Lord spoke the things which the Evangelist has recorded; but what the Lord spake was a parable, in which it is never required that the things contained should have actually taken place.
GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) He proceeds then expounding the parable; Every man who hears the word of the kingdom, that is, My preaching which avails to the acquiring the kingdom of heaven, and understandeth it not; how he understands it not, is explained by, for the evil one—that is the Devil—cometh and taketh away that which is sown in his heart; every such man is that which is sown by the way side. And note that that which is sown, is taken in different senses; for the seed is that which is sown, and the field is that which is sown, both of which are found here. For where He says carrieth away that which is sown, we must understand it of the seed; that which follows, is sown by the way side, is to be understood not of the seed, but of the place of the seed, that is, of the man, who is as it were the field sown by the seed of the Divine word.
REMIGIUS. In these words the Lord explains what the seed is, to wit, the word of the kingdom, that is of the Gospel teaching. For there are some that receive the word of the Lord with no devotion of heart, and so that seed of God’s word which is sown in their heart, is by dæmons straightway carried off, as it were the seed dropped by the way side. It follows, That which is sown upon the rock, is he that heareth the word, &c. For the seed or word of God, which is sown in the rock, that is, in the hard and untamed heart, can bring forth no fruit, inasmuch as its hardness is great, and its desire of heavenly things small; and because of this great hardness, it has no root in itself.
JEROME. Note that which is said, is straightway offended. There is then some difference between him who, by many tribulations and torments, is driven to deny Christ, and him who at the first persecution is offended, and falls away, of which He proceeds to speak, That which is sown among thorns. To me He seems here to express figuratively that which was said literally to Adam; Amidst briers and thorns thou shalt eat thy bread, (Gen. 3:18) that he that has given himself up to the delights and the cares of this world, eats heavenly bread and the true food among thorns.
RABANUS. Rightly are they called thorns, because they lacerate the soul by the prickings of thought, and do not suffer it to bring forth the spiritual fruit of virtue.
JEROME. And it is elegantly added, The deceitfulness of riches choke the word; for riches are treacherous, promising one thing and doing another. The tenure of them is slippery as they are borne hither and thither, and with uncertain step forsake those that have them, or revive those that have them not. Whence the Lord asserts, that rich men hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven, because their riches choke the word of God, and relax the strength of their virtues.
REMIGIUS. And it should be known, that in these three sorts of bad soil are comprehended all who can hear the word of God, and yet have not strength to bring it forth unto salvation. The Gentiles are excepted, who were not worthy even to hear it. It follows, That which is sown on the good ground. The good ground is the faithful conscience of the elect, or the spirit of the saints which receives the word of God with joy and desire and devotion of heart, and manfully retains it amid prosperous and adverse circumstances, and brings it forth in fruit; as it follows, And brings forth fruit, some a hundred-fold, some sixty-fold, some thirty-fold.
JEROME. And it is to be noted, that as in the bad ground there were three degrees of difference, to wit, that by the way side, the stony and the thorny ground; so in the good soil there is a three-fold difference, the hundred-fold, the sixty-fold, and the thirty-fold. And in this as in that, not the substance but the will is changed, and the hearts as well of the unbelieving as the believing receive seed; as in the first case He said, Then cometh the wicked one, and carrieth off that which is sown in the heart; and in the second and third case of the bad soil He said, This is he that heareth the word. So also in the exposition of the good soil, This is he that heareth the word. Therefore we ought first to hear, then to understand, and after understanding to bring forth the fruits of teaching, either an hundred-fold, or sixty, or thirty.
AUGUSTINE. (De Civ. Dei, xxi. 27.) Some think that this is to be understood as though the saints according to the degree of their merits delivered some thirty, some sixty, some an hundred persons; and this they usually suppose will happen on the day of judgment, not after the judgment. But when this opinion was observed to encourage men in promising themselves impunity, because that by this means all might attain to deliverance, it was answered, that men ought the rather to live well, that each might be found among those who were to intercede for the liberation of others, lest these should be found to be I so few that they should soon have exhausted the number allotted to them, and thus there would remain many unrescued from torment, among whom might be found all such as in most vain rashness had promised themselves to reap the fruits of others.
REMIGIUS. The thirty-fold then is borne of him who teaches faith in the Holy Trinity; the sixty-fold of him who enforces the perfection of good works; (for in the number six this world was completed with all its equipments;) (Gen. 2:1) while he bears the hundred-fold who promises eternal life. For the number one hundred passes from the left hand to the right; and by the left hand the present life is denoted, by the right hand the life to come. Otherwise, the seed of the word of God brings forth fruit thirty-fold when it begets good thoughts, sixty-fold when good speech, and an hundred-fold when it brings to the fruit of good works.
AUGUSTINE. (Quæst. Ev. i. 9.) Otherwise; There is fruit an hundred-fold of the martyrs because of their satiety of life or contempt of death; a sixty-fold fruit of virgins, because they rest not warring against the use of the flesh; for retirement is allowed to those of sixty years’ age after service in war or in public business; and there is a thirty-fold fruit of the wedded, because theirs is the age of warfare, and their struggle is the more arduous that they should not be vanquished by their lusts. Or otherwise; We must struggle with our love of temporal goods that reason may be master; it should either be so overcome and subject to us, that when it begins to rise it may be easily repressed, or so extinguished that it never arises in us at all. Whence it comes to pass, that death itself is despised for truth’s sake, by some with brave endurance, by others with content, and by others with gladness—which three degrees are the three degrees of fruits of the earth—thirty-fold, sixty-fold, and an hundred-fold. And in one of these degrees must one be found at the time of his death, if any desires to depart well out of this life.
JEROME. (vid. Cyp. Tr. iv. 12.) Or, The hundred-fold fruit is to be ascribed to virgins, the sixty-fold to widows and continent persons, the thirty-fold to chaste wedlock.
JEROME. (Ep. 48. 2.) For the joining together of the hands, as it were in the soft embrace of a kiss, represents husband and wife. The sixty-fold refers to widows, who as being set in narrow circumstances and affliction are denoted by the depression of the finger; for by how much greater is the difficulty of abstaining from the allurements of pleasure once known, so much greater is the reward. The hundredth number passes from the left to the right, and by its turning round with the same fingers, not on the same hand, it expresses the crown of virginitya.
SOURCE: eCatholic 2000
“By using the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the homilist can help his people integrate the word of God, the faith of the Church, the moral demands of the Gospel, and their personal and liturgical spirituality.” From the Homiletic Directory
- CCC 546: Christ teaches through parables
- CCC 1703-1709: capacity to know and correspond to the voice of God
- CCC 2006-2011: God associates man in working of grace
- CCC 1046-1047: creation part of the new universe
- CCC 2707: the value of meditation
Christ teaches through parables
The proclamation of the kingdom of God
543 Everyone is called to enter the kingdom. First announced to the children of Israel, this messianic kingdom is intended to accept men of all nations.251 To enter it, one must first accept Jesus’ word:
- The word of the Lord is compared to a seed which is sown in a field; those who hear it with faith and are numbered among the little flock of Christ have truly received the kingdom. Then, by its own power, the seed sprouts and grows until the harvest.252
544 The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to “preach good news to the poor”;253 he declares them blessed, for “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”254 To them – the “little ones” the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned.255 Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst and privation.256 Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom.257
545 Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”258 He invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in word and deed his Father’s boundless mercy for them and the vast “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents”.259 The supreme proof of his love will be the sacrifice of his own life “for the forgiveness of sins”.260
546 Jesus’ invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching.261 Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything.262 Words are not enough, deeds are required.263 The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word?264 What use has he made of the talents he has received?265 Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to “know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven”.266 For those who stay “outside”, everything remains enigmatic.267
Capacity to know and correspond to the voice of God
MAN: THE IMAGE OF GOD
1701 “Christ, . . . in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, makes man fully manifest to himself and brings to light his exalted vocation.”2 It is in Christ, “the image of the invisible God,”3 that man has been created “in the image and likeness” of the Creator. It is in Christ, Redeemer and Savior, that the divine image, disfigured in man by the first sin, has been restored to its original beauty and ennobled by the grace of God.4
1702 The divine image is present in every man. It shines forth in the communion of persons, in the likeness of the unity of the divine persons among themselves (cf. chapter two).
1703 Endowed with “a spiritual and immortal” soul,5 the human person is “the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake.”6 From his conception, he is destined for eternal beatitude.
1704 The human person participates in the light and power of the divine Spirit. By his reason, he is capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator. By free will, he is capable of directing himself toward his true good. He finds his perfection “in seeking and loving what is true and good.”7
1705 By virtue of his soul and his spiritual powers of intellect and will, man is endowed with freedom, an “outstanding manifestation of the divine image.”8
1706 By his reason, man recognizes the voice of God which urges him “to do what is good and avoid what is evil.”9 Everyone is obliged to follow this law, which makes itself heard in conscience and is fulfilled in the love of God and of neighbor. Living a moral life bears witness to the dignity of the person.
1707 “Man, enticed by the Evil One, abused his freedom at the very beginning of history.”10 He succumbed to temptation and did what was evil. He still desires the good, but his nature bears the wound of original sin. He is now inclined to evil and subject to error:
- Man is divided in himself. As a result, the whole life of men, both individual and social, shows itself to be a struggle, and a dramatic one, between good and evil, between light and darkness.11
1708 By his Passion, Christ delivered us from Satan and from sin. He merited for us the new life in the Holy Spirit. His grace restores what sin had damaged in us.
1709 He who believes in Christ becomes a son of God. This filial adoption transforms him by giving him the ability to follow the example of Christ. It makes him capable of acting rightly and doing good. In union with his Savior, the disciple attains the perfection of charity which is holiness. Having matured in grace, the moral life blossoms into eternal life in the glory of heaven.
God associates man in working of grace
- You are glorified in the assembly of your Holy Ones, for in crowning their merits you are crowning your own gifts.59
2006 The term “merit” refers in general to the recompense owed by a community or a society for the action of one of its members, experienced either as beneficial or harmful, deserving reward or punishment. Merit is relative to the virtue of justice, in conformity with the principle of equality which governs it.
2007 With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.
2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.
2009 Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God’s gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us “co-heirs” with Christ and worthy of obtaining “the promised inheritance of eternal life.”60 The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness.61 “Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due. . . . Our merits are God’s gifts.”62
2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.
2011 The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.
- After earth’s exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone. . . . In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself.63
Creation part of the new universe
VI. THE HOPE OF THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW EARTH
1046 For the cosmos, Revelation affirms the profound common destiny of the material world and man:
- For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God . . . in hope because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay. . . . We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.639
1047 The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, “so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just,” sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ.640
The value of meditation
2707 There are as many and varied methods of meditation as there are spiritual masters. Christians owe it to themselves to develop the desire to meditate regularly, lest they come to resemble the three first kinds of soil in the parable of the sower.5 But a method is only a guide; the important thing is to advance, with the Holy Spirit, along the one way of prayer: Christ Jesus.