Gospel – Matthew 13:1-23

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

The disciples approached him and said,
“Why do you speak to them in parables?”
He said to them in reply,
“Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven
has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.
To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich;
from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because
they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.
Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You shall indeed hear but not understand,
you shall indeed look but never see.
Gross is the heart of this people,
they will hardly hear with their ears,
they have closed their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their hearts and be converted,
and I heal them.

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see,
and your ears, because they hear.
Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

“Hear then 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 thirtyfold.”

Reflection on the Gospel

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

In the Gospel, Jesus presents the parable of the sower and the seed. He speaks of the four types of ground on which the seed falls. The growth of the seed in three of cases does not produce a rich harvest because of the environment in which the seeds fall. It is only the seed which falls in the rich, prepared soil which produces an abundant harvest. Jesus then tells His disciples (disciplined learners) that they are privileged with the explanation of the parable because they are His disciples – they have disciplined themselves to listen to the Master-Teacher. The key element is that the seed is the Word of GOD. The Word of GOD is given to various individuals, but not all are able to produce the growth which the Word has within it, because not all are fully open and prepared to allow the Word to grow and expand within them.

The term “Word of GOD” is an important concept in Hebrew Scripture (the Old Testament). The Dabar YHWH (“Word of the LORD”) in Hebrew carries with it a connotation which may not be immediately apparent to us today. [The Hebrew word can be transliterated as either Dabar or Debar.] When we think of a word, we think of either symbols (letters) on a page which represent a concept, or the sounds of a speaker which convey a message. To the people of old, the concept of Dabar was that a word was not just a meaning derived from characters or sounds which are put together. The Dabar (Word) was active, alive, and causative.

Dabar was sacred, even when spoken by humans, because speaking a Dabar connoted a relationship which was alive. When the Dabar YHWH (“Word of the LORD”) was the focus, it was even more dynamic. For when GOD spoke, the Dabar YHWH caused things to happen. GOD said, “Let it be” and creation happened. The Dabar YHWH spoken by prophets produced the events which were spoken about. The Dabar YHWH was more effective than rain falling on barren land. It always succeeds in the plan for which GOD spoke it. (Notice by the way that it is not the words of the LORD, it the Word of the LORD. No matter how many written characters or sounds, it is the Word of the LORD.)

The fullness of the Dabar YHWH came in Jesus. St. John describes Jesus as the Word made flesh. Jesus is the Dabar YHWH in human flesh. When Jesus speaks, salvation happens. The full effectiveness of the Dabar YHWH (Jesus), however, depends partly on the soil on which it falls. The seed (Dabar YHWH) is always effective, but external circumstance can either enhance or take away from the effectiveness of Dabar YHWH. When the Dabar YHWH falls on the well worn path, the effectiveness of the Dabar YHWH can be taken away by the evil one who does not allow the seed to even begin to take root. The Dabar YHWH is prevented from being heard because the enemy knows that if the Dabar YHWH is heard, it will become effective. False messages drown out the Dabar YHWH.

If the Dabar YHWH falls upon people who find themselves between a rock and a hard place, there is little chance of the Dabar YHWH taking root. The pressures and hardness of life prevent the seed of GOD’s Word from growing. The people are so hardened by the circumstances of their life, they cannot let the Dabar YHWH take root.

The third instance of the Dabar YHWH is that of the seed falling among thorns. We probably know of individuals who at one time were excited at hearing the Dabar YHWH. They began to live an apparently rich life based on the Dabar YHWH. Yet over time, worldly concerns and consumerism choke out the Word and prevent the Dabar YHWH from producing a rich harvest.

Finally the Dabar YHWH falls on soil that is rich – soil that has been prepared by being fertilized and turned over – soil that has been well watered and readied for the seed. It is in such a ground that the Dabar YHWH can have the most abundant growth, producing a yield many times over.

As I reflect on today’s reading, I realized how important it is for me to be prepared to receive the Dabar YHWH. The Dabar YHWH is life giving and effective, but can be limited by my willingness, or lack thereof, to receive the Word. I realize that it is only when I dedicated myself to spending time with Dabar YHWH that the Word of GOD produces its full effect. I try to spend about an hour or so each day in prayer and reflection on the Word of the LORD. The more time I spend reflecting on the Dabar YHWH, the more alive it becomes. Even passages which I have probably heard a hundred times during my life become real and meaningful, because I am open to the Dabar YHWH. I pray that the Dabar YHWH will become more active in my life and will lead me in my daily living.

I have come to realize more and more that the Dabar YHWH is not just something spoken or written millennia ago just for people at the time it was delivered. It is something which is life giving and vibrant for me, living in the twenty-first century. Yes, it had a certain meaning at the time of its being given to people in ancient times, but it is also effective for me. And I have the advantage of being able to see the Dabar YHWH as it has been more fully reflected upon throughout history until this time.

I have been blessed during the last few years with being led to spending more time with the Dabar YHWH. Writing reflections daily on the Word has been enriching for me, even if no one else ever reads what I write. For it has given me the opportunity to reflect on the Dabar YHWH and see what a difference the Dabar YHWH has in my life. It has challenged me and empowered me to live a life based on the Word of the LORD.

The Dabar YHWH can produce a multi-fold harvest in us if we take the time to come to the Master-Teacher and learn from Him. It takes time. It takes study. It takes discipline. And sometime it takes having stinking manure and fertilizer put on me to prepare me to be more fruitfully open. Yet that is exactly what it means to be the Lord Jesus’ disciple – one who is willing to discipline him/herself by spending time listening and learning from the Master-Teacher.

The personal question/action for today: How has my life been affected by my openness to the Dabar YHWH? What can I do to be better ground in which the Word of GOD can take root and grow? How can my discipline of being a person of the Word touch the life of another person today? This week?

Bob Kondrath
Reflections by Bob

Saint John Baptist de La Salle – Pray for us.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts – Forever.