24 January
Mk 4:1-20

Jesus began to teach beside the lake. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the lake on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: ‘Listen!  A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’ And he said, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’

In a later verse of this passage (not quoted above), Jesus said to the disciples, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables.”  Notice once again the reference to “those outside” (see yesterday’s reading).  But he will not reject those outsiders and shape his own followers into a narrow circle, a cult.  No, he will teach them in parables: that is, with stories, images.  Jesus was a consummate story-teller; some of his stories are among the greatest in any literature, and would be remembered even if he wasn’t who he was.

Abstract statements you either understand at once, or you fail to understand them at all.  You have to catch them in the air when they’re flying; you get no second chance.  But a story stays with you even if you don’t grasp its full meaning all at once.  It waits for you, it gives you time.  It is the part of courtesy to wait for people who cannot move fast.  Think of parables as part of the courtesy of Jesus.  He is waiting for our minds to open, our spirits to deepen.  And that is the point of this parable: the readiness of the soil makes all the difference. 



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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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