‘Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’
This passage is generally regarded by scholars not as words of Jesus but as an interpretation by the earliest Christian community. It was not Jesus’ way to explain parables. In fact explaining a story is like explaining a joke: it only flattens it. The parables don’t need explanation – unless it be to fill in some historical facts that have become obscured by the passage of time. But we can meditate on them, as those early Christians did, and all Christians through the ages.
The meditation of those early Christians reflects their experience, of course. Their interpretation shows that they had experience of those four kinds of listening to the word: the three fruitless ones and the one fruitful. So has the Church in every age, and so have we today.
Every one of us is a crowd – especially today when we are mobbed by so many voices coming at us through the airwaves. In the Christian Community Bible translation, the demoniac said, “My name is Mob, for we are many” (Mk 5:9). In our individual selves perhaps we can distinguish all four kinds of hearers – or days when we are one of them in particular….
Here comes the mob: 1. My heart is just a public path with no interiority at all, nowhere to “abide”. I am full of restless activity, so that I never really see anyone or face anything. I am constantly ‘transmitting’, so that I can never hear what others are trying to tell me. 2. My heart is a hard, stony place. I have little or no feeling for anyone who is not “one of us”, and I am wary of anyone who comes near me, in case they make demands I don't want to meet. 3. My heart is choked by the dissipation of modern life. I can't sit without turning on the TV or picking up something to read. My life is a series of disconnected events, with no vision, no direction, no passion. 4. There are occasional unguarded moments when the seed of the word falls into good soil. These are the moments to live for.
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