I'm sure many a husband has been accused of not listening to his wife. I know I have. Maria has occasionally caught me paying attention to something other than her during a conversation. I had a little trick where I used to frustrate her by recalling the last thing she had said. I would then say, "See I was listening." As I repeated her statement back from short-term memory that is when I would truly hear and understand what she had said. Jesus talks about a similar phenomenon in this week's Gospel.
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." Matthew 13:1-23
When Jesus uses parables to make His points He continually mentions "seeing" and "hearing." That is especially the case in this particular parable. The disciples wanted to understand so they asked Jesus to explain the deeper meaning behind the parable. Notice the first word of Jesus' explanation. He says, "Hear then the parable of the sower." The meaning of this particular word was more than just the physical act of hearing. Jesus is saying that to hear His words is to obey them as well. In essence, Jesus is saying that He is meant to be heard, understood and obeyed. In so doing the hearer (the seed) bears fruit for the sower (Jesus).
The deeper meaning of the parable of the sower for you and I is that we (the soil) are to not only hear the Word (Jesus) but to obey It (Him). As fertile soil we must:
- seek to understand the true meaning of the Word which ensures that the enemy doesn't steal it from us.
- expect that trial and tribulation may come and when it does maintain our faith in the Word.
- resist becoming anxious about worldly issues.
- avoid getting caught up in the pursuit of worldly riches.
Only then will we bear fruit for the sower. I wish I could say that I always hear, understand and obey Jesus' words. I don't! However, what I have learned over the years is that if I really tune into the Word I understand Him. Then it is much easier to obey Him. My prayer at that point is to be fruitful for Him. I have also matured in my relationship with Maria. I seek to hear and understand her. The result is a trust in one another that hopefully allows us to live as fertile soil for Jesus our Sower.