Homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

                                             Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

The Parable of the Sower and the Experience of Church Growth

Most people love nature, do you? I do too. Among the things we admire in our natural environment are plants and trees. We are often overwhelmed by their various physical structures, the beautiful leaves, and flowers with radiant colors, not excluding the shades they provide, the fruits, and other valuables.

While we relish the importance of plants and trees, we often forget that each of them has a story of three parts. The story begins with a planter (sower), a seed, and a dependable soil. No matter how beautiful a seed appears, it would need good soil to develop its potentials. We can say that without good soil, a good seed would remain a good seed until it ceases to exist.

The First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (55:10-11) likens the Word of God to the rains and snow that cannot come down without making a powerful impact on the earth; “My word shall not return to me void, it shall do my will, achieving the end which I sent it.”

In the Gospel Reading (Matthew 13:1-23), we hear the famous parable of the sower from our Lord Jesus Christ. The parable, unlike most others, comes with an explanation for the benefit of the disciples. Our Lord used a common farming practice among the people, namely seed sowing, to deliver the parable.

The parable tells us about a sower whose seed fell on four different soil types as he sows seeds using the broadcasting method. Some of the seeds fell on the roadside, but they could not germinate because birds made feasts out of them as soon as they are sown. Other seeds fell on the rocks with surface soil, and when they grew, they could not have depth because of the rocky landscape.

Some others fell among thorns. They germinated, but they could not flourish because the thorns made it exceedingly difficult for them to thrive, so they lost out. Finally, some fell on good soil with all the necessary preconditions for germination, growth, and flourishing. The seeds on good soil made it and bore exceptional fruits in abundance.

The Four Types of Soil-Types (Christians)

The narrative of the parable of the sower goes deeper than what we read and hear. Our Lord Jesus Christ revealed the messages behind the parable to the disciples in private. The seed is the word of God if you like the gospel. The soil represents our hearts, and the sower is anyone who has the divine mandate to bring the good news.

The pathway soil represents the heart that is easily distracted to the extent that it loses the message as soon as it comes. The birds represent the evil one that comes to snatch away the word from those hearts. The rocky hearts receive the message with joy but lack the depth to retain the message. Material things and riches choke the thorny hearts. The good soil represents the good hearts that receive the word of God and runs with it.

From our Lord’s rendering of the meaning of the parable of the sower, we can identify four types of Christians spanning out to the four types of seed-soils.

Roadside Christians:  According to our Lord’s interpretation, the birds represent the evil one who comes to steal the seeds from the pathway soil. We all know that the plan of the evil one is to steal, kill, destroy (John 10:10a).

Notice that the location of the soil (roadside) is the first thing that would potentially attract the attacker who is always looking for an opportunity to strike (Ephesians 4:27). Roadside Christians are those who do not have time to digest the word of God when they receive it, and because of this inattention, the evil one comes to cart it away.

Roadside Christians come to Church, but they do not allow the Church to go into their hearts. Roadside Christians are not intentional about their Christian life; in fact, they answer Christians but do not live up to their Christian identity.

Rocky-heart Christians: Rocky-heart Christians are those who intentionally receive the word of God with joy, but they contend with depth and stability because of tribulations and other challenges. Rocky-heart Christian do not stay long in their faith convictions. They are stable today and unstable tomorrow. Little trials often overwhelm and destabilize rocky Christians from the faith.

Thorn-infested Christians: Christians who fall into this category have everything going on well with receiving and assimilating the word of God. However, their faith goes to extinction on account of worldly cares and attraction to riches. Thorn-infested Christians are ready to deny their fully developed faith to acquire material wealth.

Regrettably, most people in Christian leadership positions fall prey to this misfortune in their blind search for enrichment. In our world today, the search for better livelihood leads most people to the love of money to the detriment of their souls. St. Paul advised that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Tim. 6:10).

The Good-soil Christians: Good-soil Christians represent those who can stand firm against the evil one (Eph. 6:11). They are steadfast before persecutions and tribulations (Acts 14:22). Furthermore, they do not fall headlong to earthly riches (Proverbs 11:28).

Good-soil Christians face confrontation by the evil one, but they submit to God to resist the devil, and the devil flees (James 4:7). They do face opposition, but they believe that they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them (Phil. 4:13). They have needs, but they have the conviction that God will supply all their needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil.4:19).

Sincerely, what type of Christian (soil-type) are you? There is no second best among the four soil-type Christians. If you genuinely want to be a good-soil Christian, you can make it by your committed openness and living by the word of God. Be patient in every trial, and do not let worldly riches overwhelm you.

Let us make it a deal in the coming days to become good-soil Christians ever ready to receive the Word of God, live by it, and bear lasting fruits. God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.

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