A woman is driving on a two-lane country road. Another car approaches from the opposite direction. When the two cars cross, the man in the other car yells at her, FAT COW! She immediately yells back, PIG! Now, she is feeling so good about being able to respond so quickly, she pats herself on the back. As she makes a turn on the road - POW! - She collides into a fat cow sitting in the middle of the road. The moral of the story: Women never seem to understand what men are trying to say.
And perhaps at times we fail to understand our Lord. Today, Jesus quotes Isaiah, 750 years earlier, saying to us, You shall hear but not understand. Maybe it's part of our human DNA.
What is it that we do not understand about today’s parable of the seed and the soil? What do these two words say to you?
Of course the seed represents the Word of God, and the different kinds of soil represent us who receive the Word of God. Let's delve into both.
A seed is something that has life in it. By using this analogy, Jesus reveals that the Word of God is alive. It isn't simply information. It isn't simply instruction. It is God speaking to us "live". This has always been a Catholic emphasis.
We believe that when we listen to the Word of God, or read it thoughtfully, we are hearing God speak to us live. We aren't listening to or reading something God once said. God is speaking to us now.
Just as in the Eucharist the Lord uses bread and wine to be present to us, so, too, in scripture God uses words as a vehicle to be present to us, to speak to us, to act upon us - like the gentle rain falling upon the ground in today's first reading, and like the seed that is sown in today's gospel.
The Second Vatican Council document entitled The Constitution of Divine Revelation says, The Church has always venerated the divine scriptures just as she venerates the Body and Blood of the Lord. That is a remarkable statement that might come as a surprise to many Catholics.
This means that we listen to scripture differently than we listen to any other words. We receive it as we receive the Body of Christ. We are not receiving information. We are receiving the Lord who speaks to us "live". We cleanse our minds of all other thoughts, and we tune in to the Lord speaking to us.
When we do that, thoughts come to us that might have been the farthest thing from our minds, and thoughts that sometimes seem to have little connection with the actual words of the text. It may be a word of comfort, or a nudge, or a flash of insight. It is God who is speaking to us personally.
Remember the gospel passage about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? The Risen Lord was walking with them (although they didn't realize it) and the Lord was opening up the scriptures to them. That is exactly what happens when we prayerfully listen or read the scriptures. The seed in today's parable is the Word of God.
Now let's look at the soil. The gospel speaks of the different kinds of soil on which the seed fell - the footpath, rocky ground, thorny ground, fertile ground. We usually think of that as representing different kinds of people. Well, perhaps it also represents different parts of our lives - our private life, our family life, our work life, our social life, and so on.
Part of our life may be rich soil where we receive the Word of God very openly and it takes deep root. But it may not occur to us to let the Word of God affect other parts of our life. To use a stereotypical example, the movies sometimes portray a Mafia Don who goes to church, is dedicated to his family - and routinely kills people, or orders their killing. The Word of God never enters that "other part" of his life.
We don't go around killing people, but we might have parts of our life where we don't let the Word of God enter.
May we all receive this parable of the seed and the soil into all parts of our lives.
Many of us call our parents every day to hear their voice. It would be good for us to do the same with God, not just to "check-in" on Sunday at Mass. It's easy to connect with God daily. It can change a day. It can change a life.
Make that your goal this week. Open the bible, at random if you wish - preferably the gospels - take a few lines of scripture each day, and let the Lord speak to you through those words. See what the Lord wants to say to you.