We Are Speakers, Listeners and Words Spoken in the Story of Life (Parable of the Sower Gospel Reflection)

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One of the best ways to enrich your experience at Sunday Mass is to pray the Mass Readings personally and to meditate on a Gospel reflection.

A great way of doing this is using the technique of Lectio Divina, a powerful method which we explain here. The following is the Sunday Gospel reading with a reflection that is especially aimed at youth.


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This week, Fr. Piccolo reflects on Matthew 13:1-23, the Gospel reading for the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time.

We hope that it serves you in your personal prayer and that it serves as a resource that you can share with your apostolate.


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Gospel of the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Mt. 13:1-23)

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.”

The Gospel of the Lord


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Gospel Reflection:

Thus, the function of discourse is, in a way, to guide the soul. He who seeks to be an orator must know how many types of souls there are.” ~ Socrates, in Plato’s “Phaedrus”

Every day we lay out our words before others; meanwhile we are continually deafened by all the words the world heaps on us. Speaking a word – sometimes uselessly, sometimes romantically, other times violently – is an everyday action.

We lay our words before others in the hope that someone will take them up, comprehend them, bind them together, or simply listen. We are constantly talking about ourselves. We reveal ourselves to others through our words because it could happen that no one will be interested enough to take up the book of our lives in their hands and open it.

We tell parables. The word Parable comes, in fact, from the Greek word paraballein, meaning “to throw out before others.” We are all parables: existences lain before others in the desire to be gathered up and listened to.

We speak, or better yet, we give ourselves over, we lay our lives out before others in different ways. Some people speak in clichés, using labels and slogans, innumerable words; they don’t truly give themselves over, rather they impose themselves such that their speech is violent. There are also those who choose their words carefully, trying to keep everyone around them happy in a manipulative game of using and being used. Then there are those who speak but never listen, living in a river of words without banks that envelopes those around them. And there are those that, keeping silent, never giving themselves over to others.

The way we speak is always an expression of our attitude before life itself. Maybe this is why Jesus is how God speaks, or rather, gives Himself to humanity. In the seed of the Word, Jesus tells of the life that is given and the existence He wishes to bear fruit. God speaks to every type of soil; he gives Himself in every situation.

When I was a little boy, I remember that every time she reached this part of the Gospel, the Sister teaching us would ask: “and what type of soil are you?” I have always found this question to be very unsettling. I have always felt judged and always found myself lacking. With time I have learned to understand this passage differently. I don’t think that is the right question to ask.

It seems to me that Jesus’ words are more comforting; they tell us that no matter what type of soil I am now, God will always continue to sow his word in me. God continues to give himself into my life, whatever type of soil I may be. God risks himself for me. He is balanced between fidelity and folly for my sake in a way that is still incomprehensible to me.

That is how I understand that marvelous encounter that occurs in the Eucharistic liturgy between the word and the bread, just as in Emmaus: words are given and bread is broken. The word and the bread become mirrors of each other.

Unlike Socrates (quoted above), Jesus does not discriminate among his listeners, He does not analyze the other to verify if he is worthy or suited to receive his teaching. Socrates refuses to write in order to avoid it falling in the hands of one who could not understand his teachings. Meanwhile Jesus sows the seed of His word everywhere, trusting each of us regardless. At this point I am not sure if our manner of speaking and of self-giving is Evangelical or if it is more in the line of Socrates.

I too give you these words; I lay them before you. It is unavoidable that I give myself over a little as well; I expose myself to the risk of being misunderstood. It is nothing less than a way of life.

Questions for personal reflection:

  • How would you describe the way you communicate?

  • How do you respond to the gesture of Jesus, who sows the seed in every type of soil?

About Fr. Gaetano Piccolo

Fr. Gaetano Piccolo has written 45 post in this blog.

A Jesuit priest, I am originaly from Napoli. I am now living in Rome and teaching philosophy at the Gregorian University.

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