The Sunday Gospel
Fr Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap.
“The reason that I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding.” Jesus knew that people would listen to stories and remember them. Parable sounds like parallel.
A parable is a story that runs parallel to life, like a mirror that travels beside you in which you can see your life.
Jesus compared his teaching to seeds planted in different sorts of soil. A seed is not much use if it is left in a paper packet. It must be mixed in the earth. Scripture, the word of God, must be taken from the paper and planted in the earth of life. Only then will it be life-giving.
But there are different levels of listening. Every speaker has to remember that what is communicated is not necessarily what is said but what is heard. Everything that is read or heard is filtered through the mind of the listener or reader.
One listener is delighted while another gets nothing out of the same sermon.
There were very different reactions to the preaching of Jesus. Some people were filled with awe at his gracious words while others boiled over with anger and were hardened in their prejudice. The sermon is the same but it’s the listening that makes the difference. The parable of the sower and seed challenges us about how we listen.
Some seed fell on the edge of a path, on hard soil. Birds devoured it before it got into the soil. Our minds are miles away, totally distracted and we take nothing in. Nothing has lodged in the memory. The shallow soil is alright on the surface but rocky underneath. This represents the shallow person who sort of hears but is caught up in superficial matters, more likely to remember who sat in which seat, or how somebody was dressed, than to take to heart anything that the readings said.
Other seeds started to grow but the shoots were choked by thorn bushes. Sometimes good intentions do not last long because the mind is too preoccupied by other concerns and worries.
Finally, there is the good soil which produces a crop in various amounts. If one prepares the soil beforehand there is every chance that the seed will flourish. Before reading or hearing the scripture always pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance. And if you have to listen to your least favourite preacher, pray to the Holy Spirit for the poor preacher and for yourself.
Ask God for a living word. Have a positive attitude that this reading or talk is just what I need today. Even if the preacher is poor, his incompetence might touch the compassionate quality of your heart. The most unwilling and incompetent preacher in the Bible was Jonah and his preaching converted an entire city.
It’s amazing how a spoonful of sympathy can change our mentality!
Silvester O’Flynn has recently published a book Gospel Reflections and Prayers (Columba Books)