“You will listen and listen again, but not understand, see and see again, but not perceive. For the heart of this nation has grown coarse, their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes, for fear that they should see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their heart.”
These words of the prophet Isaiah, cited by Jesus at the conclusion of his parable of the Sower who went out to sow, warn of the complacency that can so easily blunt our hearing of Scripture. The parables, and especially the parable of the Sower and the Seed, are among the most familiar and well-loved passages in the New Testament. Perhaps, for this very reason, their impact is blunted, and we do indeed begin to listen without hearing! Let us listen to the parable of the Sower afresh, praying that the Holy Spirit will sharpen our perception of what the Lord asks of us in our own lives.
If we are indeed the field in which a loving God intends to sow the seed of his presence, let us first acknowledge that without God we are nothing, a sterile field scorched by the sun and carried away by the rain. In the humility of prayer let us bring our emptiness to the Lord, longing for the life that he alone can bring.
The field that Jesus described, so typical of Palestine, was uneven. It was bordered by stony paths, contained hidden rocks, and was infested with the inevitable thorns and weeds. Despite these many handicaps, it still contained the rich soil so highly valued by the farmer.
We long to become that rich soil so receptive to God’s presence. As the children of God we undoubtedly harbour such goodness, and should rejoice in its presence. We are, nevertheless, that uneven field described by Jesus in the parable. We carry within ourselves the rocky soil that has become hardened and insensitive to the presence of God, still more to his love. We allow ourselves to become distracted by the superficiality of the passing moment. These are the weeds and thorns that so easily choke our hearts, hiding them from the light of God’s presence. In our frailty we surrender to temptation, and in so doing become like a field consumed by birds, bereft of God’s presence.
In repentance let us acknowledge that we are indeed the uneven field described by Jesus in the parable. With confidence let us concentrate on the life giving seed that is God’s saving presence. What we cannot achieve of ourselves, the hope that always lies beyond us, was promised by the prophet Isaiah long ago.
“As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without succeeding in what it was sent to do.”
Christ comes to us as the living Word, the seed that is sown in our hearts. He is the living water, the rain that descends and does not return without giving life to parched souls, bringing to life within us God’s hidden presence.
Let us listen so as to hear, see so as to perceive God’s hidden purpose, and understand with hearts called to conversion.