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Kerry WeberJanuary 24, 2024
iStock/RomoloTavani

A Reflection for the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, bishop and doctor of the church

Find today’s readings here

Do you not understand this parable?
Then how will you understand any of the parables?

I recently helped my 7-year-old study for a religion test for school. His preparation included reviewing the parable of the sower in today’s Gospel. “Which one are we supposed to be?” I asked about the four types of ground upon which the seeds fall. He confidently responded we are meant to be the good soil.

I was struck by the fact that this parable, deemed simple enough to teach second graders today, seemed to confound the disciples. (If my son had not understood, I hope I would have the wherewithal not to yell “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables?!”) I remain grateful for the years of biblical scholarship that we have to guide us now in understanding not only this parable but also the many complicated and confusing passages in the Bible.

Although the Word of God may not always find fertile ground, we can do our part to nurture it.

I often find myself thinking with awe about the fact that Jesus’ early followers had the benefit of seeing him and hearing from him directly. But then I also think of how confusing that must have been in some ways. How frightening not to know what to make of the stories and events of this time. There were no New Testament scholars to offer interpretations, and no certainty about where the life of Jesus would lead, and the early followers’  questions were often met with frustration. 

But as the disciples grew in understanding of this parable and others, as they figured out what they believed and why, I imagine they took some comfort in the message that, although the Word of God may not always find fertile ground, we can do our part to nurture it. They knew eventually, what we know now, too, that through our attention to God’s message in our life, through our willingness to trust and follow Mercy where it leads, we may “bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.

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