There is a story about an old man who always had witty and wise answers for people who asked him anything. Once, a man came to him with his hands covering something he was holding. He told the sage that he had a small, newly hatched bird in his hands. He challenged the old man to tell him whether the bird was alive or dead. He, of course, planned to prove the old man wrong, because if he said the bird was dead, he would simply open his hands to expose a perfectly healthy baby bird. But if he said the bird was alive, then he would crush the bird before opening his hands. The old man proved wiser than the questioner though, because he said, "The bird is whatever you choose him to be."
In today's gospel as we hear the explanation Jesus gives his disciples about why he teaches the crowd with parables, it seems to be a little unfair. He tells them that his disciples have been given the knowledge to understand what he teaches, but not the people. But Jesus is not holding back from sharing his teaching with them. The problem is found in the listeners who are not willing to accept the challenge of what Jesus is teaching. He tells them nice stories, but their hearts are not moved.
Often, we dissect the parable of the sower and make it complicated as we consider the path and the rocky ground and the thorns and the fertile soil. We must surely fit in one of those categories. But the point of the parable is about the Word of God - it is spoken everywhere. The seeds in the parable are not carefully planted in a row of well-prepared soil. They are scattered all across the field.
So it is as God speaks to us. There are times when we have hardened our self from hearing God - we would rather choose to sin or avoid making a sacrifice. But God is gently speaking his Word, inviting us to remember we were created for something greater.
There are times when we feel enthusiastic about following God or we are inspired by something we hear or read, and we decide to be a better person. But then we have to deal with a difficult spouse, or our child won’t stop complaining, or we get so busy we forget to pray. God continues to speak his Word, inviting us to carry out our good intention to be closer to him and more like him in our love for others.
There are times when the temptations around us, or the burdens life brings us, seem to choke off all our goodness and we just want to give up. But the Word of God is speaking to our heart, encouraging us to go on, because he continues to love us and will always be with us.
Most of the time we are in the right relationship with God and doing our best to lead a good life. Even then the Word of God encourages us not to be satisfied, to continue looking for opportunities to do more, to share our blessings, to see the hand of God at work in the circumstances of our life.
Dr. Robert Schuller, the famous televangelist, used to say: "Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed." God is always speaking, always inviting us to grow closer to him. He knows the great things we can accomplish for him. But in the end, he does not impose himself on us. We are what we choose to be in our relationship with God .
Father Stephen Bierschenk