Christ is in our midst! He is and ever shall be!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“’Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; but to others in parable, . . . .’”
This was our Lord’s response to His Disciples who questioned what the parable of the sower might mean. If you recall, Jesus spoke this parable when a rather large and mixed crowd had gathered around Him, a crowd composed of a variety of souls: believers and unbelievers, His Disciples and those who may have been curious inquirers, various others at different stages of preparation to receive the Word of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. Hence, the reason our Lord elected to speak of this very Kingdom in parabolic fashion, using an agricultural image most familiar to those about Him.
Thus, “’A sower went out to sow his seed.’” Contained in the seed of His Word is the Mystery of the Kingdom of God (Mk. 4:1-20). Indeed, as our Lord tells His Disciples in St. Matthew’s rendition of this account, He speaks of it as “’the Word of the Kingdom’” (Mt. 13:1-23). To the Disciples who are presumably in the Kingdom of God the Mystery – this Word – is revealed or being made known, while to those who are “’without’” it is not given for them to know the Mystery yet, if even at all depending upon the condition and receptivity of their hearts and souls for the Kingdom of God. Thus, the four types of soil described by Jesus. The Mystery of the Kingdom of God is a hidden Truth, not an unknowable Truth, mind you, only hidden, obscured, tucked away, not fully apparent to logic or reason or deduction or scientific experiment. But knowable only to faith and experienced by faith in faith. In a sense, the Church has understood this and protected, if you will, those who were not yet ready or prepared to receive the deeper Mysteries of the Kingdom of God in her Liturgy as revealed most specifically and most powerfully in the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist. Hence, the Divine Liturgy is split between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the sacramental Mysteries. Or, as it is sometimes labelled, the Liturgy of the Catechumens, after which they depart, and the Liturgy of the Faithful, who remain to partake of the sacramental Mystery of the Church. The Mysteries of the Kingdom have been entrusted by our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ to the apostolic stewardship of His Church (1 Cr. 4:1). There is a time and a place for the revelation to occur and not all are equally prepared to receive this divine Word.
“’To you it has been given to know the Mysteries of the Kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, . . . .’”
The parable in the hands of our Lord Jesus is a way to gain access to and insight into the Mystery of the Kingdom of God. Heavenly mysteries are received in faith, by faith, for faith. Those who have the prerequisite ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to embrace and believe these very Mysteries are eligible. That is, these are the good and fertile soil our Lord speaks of in His parable. Let us be clear here, however, and note one thing: the parable is not open to subjective interpretation or private opinion (2 Pe. 1:19-21). Jesus doesn’t say to His Disciples when they ask, “Why, boys, the parable means whatever it is you want it to mean or need it to mean!” No, when asked, He says quite plainly, “’Now the parable is this.’” It is because by way of His parables our Lord was teaching and preaching, as St. Mark says, “His doctrine” (Mk. 4:2). And our Lord’s doctrine is not open to subjective interpretation. Hence, it is straight forward: the sower is Jesus Himself, and by extension, His Apostles and all who inherit their apostolic Faith who preach and teach the Word of God, who scatter the seed of the Mystery of the Kingdom of God.
The different soils in the parable describe different degrees or levels of receptivity on the part of those who hear the Word of the Kingdom of God. Pragmatically, 75% of the soils produce little or nothing at all. Does the sower waste his precious time and resources indiscriminately broadcasting the seed? Not at all! Nothing is ever wasted in God. It does, however, explain, in part, the mystery of human freedom to accept or reject the salvation offered to them. It explains, in part, how it is that a congregation or a group of listeners can hear the same Word but have different responses to that Word. It explains, in part, how each of us are at various and sundry times of our lives, hard and compacted soil or rocky or thorny or, Lord willing, good and fertile soil, that we contain within ourselves these various states of receptivity. We are not always hard and compacted; we are not always rocky or thorny; we are not always good and fertile. Today, we may be more one type than another, depending upon our soul’s predisposition to God and what He is saying to us. We hear, “’Repent and believe the Gospel!’” The question is: Are we? Do we? Will we? We hear, “Your sins are forgiven you.” The question is: Do we believe we are forgiven by God? Do we forgive ourselves? Do we forgive others as a thank offering for God’s immeasurable mercy to us? How do we receive the Word of the Mystery of God’s Kingdom? Does the seed of the Word of God’s Kingdom fall into our souls where it finds a heart that is honest and good, a heart desirous of loving God wholly, fully, completely; a heart resolved to hear and keep that very divine Word? If so, Jesus says His Word of the Kingdom will indeed “’bring forth fruit.’”
But notice, beloved, it does so “’with patience’” or “’with endurance.’” The Word of the Mystery of God’s Kingdom does not bear fruit without perseverance on our part which means we must put forth the effort in cooperation with God to cultivate that saving seed implanted in us by being doers of that divine and holy Word (Jm. 1:21-27). We must nurture it, water it, weed it, fertilize it, and maybe at times re-plant it. We do this in the ways appointed by God in His Church – the abode of His Kingdom, the dwelling of His Mysteries, the tabernacle of His Holy Spirit (2 Cr. 6:16-7:1). In His Church which is the Temple of God, the Body of the Word of God made flesh, we are being made holy as we give ourselves sacrificially to Him in true worship which is in the Spirit of the living God (Jn. 4:19-24). St. Paul tells us, “[L]et us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cr. 6:16-7:1). Without holiness, so the Word of the Mystery of God’s Kingdom says, “no one will see the Lord” (Hb. 12:14). We are called by God to make complete, whole, and full the holiness of God which is ours through His grace. We are to perfect it. How? By cleansing our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies of all that soils us, makes us dirty in the sight of God, deprives us of His Holy Spirit or quenches His Spirit in us (1 Th. 5:19). For, St. John the Theologian reminds us of our true status in the eyes of God if we are in Christ:
[N]ow we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 Jn. 3:2-3).
To be sure, beloved, this can only come about by the Mystery of the Word of the Kingdom of God in us bearing its divine fruit in us in the fear of God, and with faith and love, as we draw near to Him in His Church (Lk. 17:21). If we have this hope in Christ God, we purify ourselves. That’s what Sacred Scripture says. We cleanse our sins by confessing them to Christ God before His Priest and then to hear the life-giving Word of the Kingdom from His Priest, “God forgives you all your sins.” We rid ourselves of all that imperils our salvation or impedes our sanctification by repenting of our sins and turning again to the face of God. We eat and drink of His most precious Body and holy Blood so long as we are properly prepared to do so, so that we do not eat or drink condemnation to ourselves, as warned by the Apostle (1 Cr. 10:27). We examine our hearts, our souls, our lives to be sure that we are in the Faith – in Christ – and we test ourselves, as Paul admonishes (1 Cr. 10:28; 2 Cr. 13:5). We “pray without ceasing” (1 Th. 5:17). We fast. We give alms. We endeavor to do all that the Lord has said, even if it is imperfectly, but we do so with perseverance, faith, hope, and love.
Notice, beloved, how the devil is at work in the parable from the very first moment the Word of God comes to our ears. He seeks to deprive us of its saving grace by causing our hearts and souls to be hard-hearted and compacted so that the Mystery of the Kingdom of God has no entrance nor benefit. But, if it does, the devil works to make sure that it falls on shallow and superficial soil so that it has no real opportunity to put down roots and grow regardless of how glad we were to receive it in the beginning. But, if it does put down roots, the devil will bombard us with trials, tribulations, and temptations to drive it out of our souls. He will harass us and “snarl us with a thousand cares and troubles of this life,” with “’the cares and riches and pleasures of this life,’” so that the Word of God gets choked and supplanted by the world and is rendered, ultimately, unfruitful in us, if we do not, like Moses, despise “the passing pleasures of sin” and esteem “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt” because we look to the reward promised us in Christ God (Wounded by Love, St. Porphyrios, p. 3; Hb. 11:24-26; 1 Jn. 2:15-17).
To us, beloved, the Mysteries of the Kingdom of God have been given. Do not despise these Mysteries. Do not ignore the Mystery of the Word of God or neglect it or think it less important than having a good time on a Sunday morning and forsaking the assembling of ourselves together on the Lord’s own Day wherein He saves you by His Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection (Hb. 10:25). Let us purify our hearts and minds and souls so that we might be the good soil of the Lord with honest and good hearts, zealous to hear the Word of the Kingdom and to bring forth its fruit with perseverance and endurance. It is only in the Church that bad and unfruitful soil can be made good and profitable once again. “’He that hath ears to hear, let him hear!,’” says our Lord. “’Take heed therefore how ye hear,’” He says, “’for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have’” (Lk. 8:18).
Indeed, “’A Sower went out to sow His Seed. . . . .’”
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
2 Cr. 6:16-7:1