Scripture: Lectionary 397. July 24th. Exodus 16:1-5,9-15. Psalm 78:18-19,23-24. 25-26,27-28. Matthew 13:1-9:
Matthew now begins a section on the parables of Jesus. Mark has started with this same parable as possibly the first ever recorded in the Gospel tradition. The parable treats of the nature of the kingdom of God; in Matthew there are seven such parables that are about the nature of the kingdom of God thus giving the fullness of meaning with the number seven in Jewish tradition. As a teacher Jesus takes his place by the lakeshore near Capernaum, the town where he dwells while in Galilee. The crowds are gathered around him eager to listen to this masterful teacher.
Matthew has abbreviated the parable that appeared for the first time in Mark and gives it a crisp, clear presentation right to the point. It offers that quality that is best in a parable which pushes the listeners to capture the point of emphasis. Here it is the nature of the kingdom which is similar to producing 100, 60 or thirty grains of corn on each successful ear of corn. The parable leads us to think of the difficulty that Jesus and his apostles will have in preaching about the nature of the kingdom, but those who are listeners who come to believe are rewarded with abundance in the harvesting of the ears of corn. This is the manner in which the kingdom will grow.
We are called to be like the good seed which produces the ears of corn that are filled with 100, 60, or 30 grains or kernels. Of course, the listener realizes that the comparison is with the words of Jesus which are fruitful when we listen to them.
On the main wall of the Church in the monastery of Monte Casino there is a beautiful image that comes to mind for me when reading this parable. A young person has one of his or her hands cupped to the right ear with eyes intent and focused on the one who is speaking (the Lord Jesus), The word “Obedience” is there which basically in its Latin foundation means to listen attentively. St. Benedict in the Prologue of his Holy Rule tells his monks “to listen with the ears of your heart to the Master’s instructions.” We are able to do this in listening attentively to the parable and capturing its main point while applying it to where we are with regards to the nature of our belonging to the kingdom of God.
I personally am thankful to Sr. Phyllis, a Benedictine sister, who is the receptionist in the Marian Library at the University of Dayton for the small copy of this beautiful painting. Amen.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.