The parable of the sower: meditation on Sexagesima Sunday

This selection of passages was made by the Fr. Mezard OP in his volume of Meditations for Lent by St Thomas Aquinas. 

“The sower went out to sow his seed” (Luke 8:4).

1. The keenness of the sower

It is Christ who goes forth, and in three ways: He goes from the bosom of the Father, and yet without a change of place; from Jewry to the Gentiles; from the private depths of wisdom to the public life of teaching. It is Christ who sows. Now the seed is the source of fruit. Whence every good action is due to God. What is it that He sows? His own seed, says the gospel. That seed is the Word of God. And what does it produce? It produces others, like unto Him from whom itself proceeds, for it makes them sons of God.

2. The obstacle in the way of the seed

The obstacle is threefold because, for the growth of the seed, three conditions are necessary: namely, it must be remembered, it must take root in love, it must have loving care. The growth is therefore hindered if in place of the first condition there is flightiness of mind, instead of the second there is hardness of heart, and if, in place of the loving care, there is a development of vices.

i. Some fell by the wayside

As the way is free for all who care to walk, so does the heart lie open to every chance thought. So it is that when the word of God falls upon a heart that is careless and vain, it falls by the wayside and is doubly imperilled. St Matthew speaks of one danger only, that “the birds of the air came and ate it up”. St Luke speaks of two, for the seed is trampled into the ground as well as carried off by the birds. So when the careless receive the word of God it is crushed by their worthless thoughts or their evil company. Whence great joy for the devil if only he can steal away this seed and trample upon it.

ii. Hardness of heart

This is contrary to charity, for it is in the nature of love to melt things. Hardness means “locked up in itself”; or “narrowed within its own limits”; and love, since it causes the lover to be moved to what he loves, is a thing that liberates, widens, pours itself out. St Matthew says therefore, “some fell upon stony ground”, and Ezechiel, “I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh” (Ez 26:26). For there are some men whose hearts are so deprived of love of any kind that they are scarcely flesh and blood at all.

There are others who have indeed a natural affection but it is slight and has no deepness. To have deepness is to have a power of loving deeply. The man may be said to love deeply who loves all things and whatever he loves for the love of God, and who puts the love of God before all else. There is another type of man that does indeed delight in God, but delights more in things. Men of this sort do not pour themselves out, nor have they much deepness of earth.

The gospel continues, “And they spring up immediately” for they who think deeply, think long, but they whose thought is shallow plunge into action at once, and inevitably pass away quickly. So these men hear quickly, but take no root in what they hear, for “they have no deepness of earth”, that is in the earth of loving charity.

iii. Destruction of the fruit

The fruit is lost because, when “there ariseth tribulation”, each man snatches for what he most loves, and the man who loves wealth looks only to his riches. “And when the sun was up they were scorched”; that is, because they lacked strength. “And because they had not root, they withered away”, for God was not their root. “Others fell among thorns (anxieties, quarrels and such like things): and the thorns grew up and choked them” (Mt 13:7).