The Gospel reading today tells of the sower and the seed, one of three parable repeated, with slight variations, in all three synoptic Gospels.
Parables either reveal or conceal divine mysteries, here concealed from all, but revealed to the disciples privately. The parable uses allegory to describe the dissemination of God’s Word to His people and the acceptance or rejection by various audiences across the ages. The seed spoken of applies both to the message of the prophets; ‘looking, not seeing’ an allusion to Isaiah 6:9-10, and to Jesus’ own message here.
In this telling, we hear the disciples are perplexed by Jesus’ preaching, so we can assume that the crowd is as well. Jesus will reserve His unpacking of the parable for His disciples alone, preparing them for their leadership roles in the coming Church.
It is also to be noted that Jesus recognizes that the chances for the seed to fail are greater than they are for it to succeed. The way of the disciple is truly a narrow gate.
Luke’s retelling of the parable differs in one key detail. While Matthew and Mark name ‘tribulation or persecution’ as preventing the seed from growing, Luke calls ‘temptation’ the obstacle.
A pleasure-focused life is the rocky soil and the thorns that inhibit the bearing of fruit for the true disciple. The fruit of the Word flourishes in the environment of a sober life, with one’s mind and heart on the Kingdom.