The Deep Soil (Matthew 13:1-23)

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Before arriving at the famous Parable of the Sower — the Gospel reading for today — we are first given Isaiah 55:10-11 to contemplate. Though Isaiah’s words were written approximately 500 years before Jesus spoke the Parable of the Sower, his parable calls to mind Isaiah’s prophecy so beautifully that it isn’t hard to imagine he might have deliberately intended it that way. Isaiah writes:

Thus says the LORD: Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

My word shall not return to me void, says the Lord through Isaiah. And so Jesus begins to tell the crowds what “the kingdom of God is like…” It turns out that the nature of this kingdom is best revealed through parables, and in one of them, a sower goes out to sow seeds. Do we see them? Do we notice them? 

Jesus tells the people that the kingdom of God is like these small seeds. He tells them that some of the seed fell on the byway, and the birds naturally came and ate it. Some of the seed fell upon the rocks and sprouted immediately in the shallow soil there; but because the soil there was shallow, the sprout had no depth of root, and so it withered when the heat of the sun came. Some of the seed fell among the thorns and brambles, and these choked it after it sprouted and had grown a little bit. 

But some of the seed fell into deep, rich soil. And it formed deep, strong roots in that good, deep soil. And maybe it grew a little bit slower than the seed that had sprouted in the shallow soil. Maybe it was more deliberate and unhurried about it all, taking its time to grow toward the light. But even as it took its time, it grew steadily, quietly, and became strong. It belonged in the light, but it had to form strong roots in that fertile soil. 

So it became too firmly established for the birds to want to eat it, and it had deep enough roots to withstand the strong heat, nourished by water and nutrients from the cool and stable earth that is the ground of its being. Too firmly anchored in the soil and too strong to be choked off by any thorns, it grew as its Creator intended it. And this seed, Jesus tells the crowd, reaches maturity and bears its good fruit a hundred or sixty or thirty fold. My word shall not return to me void, says the Lord. 

Copyright © 2017 Elizabeth Keck