The Gospel passage that we read on this Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mt 12:1-23), is the first of seven parables that have as their theme the Kingdom of God and are put by the evangelist Matthew in a single lengthy discourse of Jesus.
It is a very well-known parable and only seemingly simple.
Jesus leaves the house and embarks on a boat, from which He preaches to a large crowd that has gathered to listen to Him.
He speaks of a sower who comes out to sow and sows seed on different types of soil, some of which bear no fruit. What falls on good ground, brings a lot.
So, the sower went out (Mt 13:3), just like Jesus (Mt 12:1); and does with his seed as Jesus does with those who gathered around Him: before beginning to speak, He did not ask how much the people would understand, who would or would not accept His Word, but He addressed to everyone. Even the sower is not afraid to waste time and seed. He does not economize or calculate. Strangely, he does not choose the good soil first; he does not limit himself to that. Perhaps, not even he knows in advance what will be good soil: he trusts, he trusts the seed, first, but also trusts the ground. He knows that to reach the good soil, he has no other choice than to sow everywhere, and he takes the risk. Besides, the seed is abundant, and it is free. So is the Word of God: it is for everyone, it is not given to an exclusive audience, to an elite group.
Jesus, we said, addressed His Word to everyone, even to those who will have a hostile attitude towards him, and His Word will become the accusation for his condemnation to death by the Pharisees and leaders of the people. Yet Jesus is unafraid to speak also to them. Just at the moment when He died, and His Word went silent, it was there the Word told His message to the fullest. The Word has a mysterious power, which comes from being imbued with the Spirit of the Lord.
The Word does not die, and even when it seems to be wasted, or lost, it preserves its mysterious fruitfulness.
The sower, however, trusts the soil, he knows that there will undoubtedly be a good soil capable of receiving the seed. He remains undeceived. He also knows some seeds will be lost, will not bring fruit.
In this image, we see a concern the Church has shown from its beginning. It is the concern of those who ask how is it that the Word of God does not convince everyone; how is it possible that someone rejects it? Besides, it so happens just because it is the Word of God: the Word does not coerce, does not oblige, does not impose itself. It reveals and offers, but never does so with force, with violence. Its logic is love, which allows the freedom of the other to constrain it.
This concern returns in the words of the disciples, in their question that asks Jesus how is it that he speaks to someone in parables (Mt 13:10): does he do it to make himself understood or not?
To this question, Jesus answers by quoting the prophet Isaiah, who speaks of a people hard to convert, a closed people, who have become unfeeling and unable to open to the revelation of God.
In this verse is the entire drama of biblical history, a history where God always speaks, and where humans still struggle to listen.
There is a hidden invitation within this picture: all the parables, and Chapter 13, are built on an antithesis. It is an antithesis between the disciples and the crowds, children of the Kingdom, and children of the evil one.
And the concern of Jesus is not, as we said, to exclude anyone, to constitute a small elite of fortunate to whom to reveal mysteries that for others remain inaccessible.
The concern of Jesus is, instead, to invite everyone to make a transition, a leap, to open themselves to the listening that makes them disciples.
To everyone is given the possibility of becoming good soil, and this is the real fruit of the Word.
And it is only to welcome the Word that, when it goes deep, transforms life.
And to do it with a faith that ceases to be self-concerned (Mt 13:22) and allows that the other Someone takes care of their existence.