Readings: 1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-49; Psalm 56; Luke 8:4-15
Some parts of the west of Ireland have become overrun with gunnera tinctoria. It is called either Chilean rhubarb or giant rhubarb and has spread like wildfire in places, forcing out the indigenous shrubs and bushes. It produces seed pods by the thousand which explains of course why it has been able to spread so quickly. It has also, it seems, found lots of favourable soil in which to flourish.
Nature is not mean when it comes to seeds. Flowers and animals produce them by the thousands, even by the millions, with extravagance and what might seem like recklessness. There is a profound desire somewhere that nature should continue, that what is alive should increase and multiply and fill the earth
The first meaning of the famous parable of the sower is simply this then: as in nature, so in the dissemination of the Word of God. It is freely available, shared extravagantly and recklessly, cast upon the earth here, there and everywhere, preached to people everywhere, public, free, available.
Often the interpretation Jesus gives is taken to refer to different kinds of people but it might be more true to understand it to refer to four different moments in anybody's reception of the Word. All hear the Word, nobody is deaf to it, not even those represented by the stones. At different times and in different circumstances we who have heard the Word relate to it as if we were stones, or thorn bushes, or pathways, or good soil.
There are obviously also two different meanings of the term 'life' and two different terms are used in the gospels. One is the kind of life (zoe) God wants for His creatures, the life he gives to all things by his spirit, the life he wants his human creatures to have in all its fulness. And there is another kind of life (bios) whose cares and riches and pleasures prove too much of a distraction for us and take us away from our service of the Word of God.
The call of Jesus to us is to allow the Word find its way to our life in its deepest sense so that we are not just existing but living, so that we are not just living biologically as if we were only animals, but are living spiritually also, living the life not just of the first Adam but of the last Adam, a life that takes us beyond what we can imagine might be possible for us.
The different moments of our relationship with the Word of Life require different kinds of pruning. There are struggles to be engaged, things to be learned, insights to be painfully gained. So it must be, for all living things, they must learn to live in their environment. If we are to live in the environment that is called the kingdom of God then it can only be by receiving his Spirit which prepares the ground of our hearts, making them to be good and honest places where fruit is brought forth in patience.