The Sower: Perseverance in the face of disappointment

July 14, 2017

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Parable of the Sower

Often when we hear the Parable of the Sower (Mt 13:1-9), the point of emphasis is the disciple as rich soil.  The metaphor is that the sower is Jesus, the seed is the Word of God, and the soil is the person who receives the Word.  The desired outcome is for the listener to be rich and fertile soil, cultivated, soft and receptive, eager to welcome the seed, to let it take root, permeate one’s life, grow and flourish, and produce astonishing results.

Another angle for reflection is the disciple – not as soil – but as the sower.

Jesus is the first sower, and we are supposed to imitate the Sower.  As Jesus scattered seeds, as he preached the gospel to others, we as his disciples are also supposed to be sowers, to share the gospel with our children, students, and others.

There is a notion that Jesus, because he is the Son of God and all-powerful, was incredibly successful as a sower.  But he was not, at least in every instance.  Sometimes Jesus was able to achieve wonderful results, yields of a hundred or sixty, or thirtyfold (Mt 13:8), but there were many occasions when his results were downright disheartening.

Jesus had tremendous challenges as a sower.  One group of potential listeners was totally resistant, hard and rocky, dismissed him, refused to listen, and completely ignored him.  It must have been very depressing to Jesus.  Another group at least paid attention to Jesus’ preaching.  While they had a bit of initial fervor and enthusiasm, they were not very motivated, and when it came time to implement the Word that Jesus had spoken, they had so little determination and commitment that they fell by the wayside.  Again, this must have been very discouraging.  There was yet another group that listened carefully to Jesus.  They liked Jesus, were intrigued by his gospel, and were ready to give it a try.  But when those in the third group encountered obstacles, either their own inclinations to wrongdoing, or the evil forces of the outside world, or the antagonism of others, they gave up and quit.  It must have been a very bitter pill for Jesus to swallow. It was only with the fourth group that Jesus had success.  Jesus was successful twenty-five percent of the time which is a surprisingly low average.

What did Jesus do in the face of such disappointment?  Did he get angry?  Did he become bitter?  Did he pout?  Did he quit?  No.  Jesus refused to give up.  He had amazing resiliency.  He persevered.  With an indomitable spirit, Jesus went on to other towns and to other people to proclaim the Good News (see Lk 4:43; 8:1).

Every Christian is a sower, parents and grandparents, teachers and catechists, neighbors and priests, and we scatter the seed of God’s holy Word to our children and grandchildren, students, friends, and parishioners.  If Jesus had many disappointments, we should anticipate similar results.  When we share our faith, there will be occasions when it seems no one is watching or listening, and other times when it seems like we are having a positive impact at the beginning, but with little lasting effect.  Hopefully some of our “scattering” will have tremendous results.  When we are unsuccessful, which may happen more often than not, like Jesus we must keep scattering and never lose heart because of discouraging results.  We must be resilient and persevere.  The seed is such a treasure that it must be sown.

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About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

View all posts by Father Michael Van Sloun