The disciples approached him and said, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" He said to them in reply, "Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. Isaiah's prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them.
"But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
"Hear then the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold."
- Matthew 13:1-23
This week’s Gospel reveals an interesting aspect of Jesus’s ministry. He teaches the crowd using the parable of the sower – the familiar story of the seed which falls on different kinds of ground. But He doesn’t explain the parable to them. Rather, He only explains it to the disciples, to whom He explains that the seeds represent different kinds of faith. It is an explanation that seemingly could have been offered to everyone, but Jesus reserved it only for His closest followers. Why would that be? Perhaps Jesus understood that everyone was not yet ready to hear the entire message. He knew that they needed more time before He could share the truth about the Kingdom of God with them and have them completely understand. In short, more work needed to be put into their soil before it was ready to receive the seed. If He shared it now, it would not have a chance to take root, and they would fall away.
We are in the same position today. Often we pray for things to happen or ask for understanding and then are upset when it doesn’t happen right away. We think that, if only God would share His plans for our lives with us, things would be easier. If only we could have a miraculous experience, it would be so much easier to believe. But just as in this week’s Gospel, God knows that doing so would not produce deep roots. Rather, it would produce a shallow faith that would be quickly tossed aside in moments of difficulty. In life, the most important lessons and achievements are those that have been earned through hard work and time. Why should faith be any different? There is no doubt that faith is a gift from God. But it is a gift that must be tended and nurtured. It is not something that is given to us fully mature and ready to go. Rather, like a plant, we must water it through frequent prayer, fertilize it through reception of the Eucharist and prune it through frequent confession. If we do these things, if we put in the time and the effort, our faith will grow to enormous proportions. And, in time, we will become like the disciples and achieve a greater understanding of the Kingdom of God. So the question is: Are you willing to put in the work?