A few weeks ago when the Gospel from today’s Mass was proclaimed on Sunday, someone asked me a series of questions regarding the sower. We are told by Jesus that the sower is the Son of Man, Jesus himself. Hence, why would the Lord, who knows everything ahead of time, sow seed he knew would not bear fruit?
Let’s review the text:
“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.” (Matt 13:1-9)
Now, a human sower can have little control over the destiny of the seeds he sows. But in this parable Jesus, who is God is the sower and he has the capacity to sow seeds only in perfect soil. Why then waste any seed on rocky or thin soil, or the path? This is the question I was asked.
Perhaps a series of possible “answers” is all we can venture. I place “answers” in quotes since we are in fact touching on some mysteries here of which we can only speculate. So, here are some “answers.”
1. God is extravagant – it is not just seed He scatters liberally, it is everything. There are hundreds of billions of stars in over 100 billion galaxies, most of these seemingly devoid of life as we understand it. Between these 100 billion galaxies are huge amounts of, what seems to be, empty space. On this planet where one species of bird would do, there are thousands of species, tens of thousands of different sorts of insects, a vast array of different sorts of trees, mammals, fish etc. Extravagant barely covers it. The word “extravagant” means “to go, or wander beyond.” And God has gone vastly beyond anything we can imagine. But God is love, and love is extravagant. The image of him sowing seeds, almost in a careless way is thus consistent with the usual way of God.
This of course is less an answer to the question before us than a deepening of the question. The answer, if there is one, is caught up in the mystery of love. Love does not say, what is the least I can do? It says “What more can I do.” If a man loves a woman, he does not look for the cheapest gift on her birthday, rather he looks for an extravagant gift. God is Love and God is extravagant.
2. Even if the failed seed represents those who ultimately reject him, God loves that seed anyway. Remember, as Jesus goes on to explain, the seeds that fail to bear fruit, are symbols of those who allow riches, worldly preoccupation, persecution and other things to draw them away from God. But, even knowing this, does not change God’s love for them. He still wills their existence. Scripture says elsewhere, But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt 5:44-45).
Yes, God loves even those who will reject him and will not, knowing ahead of that rejection, say to them, “You cannot exist.” He thus scatters even that seed, knowing ahead of time that it will not bear fruit. Further, he continues to send the sun and rain, even on those who will reject him.
Hence this parable shows forth God’s unfailing love. He sows seeds, even knowing they will not bear the fruit he wants. He wills the existence of all, even those who he knows ahead of time will reject him.
3. That God sows seeds and allows them to fall on bad soil is indicative of our freedom. The various places the seed falls is indicative of human freedom, more than illustrative of the intent of God. For one may still question, “Why would God “allow” seed to fall on the path, or among thorns, or in rocky soil?” And the only answer here is that God has made us free. Were He to go back and place the seed in good soil, this would, by way of the analogy of the parable, veto our choice, and we could only bear good fruit. In other words, there could be no other outcome than to bear fruit. But this is not freedom, for there is no real choice. Thus, that God sows seeds and allows them to fall on bad soil is indicative of our freedom.
So, permit these “answers.” God sows seed he knows will bear no fruit because he is extravagant, because he loves and wills the existence even of those he knows will reject him, and because he respects our freedom.
As with all reckoning about the interaction of God’s sovereignty with our freedom, these “answers” limp a bit. There are mysteries here caught up in time, in providence, freedom and the sovereignty of God. These answers are thus submitted with humility and should be read with humility.
I interpret this video to mean that God will never withdraw his offer, not that he is trying to force a solution. For though he wants to save us, he respects our freedom to let go.