What exactly is a parable? In C.H. Dodd’s book, The Parables of the Kingdom, he defines a parable as “a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought.”
In today’s gospel the Parable of the Sower from Matthew would have been contemporary to a Jewish farming culture. Dry, rocky or thorny soil would have been understood as foolish for a favorable future harvest. This parable of the soil teaching by Jesus was offered to the inquiring or non-believing “large crowds because they do not see and hear and do not listen or understand” his prior teachings that the revelation of the Kingdom of God was at hand.
If we “tease” today’s parable into “active thought” we need to ask ourselves are we too part of the “large crowds” Jesus was speaking to who did not see or hear, listen or understand him? Or are we truly a disciple of Jesus encountering him and living his teachings in good soil of our own lives? Maybe we find ourselves at one moment being an inquirer in the “large crowd” and at another time an active disciple living in Jesus.
Contemporary times for us present different types of challenging “soil” to be tilled with good seed. Contemporary dry soil may be our growing and enveloping secular and materialism culture or the challenge of living a life filled with the rocky soil of anxiety, busyness, loneliness, and siren songs distracting us from balance, solitude and silence. Thorny soil abounds with challenging political and cultural divisions, civic unrest, collapse of families, injustices in education, health and economics, and least we forget a pandemic with many deaths and the social and economic effects of the lock down.