The parable of the sower and seed provides a very helpful examination of conscience.
The sower of the seed is God the Father, and the seed that he sows is Jesus his son. “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” (Mark 4:15).
I would imagine that practically everyone reading this reflection has heard the word of Jesus Christ. There are some reading who even attend church every Sunday and listen to that word. But perhaps you have never sought to deepen your faith, to understand what is being said. People will deepen their understanding of finance, science, literature, art, sports, technology—but they will often allow their religious understanding to remain at the eighth grade level. When we allow this to happen, the word will never take root in us.
“The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time” (Mark 4:16-17). I found this sometimes among the seminarians I used to teach. They could hear God’s word and that word could penetrate to their very heart and they could rejoice over it. But then they don’t allow it to sink deep into them. When they come down from their “high,” they lose interest and enthusiasm.
The Word of God is meant to sustain us precisely during the difficult times, but it can do this only if it reaches deep into us. The daily practice of the faith is essential here. Baseball practice is rarely if ever joyful. Violin practice is usually something of a drudgery. But those exercises allow people to play for the long haul. So in matters of God’s word: it has to be practiced.
“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” (Mark 4:18-19). This is now a third danger, distinct from the first two. The first had to do with the mind, and the second with religious practice. This one has to do with worldliness, which is always a danger to faith.
This parable offers a meditation on the ways the Word of Jesus Christ lands in our hearts and souls. The most important issue that you will ever face, the most pressing question you will ever be asked is how do you respond when this word is sown?