My Dear People,
The verses of the parable of the growing seed relate to another seed parable found only in Mark. The focus is on the seed’s intrinsic power to grow of its own accord. The sower scatters his seed, then goes about the routine of his daily life.
Slowly, imperceptibly, the seed begins to sprout. The farmer does not know how it happens. (Even with today’s tremendous advances in microbiology, life remains a mystery.) Nor can the farmer control the process. According to its natural stages, the land yields fruit: first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain. The farmer can water, weed, and fertilize the crops as the months go on, but he cannot make the ripe grain appear a day before its appointed time. Farming requires an element of trust and patience. Yet the moment the harvest has arrived, the farmer is ready with the sickle to reap without delay. The harvest is a biblical image for the final judgment (Joel 4:13; Rev. 14:14-15).
With this parable Jesus explains that the kingdom of God is a divine work, not a human achievement. God brings about its growth, which at times is imperceptible. We cooperate, but we cannot control or hasten the arrival of the kingdom by our effort any more than the farmer can harvest his grain before it is time. . St. Paul knew this principle well; ‘I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.” Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is powerful, but “only God, who causes the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6-7). Every member of the kingdom is being made ready for the harvest by our inner growth in holiness and virtue which God brings about through our cooperation with His grace. The parable serves as encouragement for those who think their efforts for the kingdom are fruitless, and a warning for those who think they can bring about the kingdom by their own projects and progress.
Mark’s final word on the parable discourse is another affirmation that Jesus spoke in parables not to obfuscate, but to adapt the mystery of the kingdom to the capacity and openness of His listeners. The end of verse 33 reads literally, “as they were able to hear it,” repeating the key verb “hear” for the thirteenth time in this chapter. The disposition Jesus seeks from His followers is the same demanded by God of His chosen people: “Hear, O Israel” (Deut 6:4). To hear means not only to listen or even to understand, but to accept with a willing heart—that is, to obey. A person’s understanding of the kingdom grows as one reflects on the parable, embraces its implications, thereby enlarging one’s capacity to “hear”.
Although Jesus spoke to the crowds only in parables, to His own Disciples He explained everything in private. Who are those privileged disciples? Mark 3:322-35; 4:10 made it clear: not just the Twelve, called to a special mission, but all “those present along with the Twelve”—that is, all those who choose to be Disciples by staying close to Jesus to listen to his teachings and doing the will of the Father.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Vincent Clemente