Do you ever hear but do not listen? Do you hear that someone is speaking to you, but you don’t really listen to what they are saying? I see this all the time with my son, where I tell him one thing and he is distracted by the television or a toy he is playing with and does not listen to me. Or how about the business world, where you may be in meetings and people are in the meeting, but messing around on their phone. They are there in the meeting hearing that something is being said, but are they really listening? How can they if their mind is distracted. I’m sure my wife can say the same thing about me if she’s trying to talk to me and I’m on my computer working or watching a football game. I hear her, but I am not listening.
The Gospel speaks to this today, with the parable of the sower, where Jesus explains to His disciples how the parable of the sower talks about how we all listen to God’s word. We all do the same thing with God. Some people get it right, and God’s message really sinks in and we listen, and put it into action. But for most of us, we’re like the seeds that do not land on fertile soil, and we’re distracted with life and we hear Him, but we do not listen.
The Gospel is packed full of meaning and messages today though, and it not only includes one of Jesus’ more famous parables about the sower, but it explains His use of parables in general. Why did He speak to us in parables? For one thing, it was a way to explain something complex into something more relatable that people of the day could understand. But He also knew that most people would not get it at first. He was using parables as entertaining stories that people would listen to, that they could relate to, and that had a good message. But that was just on the surface. He was planting a seed in our hearts.
He was planting a message, a meaning that people would not understand at first, but only through continued reflection and growth in faith in Him, would the true meaning of the parable reveal itself. Only after a certain amount of growth and understanding would we truly understand the meaning of the parable. This is how it is with any change or realization in life – it needs to be revealed gradually. Too much too soon and we get overwhelmed and go back to our old ways, or we do not appreciate it. Parables are like an onion – they have many layers, and the more we learn and grown in our faith, the more layers we peel and the deeper the meaning becomes. They reveal their meaning gradually, in the timeframe we need.
So even though we don’t understand the parables at first, or maybe we only understand the meaning on the surface, Jesus is planting something in our hearts that will reveal itself when we are ready, and many times without us even knowing it.
Many times we hear Gods word, but do not listen. How often do you sit in Mass and daydream during the readings, or worry about your child who is acting up? How often do we think about other things because maybe the priest is not as exciting, or the person in front of you is distracting? But yet we are there. God is there, present in the Word. Christ is there, present in the Eucharist. And the Holy Spirit is there, as He says in the first reading from Hebrews, “I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them upon their minds.”
We are there, absorbing God in His entirety. He is filling our hearts and minds with Him, and He knows that we might not listen right away. We might be hearing the Mass, but we’re not listening. But He fills our hearts and minds with Him, knowing that the deeper meaning, and the message we need to listen for will reveal itself one day. We just need to keep peeling back the layers and looking for more.