The parable of the sower
With a large crowd gathering and people from every town finding their way to him, Jesus used this parable:
‘A sower went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell on the edge of the path and was trampled on; and the birds of the air ate it up. Some seed fell on rock, and when it came up it withered away, having no moisture. Some seed fell amongst thorns and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell into rich soil and grew and produced its crop a hundredfold.’ Saying this he cried, ‘Listen, anyone who has ears to hear!’
His disciples asked him what this parable might mean, and he said, ‘The mysteries of the kingdom of God are revealed to you; for the rest there are only parables, so that
they may see but not perceive, listen but not understand.
‘This, then, is what the parable means: the seed is the word of God. Those on the edge of the path are people who have heard it, and then the devil comes and carries away the word from their hearts in case they should believe and be saved. Those on the rock are people who, when they first hear it, welcome the word with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of trial they give up. As for the part that fell into thorns, this is people who have heard, but as they go on their way they are choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of life and do not reach maturity. As for the part in the rich soil, this is people with a noble and generous heart who have heard the word and take it to themselves and yield a harvest through their perseverance.’
Reflection on Ag Criost An Siol
Ag Críost an síol, ag Críost an fómhar;
Christ's is the seed, Christ's is the crop,
in iothlainn Dé go dtugtar sinn.
in the rickyard of God may we be brought.
Ag Críost an mhuir, ag Críost an t-iasc;
Christ's is the sea, Christ's is the fish,
i líonta Dé go gcastar sinn.
in the nets of God may we be caught.
Ó fhás go h-aois, is ó aois go bás,
From growth to age, from age to death,
do dhá láimh, a Chríost, anall tharainn.
Thy two arms, O Christ, about us.
Ó bhás go críoch, ní críoch ach athfhás,
From death to end, not end but rebirth,
i bParthas na ngrás go rabhaimid.
in blessed Paradise may we be.
This beautiful and evocative Irish song is not as old as it sounds. The words were probably written late in the nineteenth century or early in the twentieth, and the music was added in 1968 by Sean O’Riada, a distinguished figure of the Irish twentieth-century musical scene. The haunting melody captures something of Irish folk melancholy and the words explore the idea that the seed belongs to Christ. Our own growth, like the seed growing into a crop, is always under the sure guidance of Christ Our Saviour.
The three priests who sing on this recording have done wonderful work in exploring and making available the rich heritage of Irish folk music and folk-inspired music. The Christian faith is at the heart of that heritage.
Jesus used a great many agricultural images in his teaching, and the parable of the sower, scattering seed in all directions, is one of the best-known examples. No wonder it resonated with the Christian people of Ireland, with their strong links to the land. There can be all sorts of reasons why the Word of God doesn’t seem to take root in our lives, and it isn’t always because we haven’t heard it. Sometimes, we’re not able to welcome it, because there are so many other things in our lives, pulling us in other directions. But if we are able to welcome it, if we are able to let it take root in the rich soil of our hearts, then the seed, the Word of God, bears fruit in us a hundredfold.
Reflection written by Monsignor Philip Whitmore. He is the parish priest of St James' Church, Spanish Place, in central London. Previously he lived for over 20 years in Rome, working first in the Vatican and then as Rector of the Venerable English College. Before becoming a priest, he was a music historian based at Magdalen College, Oxford.
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