The Sower,
Engraving by Sir John Everett Millais (1829-1896),
Wood engraving on paper,
Published 1864,
Part of Illustrations to "˜The Parables of Our Lord', engraved by the Dalziel Brothers
© Tate Gallery, London

The Sower,
Engraving by Sir John Everett Millais (1829-1896),
Wood engraving on paper,
Published 1864,
Part of Illustrations to "˜The Parables of Our Lord', engraved by the Dalziel Brothers
© Tate Gallery, London

Gospel of 26 July 2023

A sower went out to sow

Matthew 13:1-9

Jesus left the house and sat by the lakeside, but such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat there. The people all stood on the beach, and he told them many things in parables.

He said, ‘Imagine a sower going out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away. Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

Reflection on the wood engraving on paper

The parable of the Sower is probably one of the parables most familiar to us. That is also its problem. We think we know the parable, and hence tend to merely glance over it each time we read or hear this Gospel reading.

When Jesus saw the farmer going out to sow seeds, it reminded him of the way God was at work in his ministry. Jesus noticed that the farmer scattered the seed with abandon, almost recklessly, not knowing what kind of soil it would fall on. Jesus the goes on to describe four different kinds of soil: edge of path soil; patches of rock; soil with thorns; and good soil. These four soils Jesus is describing are not just physical, agricultural soils, but they are the very inner soils of our human hearts. They are the various landscapes of our human souls.

The truth is that we are probably not just one type of soil. We are a combination of all four. For certain teachings Jesus gives us, we do let His word fall onto the rich soil in our hearts, as we sort of agree with what Jesus is saying. For other teachings we actually would be more like ‘nah, well this is ‘edge of the path stuff’, as we feel they don't apply to us. We don't let those teachings fully take root. Then for other things such as maybe some of the teachings of the Church we would be more like rock and not agree with what is being said, and simply let the seeds of those teachings fall on rock.

So depending on his teachings and what Jesus is telling us, we decide consciously or unconsciously to let the seed of the word fall on hard rock or soft soil. Why? Because we can't to be in control... and not God. We want to be in the driving seat

In the wood engraving on paper we are looking at today, we see all soils: the rocks, the thorns, the birds picking away at the seeds… and then the good soil in the top right section where the sower is abundantly and resolutely sowing the seeds. God as the divine Sower wants his seed to fall on good, rich, nurtured soil. No soil, no field, no person is left unsown. No ground is declared undeserving of the Sower's seeds.

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Will Howard
Member
Will Howard(@fr-will)
6 months ago

“But such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat there.”

Millais captures the tension of the parable well.
Yet, here the Word is not ‘sat’,
rather He is up and moving,
… even passing by.
Yes, we are the rabel crowd
engraved in such a profusion of detail,
crowding up three quarters of the panel.
We, whose hearts are so enthralled,
ensnared, entangled and overwhelmed
with the ‘stuff of this world’ piled high.
And yet, the work’s composition –
Millais’s intentional arrangement I’m sure –
draws the soul up and out of its ruinous clingings,
over the boulders of sin.
between the birds traumolious pecking, to:
repentance, revelation and desire;
that true desire of the heart
to leap aloft from our earthly prison,
and lay hold of the seed of eternal life,
even Millais’s wood-engraved figure –
(Christ crucified ?)
‘ .. as he passes by’.

Polly French
Member
Polly French(@pauline)
6 months ago
Reply to  Will Howard

What an uplifting reflection Will, thank you for your encouragement.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M(@chazbo)
6 months ago
Reply to  Will Howard

Most poetic!

Andy Bocanegra
Member
Andy Bocanegra(@bogie29)
6 months ago

When I was younger, my heart was full of rocky soil as I had some disagreement with certain Church teachings. Now that I am older I more and more appreciate the wisdom of the Church and strive to follow her teachings. I am hoping that my heart is now the more fertile ground. May God bless you all today.

Mark Crain
Member
Mark Crain(@mark_crain)
6 months ago

A powerful reflection! I took notes. I hope I can pass the soil test one day.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien(@marispiper)
6 months ago

Oooh Patrick, you struck a nerve there! How selective we are in following Christ’s teachings. Mea culpa.
The engraving is fabulous; when I saw the name Millais on the email, it wasn’t what I was expecting – it was much better! Wonderful.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace(@spaceforgrace)
6 months ago

Such a great reflection today! I often take a first glance of the reading and think- ‘Oh it’s that one again…’ I do wonder how priests maintain that freshness of looking at a familiar reading and put a new spin on it. I think we have to read in the context of our daily lives and the fact that every day brings new joys and challenges. I suspect when we become complacent about how rich our soil is, that the soil is not so rich after all, and in need of those essential nutrients we have overlooked.
I love Millais. and haven’t seen this engaving before so it is good to see new things along with the familar.
Thankyou all for your insights, the sun is shining and I must do a soil check!

Stephen Pigott
Member
Stephen Pigott(@stephen)
6 months ago

A lovely illustration and a very helpful message from Patrick. When I walk around town, it looks to me so many people are unhappy in their souls; have they heard the seeds. It bothers me that I’m not doing anything to help the hearing of the seeds. But then I was very stony ground once . Perhaps I shouldn’t worry because of Gods abundance for casting seeds everywhere.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M(@chazbo)
6 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Pigott

Most people live lives of quiet desperation I read once according to a survey. I can believe it. I don’t as I don’t put all my faith and trust in everyday matters – money, shopping, cars, holidays, women. I’m looking into the far distance.

Christine H
Christine H
6 months ago

Thank you for the great reflection including how we probably don’t think too deeply about this parable because it is one of the more popular ones. So this really made me think about how I am like those different types of soil, and it makes me realize that I can strive to do better and be more rich soil and less rocky or on-the-edge soil. So it’s similar to being lukewarm but different because we may be edge soil for some things and rich soil for others. I think sometimes we feel good about ourselves when it’s the rich soil part but we ignore the edge or rocky soil part. A lot to ponder! In the past, I thought about this parable more along the lines of a single person and single soil type, so it was more like whether someone is like the rich soil or not, as opposed to the parts of a person being different types of soil. I love these articles because I love art, and I love the way you post different types of art (such as a wood engraving on paper today), and I love learning more about the Gospel. THANK YOU so very much and blessings to you all and your readers!

Mark Crain
Member
Mark Crain(@mark_crain)
6 months ago
Reply to  Christine H

AGREE!

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M(@chazbo)
6 months ago
Reply to  Christine H

It’s great that more people are coming in on this chatting!

Christine H
Christine H
6 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Thank you, Charles (or can I call you Chazbo?). I just found this site and am really excited about it, and now even more so because of the really kind and thoughtful people on it, such as you and the others who have commented today. What a joy to know that you beautiful souls are here and also share my interest in both the Gospel and art. Blessings to you and to Mark, Patricia, spaceforgrace, Graham, and Stephen.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M(@chazbo)
6 months ago
Reply to  Christine H

Yes – this isn’t Twitter. I’ve left that and Facebook because of all the negativity (putting it mildly) that I have found there. Everyone is nice here. Must go and do some ‘likes’ to all the other contributors…..!

Polly French
Member
Polly French(@pauline)
6 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

It is indeed so refreshing to find such a positive, encouraging site! We all have all kinds of soil in us, it takes work (for me) every single day and many times throughout the day, for the seeds to fall and take root on fertile soil!

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M(@chazbo)
6 months ago

I should think that this passage should be tied in with the darnels passage from a few days back.
I had the faith shown to me when I was young, turned my back on it for many years, and then returned in my middle age. I wonder how that ties in with this parable. I suppose I was scorched nut not quite finished off.
There is a willow tree on the common near here which was blown over and very badly damaged. But there nust be still some channels of life flowing through it as there are a few leaves still on its horizontal shattered trunk….

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M(@chazbo)
6 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

That needs editing but I don’t know how to….

Graham B.
Member
Graham B.(@barsbee)
6 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Hello Charles. You could not be the mighty oak or willow tree you are now without the previous storms. So Rejoice.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M(@chazbo)
6 months ago
Reply to  Graham B.

That is a very positive spin! Thank you Graham!

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace(@spaceforgrace)
6 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

If you scroll around near the bottom right of the message and click on the little flower (no pun intended!) it will give you the option to edit your comment. I use it frequently!

Last edited 6 months ago by spaceforgrace
Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien(@marispiper)
6 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

We had the same idea SFG, Good morning x

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M(@chazbo)
6 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Thanks but the little flower isn’t appearing for me! Hope that isn’t a bad omen 🙁

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien(@marispiper)
6 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Morning Chazbo. Yes, on your comment, if you hover over the right hand edge, you will see a little wheel (like a settings icon) appear. The word ‘edit’ will flash which you can click on and then amend as required.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M(@chazbo)
6 months ago

Oh, it just came Up!

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