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The Uncomfortable Parable of the Sower

By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Jul 17, 2023

God promises us the final victory of the Word through the Prophet Isaiah: “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Is. 55:11)

St. Paul rejoices in the fulfillment of the promise: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us… we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (cf. Rom. 8:18-23).

Jesus describes our uncomfortable encounters with the Word in the Parable of the Sower (Mt. 13:1-23), heard in the Gospel for this past Sunday.

First: “And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.”

Some have little or no chance of encountering the Word. When they do, some people or some unholy settings rob them of wisdom. Cultural affluence is no substitute for Christian virtue. Parents, with little or no regard for Christian education, send their children to government re-education facilities, also called public schools and colleges. (Ask any survivor of most of our public universities—and many Catholic colleges.) Even if they enter college with healthy and reasonable aspirations, many emerge brainwashed—complicit and even passionate members of the “woke” religion.

“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.”

Second: “Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.”

Young people attend religious-education classes. Children develop and grow to adolescence; they increasingly need the loving attention of their parents as their primary educators. They need Sunday Mass reinforced by mature religious education. They require the wise guidance of adults to help form them in the practice of the faith.

The crown jewel of childhood religious education is Confirmation, the completion of their entry into the Catholic Church, and also [in most of the Latin Rite] a sign of Christian maturity and responsibility. But they often live in an environment that is hostile to the Word.

Far too frequently, Confirmation marks the last time a young person sees the inside of a church. Responding to peer pressure, a hostile culture, and parental neglect, they grow in arrogant disregard for Church teaching. Among the most hateful anti-Catholics are Catholics who know just enough about the faith to despise it. They rival the sophisticated hatred of well-educated Catholics—including clergy—who are experts in doctrinal disobedience. They have parents to blame who failed to cultivate and irrigate their children’s faith.

“The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.”

Third: “Other seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.”

It isn’t hard to identify the young people who demonstrate all the markings of success. Some are “most likely to succeed.” The students are intelligent, athletic, disciplined, and often quite popular. In many cases, their intelligence and discipline are rooted in expensive Catholic schools with parents treating religion as an option. The religious bureaucracy shields them from institutionalized secular mischief. They grow in academic virtue, self-discipline, and intelligence.

But many do not develop the armor of faith. They allow friends—and later, co-workers—to choke off their moral development. They emerge from our educational facilities by fitting into every cultural situation, no matter how corrupt. Their entry into the workforce allows them to cash in on their costly training and disciplined intelligence.

They rise quickly in corporations and government. They are unaware that the thorns of ambition are choking their morality. Many prominent Catholics (lay and clergy) are advocates of the religious (sic) evils of diversity, equity, and inclusion—and “reproductive rights.” Through family neglect, elderly parents often suffer and die without the benefit of the Sacraments. Behavior-related depression is rampant.

In the screenplay for A Man for All Seasons, Richard Rich slanders Thomas More to advance his career and cooperates with Thomas Cromwell, the chief minister of King Henry VIII, in the conspiracy. Cromwell notices that Rich is depressed:

Cromwell: “It’s a bad sign when people are depressed by their own good fortune.”
Rich: “I’m not depressed.”
Cromwell: “You look depressed.”
Rich: “I was lamenting. I’ve lost my innocence.”
Cromwell: “Some time ago. Have you only just noticed?”

“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.”

Fourth: “But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

By the grace of God, we come to our senses and graciously receive and cultivate His Word. There are many youngsters and adults—the Kingdom of God seeks all of us—with parents that love them, bring them up in the practice of the faith, prepare them well to courageously face the attacks on their faith, and train them to respond with the firm resolve of Christian charity. They may stumble and fall along the way, but they have many helping hands, including life-long parental vigilance. Good Catholics keep the priest busy in the confessional. They celebrate the Sacraments. They love like Christians, suffer for their faith, and even risk jobs and careers because they will not bend a knee to evil. They are free and destined for heavenly glory.

“But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

Fr. Jerry Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington who has also served as a financial administrator in the Diocese of Lincoln. Trained in business and accounting, he also holds a Master of Divinity and a Master’s in moral theology. Father Pokorsky co-founded both CREDO and Adoremus, two organizations deeply engaged in authentic liturgical renewal. He writes regularly for a number of Catholic websites and magazines. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jul. 19, 2023 11:18 PM ET USA

    Best correlation of this parable with the failure of modern education in the U.S. that I have ever read or heard. Thank you, Father.