But some one will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?" You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being;" the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
My foes will be put to flight
on the day that I call to you.
This I know, that God is on my side. (R./)
In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not fear:
what can mortal man do to me? (R./)
I am bound by the vows I have made to you.
O God, I will offer you praise
for you rescued my soul from death,
you kept my feet from stumbling
that I may walk in the presence of God
in the light of the living. (R./)
When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: "A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold." As he said this, he called out, "Let anyone with ears to hear listen!"
Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that "looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.'
"Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.
A divine potential glows deep within each of us, like a seed buried in the ground. Looking at the seed before it is planted, one hardly suspects what can develope from it. The seed's "dying" or disintegrating before being reborn cannot be rushed. It needs time and a silent waiting within the dark, warm earth.
This links with what Paul writes about our nature "subject to decay." Yes, we must die as people of earth, bodily organisms. It is not that our body is bad or useless, but only after the the seed dies can it develope to its potential. Our future persona will be in some kind of continuity with our present persona, as a plant grows out of its seed, yet surpassing it in mysterious ways. It is weak when sown, and strong hereafter. Paul's faith in resurrection makes him the most optimistic of teachers.
Matthew's explanation of the Sower parable has several pointers for the spiritual life. Just as the seed, God's word, can fall on the footpath and be trampled down, so the word sown in us must not be quashed by the popular culture or be crushed by godless opinion. If the seed falls on rocky ground, it cannot take root but quickly dries up. So we must let God's Word sink root deep in our hearts and become part of ourselves. Neither should the seed of faith be choked amid briars; this is to avoid losing it by a hectic, hedonistic lifestyle. One can readily lose all taste for prayer, reflection and the self-denial a mature person needs.
Finally there's the seed that falls on good ground and yields a plentiful harvest. This suggests how the grace of God must be welcomed and integrated into our inmost self. The harvest depends on the quality of our lives over an extended period of time.
When the farmer sows seed in a field, not all of it produces a crop. Indeed much of it goes to waste. Only some takes root and goes on to provide a harvest.
The seed is vulnerable to various negative influences. The kind of soil itself is not always right for planting. The environment in which we live is not very conducive to faith. Sickness or other misfortune may shake our faith. The riches and pleasures of life can choke it.
We need to nurture the seed of faith that is planted in us. We have our personal part to play in providing the good soil for the seed to grow. One element for fostering our faith is prayer, both our own prayer and joining in the prayer of the community.
The parable includes hearing the word and taking it to heart. That suggests a deliberate listening to the word of God, which will then affect how we live and how we relate to others. Let's think about what we can do to help the seed of faith grow up fully in our lives.