Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism


Matthew 13:9 "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."


The Sower



 

 
Matthew 13:1-23:

The same day Jesus going out of the house, sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered unto him, so that he went up into a boat and sat: and all the multitude stood on the shore. And he spoke to them many things in parables, saying:

Behold the sower went forth to sow. And whilst he soweth some fell by the way side, and the birds of the air came and ate them up.

And other some fell upon stony ground, where they had not much earth: and they sprung up immediately, because they had no deepness of earth.
And when the sun was up they were scorched: and because they had not root, they withered away.

And others fell among thorns: and the thorns grew up and choked them.

And others fell upon good ground: and they brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, and some thirtyfold. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

And his disciples came and said to him: Why speakest thou to them in parables?

Who answered and said to them: Because to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven: but to them it is not given. For he that hath, to him shall be given, and he shall abound: but he that hath not, from him shall be taken away that also which he hath. Therefore do I speak to them in parables: because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And the prophecy of Isaias is fulfilled in them, who saith: By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand: and seeing you shall see, and shall not perceive. For the heart of this people is grown gross, and with their ears they have been dull of hearing, and their eyes they have shut: lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. For, amen, I say to you, many prophets and just men have desired to see the things that you see, and have not seen them, and to hear the things that you hear and have not heard them. Hear you therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, there cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart: this is he that received the seed by the way side. And he that received the seed upon stony ground, is he that heareth the word, and immediately receiveth it with joy.

Yet hath he not root in himself, but is only for a time: and when there ariseth tribulation and persecution because of the word, he is presently scandalized. And he that received the seed among thorns, is he that heareth the word, and the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choketh up the word, and he becometh fruitless. But he that received the seed upon good ground, is he that heareth the word, and understandeth, and beareth fruit, and yieldeth the one an hundredfold, and another sixty, and another thirty.

Mark 4:1-29:

And again he began to teach by the sea side; and a great multitude was gathered together unto him, so that he went up into a ship, and sat in the sea; and all the multitude was upon the land by the sea side. And he taught them many things in parables, and said unto them in his doctrine:

Hear ye: Behold, the sower went out to sow. And whilst he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the birds of the air came and ate it up.

And other some fell upon stony ground, where it had not much earth; and it shot up immediately, because it had no depth of earth. And when the sun was risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.

And some fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.

And some fell upon good ground; and brought forth fruit that grew up, and increased and yielded, one thirty, another sixty, and another a hundred. And he said: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

And when he was alone, the twelve that were with him asked him the parable. And he said to them: To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but to them that are without, all things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand: lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. And he saith to them: Are you ignorant of this parable? and how shall you know all parables? He that soweth, soweth the word. And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown, and as soon as they have heard, immediately Satan cometh and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.

And these likewise are they that are sown on the stony ground: who when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but are only for a time: and then when tribulation and persecution ariseth for the word they are presently scandalized. And others there are who are sown among thorns: these are they that hear the word, And the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts after other things entering in choke the word, and it is made fruitless. And these are they who are sown upon the good ground, who hear the word, and receive it, and yield fruit, the one thirty, another sixty, and another a hundred.

And he said to them: Doth a candle come in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick? For there is nothing hid, which shall not be made manifest: neither was it made secret, but that it may come abroad. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And he said to them: Take heed what you hear. In what measure you shall mete, it shall be measured to you again, and more shall be given to you. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, that also which he hath shall be taken away from him.

And he said: So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the earth, And should sleep, and rise, night and day, and the seed should spring, and grow up whilst he knoweth not. For the earth of itself bringeth forth fruit, first the blade, then the ear, afterwards the full corn in the ear. And when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

Luke 8:4-15:

And when a very great multitude was gathered together, and hastened out of the cities unto him, he spoke by a similitude. The sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.

And other some fell upon a rock: and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.

And other some fell among thorns, and the thorns growing up with it, choked it.

And other some fell upon good ground; and being sprung up, yielded fruit a hundredfold. Saying these things, he cried out: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

And his disciples asked him what this parable might be. To whom he said: To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to the rest in parables, that seeing they may not see, and hearing may not understand.

Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. And they by the way side are they that hear; then the devil cometh, and taketh the word out of their heart, lest believing they should be saved. Now they upon the rock, are they who when they hear, receive the word with joy: and these have no roots; for they believe for a while, and in time of temptation, they fall away. And that which fell among thorns, are they who have heard, and going their way, are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and yield no fruit. But that on the good ground, are they who in a good and perfect heart, hearing the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit in patience.


 

Commentary
by St. Augustine

1. Both yesterday and to-day ye have heard the parables of the sower, in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. Do ye who were present yesterday, recollect to-day. Yesterday we read of that sower, who when he scattered seed, "some fell by the way side," which the birds picked up; "some in stony places," which dried up from the heat; "some among thorns, which were choked," and could not bring forth fruit; and "other some into good ground, and it brought forth fruit, a hundred, sixty, thirty fold." But to-day the Lord hath again spoken another parable of the sower, "who sowed good seed in his field. While men slept the enemy came, and sowed tares upon it." As long as it was only in the blade, it did not appear; but when the fruit of the good seed began to appear, "then appeared the tares also." The servants of the householder were offended, when they saw a quantity of tares among the good wheat, and wished to root them out, but they were not suffered to do so; but it was said to them, "Let both grow together until the harvest." Now the Lord Jesus Christ explained this parable also; and said that He was the sower of the good seed, and He showed how that the enemy who sowed the tares was the devil; the time of harvest, the end of the world; His field the whole world.

And what saith He? "In the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, to burn them, but gather the wheat into My barn."

Why are ye so hasty, He says, ye servants full of zeal? Ye see tares among the wheat, ye see evil Christians among the good; and ye wish to root up the evil ones; be quiet, it is not the time of harvest. That time will come, may it only find you wheat! Why do ye vex yourselves? Why bear impatiently the mixture of the evil with the good? In the field they may be with you, but they will not be so in the barn.

2. Now ye know that those three places mentioned yesterday where the seed did not grow, "the way side," "the stony ground," and "the thorny places," are the same as these "tares." They received only a different name under a different similitude. For when similitudes are used, or the literal meaning of a term is not expressed, not the truth but a similitude of the truth is conveyed by them. I see that but few have understood my meaning; yet it is for the benefit of all that I speak. In things visible, a way side is a way side, stony ground is stony ground, thorny places are thorny places; they are simply what they are, because the names are used in their literal sense. But in parables and similitudes one thing may be called by many names; therefore there is nothing inconsistent in my telling you that that "way side," that "stony ground," those "thorny places," are bad Christians, and that they too are the "tares." Is not Christ called "the Lamb"? Is not Christ "the Lion" too? Among wild beasts, and cattle, a lamb is simply a lamb, and a lion, a lion: but Christ is both. The first are respectively what they are in propriety of expression; the Latter both together in a figurative sense. Nay much more; besides this it may happen that under a figure, things very different from one another may be called by one and the same name. For what is so different as Christ and the devil? yet both Christ and the devil are called "a lion." Christ is called "a lion:" "The Lion hath prevailed of the tribe of Judah;" and the devil is called a lion: "Know ye not that your adversary the Devil walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour?" Both the one and the other then is a lion; the one a lion by reason of His strength; the other for his savageness; the one a lion for His "prevailing;" the other for his injuring. The devil again is a serpent, "that old serpent;" are we commanded then to imitate the devil, when our Shepherd told us, "Be ye wise as serpents, and simple as doves"?

3. Accordingly I yesterday addressed "the way side," I addressed the "stony ground," I addressed the "thorny places;" and I said, Be ye changed whilst ye may: turn up with the plough the hard ground, cast the stones out of the field, pluck up the thorns out of it. Be loth to retain that hard heart, from which the word of God may quickly pass away and be lost. Be loth to have that lightness of soil, where the root of charity can take no deep hold. Be loth to choke the good seed which is sown in you by my labours, with the lusts and the cares of this world. For it is the Lord who sows; and we are only His labourers. But be ye the "good ground." I said yesterday, and I say again today to all, Let one bring forth "a hundred, another sixty, another thirty fold." In one the fruit is more, in another less; but all will have a place in the barn. Yesterday I said all this, to-day I am addressing the tares; but the sheep themselves are the tares. O evil Christians, O ye, who in filling only press the Church by your evil lives; amend yourselves before the harvest come. "Say not, I have sinned, and what hath befallen me?" God hath not lost His power; but He is requiring repentance from thee. I say this to the evil, who yet are Christians; I say this to the tares. For they are in the field; and it may so be, that they who to-day are tares, may to-morrow be wheat. And so I will address the wheat also.

4. O ye Christians, whose lives are good, ye sigh and groan as being few among many, few among very many. The winter will pass away, the summer will come; lo! the harvest will soon be here. The angels will come who can make the separation, and who cannot make mistakes. We in this time present are like those servants of whom it was said, "Wilt Thou that we go and gather them up?" for we were wishing, if it might be so, that no evil ones should remain among the good. But it has been told us, "Let both grow together until the harvest." Why? For ye are such as may be deceived. Hear finally; "Lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them." What good are ye doing? Will ye by your eagerness make a waste of My harvest? The reapers will come, and who the reapers are He hath explained, "And the reapers are the angels." We are but men, the reapers are the angels. We too indeed, if we finish our course, shall be equal to the angels of God; but now when we chafe against the wicked, we are as yet but men. And we ought now to give ear to the words, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." For do ye think, my Brethren, that these tares we read of do not get up into this seat? Think ye that they are all below, and none above up here? God grant we may not be so. "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you." I tell you of a truth, my Beloved, even in these high seats there is both wheat, and tares, and among the laity there is wheat, and tares. Let the good tolerate the bad; let the bad change themselves, and imitate the good. Let us all, if it may be so, attain to God; let us all through His mercy escape the evil of this world. Let us seek after good days, for we are now in evil days; but in the evil days let us not blaspheme, that so we may be able to arrive at the good days.

 
Commentary
By St. John Chryostom

4. What then is the parable? "Behold," saith He, "a sower went forth to sow." Whence went He forth, who is present everywhere, who fills all things? or how went He forth? Not in place, but in condition and dispensation to usward, coming nearer to us by His clothing Himself with flesh. For because we could not enter, our sins fencing us out from the entrance, He comes forth unto us. And wherefore came He forth? to destroy the ground teeming with thorns? to take vengeance upon the husbandmen? By no means; but to till and tend it, and to sow the word of godliness. For by seed here He means His doctrine, and by land, the souls of men, and by the sower, Himself.

What then comes of this seed? Three parts perish, and one is saved.

"And when He sowed, some seeds fell," He saith, "by the way side; and the fowls came and devoured them up."

He said not, that He cast them, but that "they fell."

"And some upon the rock, where they had not much earth; and forthwith they sprang up, because they had no deepness of earth; and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among the thorns, and the thorns sprang up, and choked them. But others fell on the good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear let him hear."

A fourth part is saved; and not this all alike, but even here great is the difference.

Now these things He said, manifesting that He discoursed to all without grudging. For as the sower makes no distinction in the land submitted to him, but simply and indifferently casts his seed; so He Himself too makes no distinction of rich and poor, of wise and unwise, of slothful or diligent, of brave or cowardly; but He discourses unto all, fulfilling His part, although foreknowing the results; that it may be in His power to say, "What ought I to have done, that I have not done?"And the prophets speak of the people as of a vine; "For my beloved," it is said, "had a vineyard;" and, "He brought a vine out of Egypt;"but He, as of seed. What could this be to show? That obedience now will be quick and easier, and will presently yield its fruit.

But when thou hearest, "The sower went forth to sow," think it not a needless repetition. For the sower frequently goes forth for some other act also, either to plough, or to cut out the evil herbs, or to pluck up thorns, or to attend to some such matter; but He went forth to sow.

Whence then, tell me, was the greater part of the seed lost? Not through the sower, but through the ground that received it; that is, the soul that did not hearken.

And wherefore doth He not say, Some the careless received, and lost it; some the rich, and choked it, and some the superficial, and betrayed it? It is not His will to rebuke them severely, lest He should cast them into despair, but He leaves the reproof to the conscience of His hearers.

And this was not the case with the seed only, but also with the net; for that too produced many that were unprofitable.

5. But this parable He speaks, as anointing His disciples, and to teach them, that even though the lost be more than such as receive the word yet they are not to despond. For this was the ease even with their Lord, and He who fully foreknew that these things should be, did not desist from sowing.

And how can it be reasonable, saith one, to sow among the thorns, on the rock, on the wayside? With regard to the seeds and the earth it cannot be reasonable; but in the case of men's souls and their instructions, it hath its praise, and that abundantly. For the husbandman indeed would reasonably be blamed for doing this; it being impossible for the rock to become earth, or the wayside not to be a wayside, or the thorns, thorns; but in the things that have reason it is not so. There is such a thing as the rock changing, and becoming rich land; and the wayside being no longer trampled on, nor lying open to all that pass by, but that it may be a fertile field; and the thorns may be destroyed, and the seed enjoy full security. For had it been impossible, this Sower would not have sown. And if the change did not take place in all, this is no fault of the Sower, but of them who are unwilling to be changed: He having done His part: and if they betrayed what they received of Him, He is blameless, the exhibitor of such love to man.

But do thou mark this, I pray thee; that the way of destruction is not one only, but there are differing ones, and wide apart from one another. For they that are like the wayside are the coarse-minded,and indifferent, and careless; but those on the rock such as fail from weakness only.

For "that which is sown upon the stony places," saith He, "the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it. Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while; but when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended! When any one," so He saith, "heareth the word of truth and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth that which was sown out of his heart. This is he that is sown by the wayside."

Now it is not the same thing for the doctrine to wither away, when no man is evil entreating, or disturbing its foundations, as when temptations press upon one. But they that are likened to the thorns, are much more inexcusable than these.

6. In order then that none of these things may befall us, let us by zeal and continual remembrance cover up the things that are told us. For though the devil do catch them away, yet it rests with us, whether they be caught away; though the plants wither, yet it is not from the heat this takes place (for He did not say, because of the heat it withered, but, "because it had no root"); although His sayings are choked, it is not because of the thorns, but of them who suffer them to spring up. For there is a way, if thou wilt, to check this evil growth, and to make the right use of our wealth. Therefore He said not, "the world," but "the care of the world;" nor "riches," but "the deceitfulness of riches."

Let us not then blame the things, but the corrupt mind. For it is possible to be rich and not to be deceived; and to be in this world, and not to be choked with its cares. For indeed riches have two contrary disadvantages; one, care, wearing us out, and bringing a darkness over us; the other, luxury, making us effeminate.

And well hath He said, "The deceitfulness of riches." For all that pertains to riches is deceit; they are names only, not attached to things. For so pleasure and glory, and splendid array, and all these things, are a sort of vain show, not a reality.

Having therefore spoken of the ways of destruction, afterwards He mentions the good ground, not suffering them to despair, but giving a hope of repentance, and indicating that it is possible to change from the things before mentioned into this.

And yet if both the land be good, and the Sower one, and the seed the same, wherefore did one bear a hundred, one sixty, one thirty? Here again the difference is from the nature of the ground, for even where the ground is good, great even therein is the difference. Seest thou, that not the husbandman is to be blamed, nor the seed, but the land that receives it? not for its nature, but for its disposition. And herein too, great is His mercy to man, that He doth not require one measure of virtue, but while He receives the first, and casts not out the second, He gives also a place to the third.

And these things He saith, least they that followed Him should suppose that hearing is sufficient for salvation. And wherefore, one may say, did He not put the other vices also, such as lust, vainglory? In speaking of "the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches," He set down all. Yea, both vainglory and all the rest belong to this world, and to the deceitfulness of riches; such as pleasure, and gluttony, and envy, and vainglory, and all the like.

But He added also the "way" and the "rock," signifying that it is not enough to be freed from riches only, but we must cultivate also the other parts of virtue. For what if thou art free indeed from riches, yet are soft and unmanly? and what if thou art not indeed unmanly, but art remiss and careless about the hearing of the word? Nay, no one part is sufficient for our salvation, but there is required first a careful hearing, and a continual recollection; then fortitude, then contempt of riches, and deliverance from all worldly things.

In fact, His reason for putting this before the other, is because the one is first required (for "How shall they believe except they hear?"just as we too, except we mind what is said, shall not be able so much as to learn what we ought to do): after that, fortitude, and the contempt of things present.

7. Hearing therefore these things, let us fortify ourselves on all sides, regarding His instructions, and striking our roots deep, and cleansing ourselves from all worldly things. But if we do the one, neglecting the other, we shall be nothing bettered; for though we perish not in one way, yet shall we in some other. For what signifies our not being ruined by riches, if we are by indolence: or not by indolence, if we are by softness. For so the husbandman, whether this way or that way he lose his crop, equally bewails himself. Let us not then soothe ourselves upon our not perishing in all these ways, but let it be our grief, in whichever way we are perishing.

And let us burn up the thorns, for they choke the word. And this is known to those rich men, who not for these matters alone, but for others also prove unprofitable. For having become slaves and captives of their pleasures, they are useless even for civil affairs, and if for them, much more for those of Heaven. Yea, and in two ways hereby our thoughts are corrupted; both by the luxury, and by the anxiety too. For either of these by itself were enough to overwhelm the bark; but when even both concur, imagine how high the billow swells.

And marvel not at His calling our luxury, "thorns." For thou indeed art not aware of it, being intoxicated with thy passion, but they that are in sound health know that it pricks sharper than any thorn, and that luxury wastes the soul worse than care, and causes more grievous pains both to body and soul. For one is not so sorely smitten by anxiety, as by surfeiting. Since when watchings, and throbbings of the temples, and heaviness in the head, and pangs of the bowels, lay hold of such a man, you may imagine how many thorns these surpass in grievousness. And as the thorns, on whichever side they are laid hold of, draw blood from the hands that seize them, just so doth luxury plague both feet, and hands, and head, and eyes, and in general all our members; and it is withered also, and unfruitful, like the thorn, and hurts much more than it, and in our vital parts. Yea, it brings on premature old age, and dulls the senses, and darkens our reasoning, and blinds the keen-sighted mind, and makes the body tumid,rendering excessive the deposition of that which is cast away, and gathering together a great accumulation of evils; and it makes the burden too great, and the load overwhelming; whence our falls are many and continual, and our shipwrecks frequent.

For tell me, why pamper thy body? What? are we to slay thee in sacrifice, to set thee on the table? The birds it is well for thee to pamper: or rather, not so well even for them; for when they are fattened, they are unprofitable for wholesome food. So great an evil is luxury, that its mischief is shown even in irrational beings. For even them by luxury we make unprofitable, both to themselves and to us. For their superfluous flesh is indigestible, and the moister kind of corruption is engendered by that kind of fatness. Whereas the creatures that are not so fed, but live, as one may say, in abstinence, and moderate diet, and in labor and hardship, these are most serviceable both to themselves and to others, as well for food, as for everything else. Those, at any rate, who live on them, are in better health; but such as are fed on the others are like them, growing dull and sickly, and rendering their chain more grievous. For nothing is so hostile and hurtful to the body, as luxury; nothing so tears it in pieces, and overloads and corrupts it, as intemperance.

Wherefore above all may this circumstance make one amazed at them for their folly, that not even so much care as others show towards their wine skins, are these willing to evince towards themselves. For those the wine merchants do not allow to receive more than is fit, lest they should burst; but to their own wretched belly these men do not vouchsafe even so much forethought, but when they have stuffed it and distended it, they fill all, up to the ears, up to the nostrils, to the very throat itself, thereby pressing into half its room the spirit, and the power that directs the living being. What? was thy throat given thee for this end, that thou shouldest fill it up to the very mouth, with wine turned sour, and all other corruption? Not for this, O man, but that thou shouldest above all things sing to God, and offer up the holy prayers, and read out the divine laws, and give to thy neighbors profitable counsel. But thou, as if thou hadst received it for this end, dost not suffer it to have leisure for that ministry, so much as for a short season, but for all thy life subjectest it to this evil slavery. And as if any man having had a lyre given him with golden strings, and beautifully constructed, instead of awakening with it the most harmonious music, were to cover it over with much dung and clay; even so do these men. Now the word, dung, I use not of living, but of luxurious living, and of that great wantonness. Because what is more than necessary is not nourishment, but merely injurious. For in truth the belly alone was made merely for the reception of food; but the month, and the throat, and tongue, for other things also, far more necessary than these: or rather, not even the belly for the reception of food simply, but for the reception of moderate food. And this it makes manifest by crying out loudly against us, when we tease it by this greediness; nor doth it clamor against us only, but also avenging that wrong exacts of us the severest penalty. And first it punishes the feet, that bear and conduct us to those wicked revels, then the hands that minister to it, binding them together for having brought unto it such quantities and kinds of provisions; and many have distorted even their very mouth, and eyes, and head. And as a servant receiving an order beyond his power, not seldom out of desperation becomes insolent to the giver of the order: so the belly too, together with these members, often ruins and destroys, from being over-strained, the very brain itself. And this God hath well ordered, that from excess so much mischief should arise; that when of thine own will thou dost not practise self-restraint, at least against thy will, for fear of so great ruin, thou mayest learn to be moderate.

Knowing then these things, let us flee luxury, let us study moderation, that we may both enjoy health of body, and having delivered our soul from all infirmity, may attain unto the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.

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