But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it
and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold."
Farmers and gardeners would be more familiar with this parable than I am. I have watched with dismay gardeners pulling up growing plants to give other plants more room. They explained all the plants would be stunted if they all grew together. Orchard keepers lop off tree branches, foresters thin out copses, rangers cull herds of deer and other wildlife so that life will flourish. "Nature" seems to waste a lot of new life even as it nurtures young life.
Does the Holy Spirit also cull the Church from time to time so that it might flourish?
In this parable we hear of those seeds that perished: some were consumed by birds or crushed underfoot by passersby. Some sprouted into seedlings but died in the harsh, parching sunlight; still other seedlings could not compete with hardier weeds. Only a portion flourished or bore fruit.
An uninformed bystander might ask, "Why bother?"
Why did the American Catholic Church invest tens of thousands of religious women and men into elementary schools? They are fondly remembered today mostly by non-practicing Catholics. Why did many boys serve at the altar, only to be sucked into a war machine that mocked their innocence and taught them to drink, smoke and hate? Might our energies have been spent better elsewhere?
Jesus' parable provides a kind of answer. "...some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold."
Christian life is peppered with occasional setbacks, many disappointments and persistent frustration. This parable and its explanation are acutely aware of that dimension. But the Gospel also promises satisfaction and fulfillment.
The skeptic raises many questions. "What about those who....?" This or that question might be answered but the human mind, and the skeptical human mind in particular, can create no end of questions. In the end we have to "Let God be God" and be satisfied with his promise of complete, overwhelming, deep satisfaction.