Thoughts from the Early Church
Commentary by Gregory the Great
I am gentle and humble in heart (Matthew 13:3)
Dearly beloved, the reading from the holy gospel about the sower requires no explanation, but only a word of warning. In fact the explanation has been given by Truth himself, and it cannot be disputed by a frail human being.
However, there is one point in our Lord’s exposition which you ought to weigh well. It is this. If I told you that the seed represented the word, the field the world, the birds the demons, and the thorns riches, you would perhaps be in two minds as to whether to believe me.
Therefore the Lord himself deigned to explain what he had said, so that you would know that a hidden meaning is to be sought also in those passages which he did not wish to interpret himself.
Would anyone have believed me if I had said that thorns stood for riches? After all, thorns are piercing and riches pleasurable. And yet riches are thorns because thoughts of them pierce the mind and torture it. When finally they lure a person into sin, it is as though they were drawing blood from the wound they have inflicted.
According to another evangelist, the Lord spoke in this parable not simply of riches but of deceptive riches, and with good reason. Riches are deceptive because they cannot stay with us for long; they are deceptive because they are incapable of relieving our spiritual poverty.
The only true riches are those that make us rich in virtue.
Therefore, if you want to be rich, beloved, love true riches. If you aspire to the heights of real honor, strive to reach the kingdom of heaven. If you value rank and renown, hasten to be enrolled in the heavenly court of the angels.
Store up in your minds the Lord’s words which you receive through your ears, for the word of the Lord is the nourishment of the mind. When his word is heard but not stored away in the memory, it is like food which has been eaten and then rejected by an upset stomach.
A person’s life is despaired of if he cannot retain his food; so if you receive the food of holy exhortations, but fail to store in your memory those words of life which nurture righteousness, you have good reason to fear the danger of everlasting death.
Be careful, then, that the word you have received through your ears remains in your heart. Be careful that the seed does not fall along the path, for fear that the evil spirit may come and take it from your memory.
Be careful that the seed is not received in stony ground, so that it produces a harvest of good works without the roots of perseverance.
Many people are pleased with what they hear and they resolve to undertake some good work, but as soon as difficulties begin to arise and hinder them they leave the work unfinished.
The stony ground lacked the necessary moisture for the sprouting seed to yield the fruit of perseverance.
Good earth, on the other hand, brings forth fruit by patience. The reason for this is that nothing we do is good unless we also bear with equanimity the injuries done us by our neighbors.
In fact, the more we progress, the more hardships we shall have to endure in this world; for when our love for this present world dies, its sufferings increase.
This is why we see many people doing good works and at the same time struggling under a heavy burden of afflictions. They now shun earthly desires, and yet they are tormented by greater sufferings
But, as the Lord said, they bring forth fruit by patience, because, since they humbly endure misfortunes, they are welcomed when these are over into a place of rest in heaven.
Forty Gospel Homilies 1, 15. 1-2, 4
Homily on Saint Bassus: Bareille, t. 4, 509-510
Gregory the Great (c 540-604), a Roman by birth, is one of the four great doctors of the Western Church. His great grandfather was Pope Felix III (483-492). After a brilliant secular career he became a monk, having turned his own house on the Clivus Scauri into a monastery dedicated to Saint Andrew.
From c 578 to 585 he was in Constantinople as “apocrisiatarius,” or papal nuncio, at the imperial court. His Morals on Job were conferences given at their request to the small bank of monks who accompanied him there.
On 3 September 590 he was elevated to the see of Peter in succession to Pelagius II. Apart from Saint Leo the Great, Gregory is the only pope who has left examples of his preaching to the Roman people.
**From Saint Louis University