The Gospel Today
Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church
A very large crowd gathered around him
so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down.
And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land.
And he taught them at length in parables,
and in the course of his instruction he said to them,
“Hear this! A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and the birds came and ate it up.
Other seed 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.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it
and it produced no grain.
And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit.
It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”
He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”
And when he was alone,
those present along with the Twelve
questioned him about the parables.
He answered them,
“The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you.
But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that
they may look and see but not perceive,
and hear and listen but not understand,
in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.”
Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable?
Then how will you understand any of the parables?
The sower sows the word.
These are the ones on the path where the word is sown.
As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once
and takes away the word sown in them.
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who,
when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy.
But they have no roots; they last only for a time.
Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
they quickly fall away.
Those sown among thorns are another sort.
They are the people who hear the word,
but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches,
and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word,
and it bears no fruit.
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.”
St. Thomas Aquinas, whose feast the Church celebrates today, is perhaps the most towering of the Church’s intellectual giants. He devoted his life to the study of God and the faith, culminating in his landmark work Summa Theologica, a summary of philosophy and theology that forms part of the Church’s doctrine on God.
St. Thomas could very well be considered a “good soil,” which today’s Gospel speaks of , in reference to the human heart that is able to receive God’s word and nourish it, grow it and share it with others. He is very much recognized for his genius, but purity and child-likeness served as the seedbed that helped him write some of the best arguments for the existence of God.
Of his moral virtues, one account tells of him driving away with a flaming torch a beautiful woman from his room whom his brothers used as bait to lure him out of his priestly vocation. He wanted to be pure for God and fought for it. Another time, a fellow friar mocked his child-like countenance by joking that he saw a horse fly in the sky. At once, the saint rushed to the window to see nothing but the scathing laughter of his confreres. He could only say that he thought “it was easier for a horse to fly than for a friar to utter a lie.”
Thomas had written such a very powerful testimony on God that He is said to have told him, “Thou hast written well of me, Thomas, what reward will though have?” Ever humble and simple, he merely said, “Nothing but Thyself, O Lord.”
Indeed, Jesus is the sower who plants the Word of God in men. But the seeds do not flourish because those who receive them do not live Christ-centered lives – they are given to evil ways, their eyes are fixed on worldly allurements.
But there is a heart like that of St. Thomas which is pure as it is simple. In such a place, the Word of God can thrive and grow a hundredfold, producing a fruit for others to enjoy. This is the call for all Christians, including myself, to make ready a soil where God can plant His words so that His goodness can be known and salvation can be obtained.
We may say that Jesus – apart from being naturally friendly and a speaker – also has a green thumb. He likes to tend gardens and we can give Him delight by cultivating our hearts with purity and simplicity so that He can do planting there. With the gentle and loving stroke of His hands, we turn into a lush garden bearing fruit that will benefit many.