Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Seed That Falls In Good Soil Bears Much Fruit

In today’s First Reading (1 Timothy 6:13-16), Paul charges Timothy in the sight of God, who gives life to all creatures, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment without spot or blame, until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time. The “good confession” is the response of Jesus to Pilate’s question: Are you the King of the Jews? Jesus responded, “I am a King, but not of this world” (cf. Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3; John 18:33-37). The command is to keep and obey all that Jesus and the apostles taught, and to do what the Lord requires. It is a precept that binds not only Paul and Timothy, but every Christian from the time of the Apostles until the day of the Lord’s return in glory.

God only knows the moment when Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead. At that moment, Jesus will be acclaimed at King of kings and Lord of Lords, and he shall reign forever and ever. To him are due all honor and eternal power. Amen.

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Today’s gospel (Luke 8:4-15) is the parable of the sower and the seed.

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown."

When he said this, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him here."

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,

" 'though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.'

"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and bear fruit through perseverance. “


The soil is the heart, the place where the seed of God's word is to be received and hidden, and from where it will appear in its own time in a revolution of freshness and new life. But the difficulty is that the soil is never perfect.

1. “Some seed fell along the path….” The path is where everyone walks: it’s public. It’s not a place of interest in itself; it leads elsewhere. When you are on a path you are between places, you are nowhere. The path has no interiority. If I'm always on the way to somewhere else (and which of us isn't nowadays?) I'm nowhere, and the word of God cannot find a place in me.

2. “Some seed fell on rocky ground….” The heart can be like a rock or a stone: solid, impenetrable, self-enclosed, separate, unloving and unloved…. Throughout the ages it has been a common metaphor for the heart. “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19). Cyril of Alexandria (ca. 378 – 444): “All whose minds are hard and unyielding, and so to speak, compressed, do not receive the divine seed.” Ephrem the Syrian (ca. 306 – 373): “The birds were not able to penetrate the earth in search of the seed.... The evil one does not forcefully snatch away from the heart the teaching entrusted to it. In the parable’s imagery... the grain of wheat lies on the surface of the ground, which has not hidden the seed in its womb.”

3. “Some seed fell among thorns….” It has a chance to grow there, but everything else is growing there too. My power is divided into a thousand parts, and only one is available for the word of God. It’s like flicking through the pages of a magazine: nothing remains in the heart, even though everything was promised.

4. “Some seed fell on good soil….” It’s good soil when none of the above applies. Then the heart is deep and soft and silent. Then I may hear the word of God.
Donagh O’Shea O.P.


Elizabeth Mahlou said...

But it is possible to turn poor soil to good soil (as we do in farming, letting it lie fallow, adding fertilizer, etc.), isn't it? Can we not, with God's help, change the quality of our heart?

Fr. John L. Sullivan said...

Elizabeth, your comparison between the farmer's method for turning poor soil into good soil is quite good. But the soil just sits there. It is the farmer who decides when to add fertilizer, when to let the ground lie fallow, and when to do other things to improve the quality of the soil.

On the other hand, people have free will, and can decide to refuse or ignore the graces God grants to help us to become more productive.