Wait for it! Wait for it! God is at work in us, and it is grace that will enable us to be the fruitful soil into which God will plant His message of love and forgiveness. So much of farming is about patiently waiting for the weather and the soil to do their thing. Consider, for example, the seed of the the Moso Bamboo that grows in China and the Far East. After planting, no visible growth occurs for up to five years before it shoots upward, growing at the rate of nearly two and a half feet per day. In just six weeks it attains a whopping 90 feet in height. Unlike the beanstalk seeds that Jack planted, it’s not magic. The moso’s rapid growth is due to the miles of roots which develop unseen during
the first five years of life.
Not all seeds germinate, nor do most do so so dramatically. Some seeds lay dormant for 50 years or more. But dormant or not, the seeds of faith, hope, and love which God instills in us at our conception, waters with Baptism, and ignites at our Confirmation, are destined to blossom
and bear fruit in our lifetime.
Jesus uses parables, such as today’s Gospel story about planting seeds, to explain the Kingdom of heaven; all too often, however, his listeners remain uncertain of his message and unconvinced of His authority as God’s only Son. In events leading up to today’s Gospel reading from Matthew, Jesus has locked horns with the Pharisees and Sadducees numerous times. Perhaps frustrated by their stubbornness of heart,
Jesus offers a parable about the sower and the seed. It’s revealing, however, that while Jesus doesn’t expect the crowds, especially His critics, to understand, he does want his disciples to get the message; to do so, Jesus must break it down for them. Yet, even after explaining the parable, we know that the apostles fail to grasp Jesus’ message. Their “conversion” will require the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost inspiring them to boldly proclaim that Jesus is Lord, the Messiah of God.
So, to the parable. A sower (perhaps a farm hand or the landowner himself) scatters precious seed carelessly on untilled ground. It’s sketchy ground at best. Some seed falls on the hardened paths and is quickly consumed by birds. It never even germinates. The seed on rocky ground lacks roots and withers. The seed on weed-infested ground is choked out by the weeds. Only the seed that falls on rich soil produces, but the harvest is unbelievable! Jesus’ listeners would expect a 5-fold harvest; a 100, 60, 30-fold would be impossible, causing the people to wonder what the meaning of the parable might be.
The disciples are also left in the dark as to the meaning of the parable. What sets the disciples apart, however, is their openness to and trust in Jesus. From him they will hear about the long awaited kingdom. The others who hear Jesus’ preaching reject His message because it does not fit with their perception of who the Messiah is and what the Messiah will do. Jesus has entered hostile territory and his teaching will remain a mystery to those opposed to him.
We who live on the Palouse know that there’s more to reaping a bountiful harvest than scattering seeds willy-nilly. The “seed” needs to be properly prepared, then nurtured—rooted beneath the surface, watered, weeded, fed, if it is to produce that bountiful harvest we depend upon. In this respect, our faith journey needs the same careful treatment if it is to blossom and produce a rich harvest.
John Shea, theologian and lecturer, proposes that although this parable describes four distinct personality types, represented by four soil conditions, it is more realistic to understand that something of each soil condition resides in every person. At one time or another we have lost,
or continue to succumb to the evil one (the hardened path). At times the practice of our faith is less than enthusiastic; it may be sporadic in the face of life’s challenges (rocky ground) and our Christian
“productivity” drops. Who among us hasn’t at some time been distracted with other pursuits, such as wealth, prestige, self-indulgence, or indifference at the expense of our soul (choked out with these weeds). And who of us has heard Jesus’ invitation to follow Him and doing so
borne abundant fruit (fertile soil).
To feed the seeds of faith, hope, and love placed into our hearts, we need to receive the Holy Eucharist frequently, avail ourselves of the cleansing graces of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, exercise our prayer life, and live out our Christian call to discipleship. How? By performing the Corporal and Spiritual works of mercy, thus carrying on the mission of Christ. Through prayer and charitable acts, we will receive the spiritual nutrition…the grace to produce abundant fruit a hundred-times over.