|Photo by Ron McGinnis Photography. Used with permission.|
It’s not only Hobbits that appreciate the good earth and green things that grow. The smell of sunlit earth in spring brings with it promises of harvest to come. It’s a slow and meticulous work to prepare that soil, making certain to remove the rocks and release the dense ground. But what joy and thanksgiving await as reward for the toil.
Jesus’ parable of the Sower, found in the Gospels of St. Matthew, Mark and Luke, compares the seed being sown in good earth to the Word of God being sown in the human heart. We’re reminded that not all who hear the Gospel will produce the fruit of the Spirit, as some seed will fall by the wayside, some will fall on rocky ground and not take root. Some will fall among thorns and be choked by weeds, but yet other seed will fall on good earth and yield a crop.
This is one of the few parables where Jesus explains the meaning. He tells us that anyone who hears the Word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the wicked one may come and snatch away what is sown in the heart. This is the seed by the wayside. He who receives the seed on stony places, this is the one who receives the Word of God with much joy, yet he has not root in himself and endures for only a short time. When trials and tribulations come, he immediately stumbles. The one who receives the Word among thorns is the one who hears, but the cares of this world and deceitfulness of riches choke the truth in the heart. But the one who receives the Word on good soil, this is the one who hears and understands and bears fruit.
Taking root. What can we do to prepare our soil, our hearts, to receive the Word of God so that we can produce fruit? What can we do so that others may prepare good earth?
It is only by the grace of God that we are enabled to till the heart, to make it ready to hear the Word and take root in Christ. The Christian life is dynamic, one of growth and abiding in Christ, being renewed by Him on a daily basis. It is about prayer, surely, most all Christians would agree with that. But it is also about discipline...podvig, the ascetic spiritual struggle that helps us to become closer with the Lord. It’s about nourishing our spirits with healthy things, like reading the Word, the lives of the saints, other spiritual writings or church history to increase our understanding of the faith we hold. It’s about giving without expecting something in return, loving our enemies. It’s about fasting and removing empty things in life that vie for our time and energy.
I’ve been a Christian for over 30 years and I continue to learn so much. I feel like an infant most of the time, with my struggles, asking God to mature my spirit. I can share one thing though, that I’ve learned beyond doubt:
The more “fluff” I remove from my life, the more clearly I see. By “fluff”, I mean television, radio, internet, shopping and anything else that fills my eyes with advertising, pointless chatter, gossip columns, etc. Empty things. The more these weeds are removed from my life and nourishing things added in their place, the closer my walk with God, the more wisdom and discernment I have. Solutions to problems often become crystal clear.
When we’re evangelizing to others, let us remember to share Christ in a loving and humble way. Remember to pray for that person, as well as yourself, that God would be merciful and grant grace to open hearts to His Word, to make blind eyes see... to make hearts like good tilled earth.