27 July 2012

3 seeds, 3 soils

16th Week OT (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Our Lord says that the seed of his Word falls on various kinds of soil. Each kind of soil presents it own difficulties in the nurture and growth of his Word. Like all of Jesus' parables, this one lends itself to multiple interpretations, depending on how you choose to identify the different elements. We could say, for example, that the various kinds of soil represent different sorts of people; or, different sorts of situations; or even, different stages in just one person's growth in holiness. Regardless of how we choose to interpret these elements, the difficulties remain the same. Let's focus on what prevents the seed of the Word from doing its job and think about how these difficulties might be overcome. 

The first seed fails to take root b/c it is sown on a path. Jesus tells us that this means that the hearer of his Word fails to understand what he is teaching. Because he fails to understand, the Evil One comes along and steals it away. This tells us that one way to prevent the devil from stealing what Christ sows in us is to make sure that we understand what Christ is teaching. As baptized Christians who are vowed to a life of holiness and charity, we are morally obligated to know and understand all that Jesus taught and all that the Church teaches. Yes, all of it. This means time and energy spent actually learning all that we claim to believe as Christians. Not just memorizing the Creed, the Mass responses, and devotional prayers, but coming to “stand under” Christ's teachings and allowing them to filter to us everyday, all day our waking experiences and moral choices. Get a Bible; get a copy of the Catechism; and learn all that you can about the faith you profess! 

The second seed is joyfully received but quickly lost at the first sign of trial or tribulation. We're told here that joy alone is not sufficiently deep to grow strong roots. Of course, there's joy in receiving the Word! But receiving the Word while living in the world almost always brings trouble. Is your initial joy deep enough to grow strong roots? Roots strong enough to endure persecution? It can be if your joy is strengthened over time with knowledge and tempered by wisdom. However, if your joy remains nothing more than a purely emotional response, then you will likely find yourself searching for thrilling religious experiences—the churchy version of going to see an action movie or riding a roller-coaster. A joy deep enough to allow the Word to take root is achieved only by the commission of radical acts of charity. 

The third seed is choked by the thorns of worldly anxieties and the lure of riches. Though Jesus doesn't show us a link btw anxiety and riches, there is one that will choke the seed of his Word. The more attached we are to the world, the more concerned we are about losing what we have. This isn't a warning about having too much stuff. It's about the strength of our spiritual attachment to the stuff we have. Think of it this way: the more attached you are to the things of this world, the more thorns you have to avoid to seize Christ's Word. Can you lose everything you have and everyone you love and still find a deep joy in being an adopted child of the Father? If not, here's a warning for you: you will become what you love most. If you love temporary things, you yourself will become a temporary thing. 

So, how do we cultivate a soil—a heart and mind—deep enough, rich enough to receive, nurture, and grow Christ's teachings in our lives? First, we must understand what it is that we profess to believe. We don't have to be another Augustine or Aquinas or BXVI. But we do have to understand to the limit of our ability to understand. Second, our joy in being Christians must be deepened by radical acts of charity—acts of sacrificial love that give witness to God's mercy. Third, we must love God first and foremost so that we might become Him Whom we love. 

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks Father - a good, solid homily with practical applications and explanations. Went right along with my day spent working in our gardens - so many parallels between gardening and the spiritual life. I've always liked this Gospel story, and especially appreciated your personal insights.