The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (8:5-15)
Why does one person become a saint and another choose a different way? Why does one person seek goodness, beauty, truth and life while another runs towards evil things and death? Why do some people live their lives toward God and others spend their lives running from Him?
According to today’s gospel reading, the Lord Jesus Christ tells us that the difference between these types of people has absolutely nothing to do with God. What do I mean by this? I mean to say that God loves us all dearly. He has generously thrown His seeds everywhere. If we don’t respond to the excellent seeds that are generously given, then it is not the seeds or the sower of the seeds who is to blame. It is the soil that must be blamed.
The difference between the group that seeks the Lord and the group who rejects the Lord and His teachings is demonstrated to us as a difference between types of soil. And this soil is itself a symbol of the heart of man. The seed that is given to us from God is always the best of the best. The word of God can never be second rate. But what happens to the word of God once it has entered into our heart? Does it find a safe, fertile environment for growth? Or does the seed of the word encounter soil that has not been softened and cleared of weeds and thorns?
We can say that all of the Christian journey of life can be boiled down to this parable. What do we do with the word of God? Indeed, Our Lord tells us that everyone must unequivocally fall into one of these categories. We might gain a lot by asking ourselves, “which type of soil is like my heart?” And we should be willing to answer this question in an honest way. If we don’t answer it honestly or we’re worried about the answer, we won’t be able to properly address the problems or shortcomings we find. It would be like meeting a doctor when you happen to feel sick and then when the doctor asks you how you are feeling, you reply “I feel just fine, Doc”, because you are worried about the treatment. Well, if we are worried by the treatment, how can we ever be made well? If we are going to worry, we ought to worry not about the treatment but about what will happen to our illness if it goes untreated.
Each of the soils in the Lord’s parable offer us a type of person or a type of faith. Perhaps we have a very superficial faith. We might say that we believe in Jesus but we don’t actually follow His teachings, or worse yet, we might not even know His teachings because we never read the gospels and studied them. Perhaps we go through the motions of coming to the services and even saying our daily prayers. Or perhaps we are joyful Christians but our faith is not strong enough to carry us through the various trials and temptations that may come our way. If your faith is only as good as your situation, that faith is destined to fail you because it is not based on Christ who is our only rock and shelter in this life. It is instead based on the situations and circumstances of life. Or perhaps yours is like the soil that shares its space with the thorns. We might have faith and that faith might be genuinely good but that faith is always struggling to go deeper, always struggling to really grow and bear fruit, always on the verge of death. Why? Because the soil is shared with the thorns, which are the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. If my heart is burdened with cares, and riches and possessions, it can become nearly impossible to focus my heart on God and the things of His kingdom. As the Lord says “No man can serve two masters.” For all intents and purposes, it is as if we already have our own kingdom here and now. We love our life and all the stuff we have in this life. So we neglect the true, eternal joy that only Christ can give us. We forget that everything else is going to pass away. We can’t take any of our possessions with us when we depart this life. Only the things of God will matter, only the fruit that we have collected and possessed in our spiritual life will remain.
How can we honestly assess where we are and move in the right direction, towards Christ? We have to ask ourselves honestly “What or who do I love?” And how will we know the honest answer to that question? One way is to examine our schedules as well as our budgets. Perhaps there is no greater indicator of what we love than the way we spend our time and the way we spend our financial resources. So take some time and reflect on these matters and if possible, adjust them so that you spend more time and energy focused on God and the things of God. You will never waste any of your effort or energy if your life is focused in this way. Because you will be investing in the garden of your heart and this will bring forth divine, precious fruit from God. Unlike the stock market and the investments of the world, this investment carries little risk but many rewards.
If you love God, you spend time with Him, both at home and in the Church. The same way as a man should act toward a wife that he claims to love or that a woman should act toward the children that she claims to love. Love is not merely a word but an activity of one’s presence. We enter into His presence through prayer, both private and corporate.
In addition, if we love God and the things of God we should look at our budget and examine it. We should find ways to trim our budget of things that are unnecessary or unprofitable to our spiritual life, to our relationship with the Lord of our lives. We should then redirect those funds towards tithing and almsgiving, not out of a sense of guilt, but out of a deep sense of gratitude for all that God has given us and as a testament to the fact that we understand that God is the source of all of our blessings and even of life itself. When we examine our lives in this way, we will no doubt find things that we can change and those things will help transform our hearts from being poor soil to being exceedingly fertile.
God out of His love has given us His word as seed, as potential. It is our repentance that softens the ground and allows the seeds to take root. It is our ascetic discipline that removes the thorns and it is our acts of love and charity that help fertilize the seed of God’s word. And then something beautiful begins to happen. The seed of the word moves by grace, from potential to actual fruit. The seed finds its purpose fulfilled when it finds a good place to dwell within us. This will not happen overnight though. Much like any successful harvest, it will take diligence and patience. But God’s promises are true.
May the Lord help us to struggle like the saints, so that we might become a dwelling place that is worthy of the Lord! Glory be to God Forever AMEN.