One of the neat things about my day job, I get to know a little bit about a lot of different industries. Several years ago, I represented a farmer in a case involving some bad seed. Farmer had spent a lot of money on a special seed that did not properly germinate. Farmer blamed the seed. The seed company blamed the condition of the soil. I learned something about farming. Even with good seed, if you want the best yield, you plant only where you have good soil. Of course, you also have to make sure the soil is properly tilled, and that there are no rocks and no weeds. So a prudent and careful farmer will sow his seed only on good soil that has been cleaned and prepared to receive the seed.
From the Gospel reading, we can see that God is not a prudent and careful farmer. Instead of sowing His seed only on good soil, God throws His seed everywhere…far and wide…on harden pathways…on rocky ground…near thorny bushes…He sows His seed wildly…even wastefully. The question is, Why? Why would the Sower waste good Seed on bad soil? Why would the Sower throw Seed on the path where it will get trampled, or on rocks where the Seed will wash away, or among the thorns where the Seed will get choked? In answering these questions, we can learn something about God’s incredible generosity.
Unlike the prudent and careful farmer, God does not give His grace only to those who He knows will bear good fruit. God's grace is offered to everyone. Grace is love freely given. True love is a kindness that does not expect a return. A love that gives even when nothing is given back. It is not calculating or measured or careful…it is reckless and free and unconditional. This is the way God loves us.
We are made in His image and likeness, and our love is supposed to mimic His. Too often, it does not. Typically, we are good only to those who are good to us. We sow seed only on good soil, because we expect to get something better in return. But God does not love us in the same calculating way. Thankfully, God does not love only those who deserve His love, or we’d all be in trouble. Instead, He offers salvation to everyone, to those who will respond and to those who will turn away. He continues to love those who love Him, as well as those who deny His existence.
I heard a little story…someone cursed Jesus as he was walking by, and Jesus turned around and offered him a blessing. Someone who was traveling with him asked, “How can you give that man a blessing? He just cursed you!” Jesus said, “That’s all I have in my bag.”
So now that we have a better appreciation of the depth of the Sower’s love for us, let's turn our attention to the soil where Sower plants His seed. Here, we have to look in the mirror, deep within our soul, and examine the condition of our heart where God seeks to sow His seed.
In the parable, Jesus describes how the condition of the soil affects the yield of the seed and the kind of fruit it will bear. In other words, using this parable, Jesus describes how the condition of our heart will affect how we receive the Word of God, and how this will determine the kind of fruit we will bear.
First, he says, the seed sown on the path is the one who hears the Word of God without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. I’m reminded of the time we were going to plant some grass around the house at the ranch. They told us about this Hydroseed, we could produce nice green grass in less than two weeks. It was expensive, but I was amazed that I could have instant green grass. Apparently, my kids are not the only ones who require instant gratification, so we planted the Hydroseed, without really understanding how it works. Problem was, by the next morning, there were 300 turkeys in the yard and they stole every last seed! Evil turkeys!
The parable then says the seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the Word and receive it with great joy, but he has no roots and it lasts only for a short time. We all know people who didn’t have God in their life and maybe they were going through a rough time, and we convinced them to go on a retreat. At the retreat, they have a powerful spiritual encounter and they come out of the retreat on fire! But when they come down the mountain and go back to the daily grind, their initial excitement fades and they are back to the life they had. They discovered the spiritual world, but they didn’t allow the spiritual truth to change their life.
The parable then describes the seed sown on thorns. These are the ones who hear the Word but then allow worldly anxieties and the lure of riches to choke the Word. As a result, it bears no fruit. This one strikes close to home. We are too busy at work and at play. Coming to Holy Mass every Sunday and taking the time for spiritual development is not convenient. Too much going on. No time for God.
A few weeks ago, I spoke about Jose Sanchez Del Rio, the 14 year old boy from Mexico who gave his life for his faith during the Cristero War. He is our newest saint, but not our newest martyr. Sadly, new the Church gains new martyrs every week in places like Iraq and Egypt and Syria, when Christians are slaughtered for no other reason than they went to Church on Sunday. Here in the United States, if it’s too hot or too cold, we don’t come to Mass. It's raining, we don’t come to Mass. It’s not convenient, we don’t come to Mass. Imagine, living in a place like Iraq where coming to Mass means you and your family might die. How many of us would have the courage to still come?
So, what is the condition of my heart? Is my heart so bitter cold and hard as stone that it prevents me from being kind and compassionate with others, especially with those who are not nice to me? Is my heart so full of anger and hate that it closes out God’s love and mercy and prevents me from forgiving those who have hurt me? If we want to know the condition of our heart, look at the fruit it bears. Not all fruit is good. There’s a big difference between good fruit and sour grapes.