July 16th Sunday Readings.
I am not a farmer. I am barely a gardener. Mostly I feed the bunny rabbits that roam my neighborhood like an emboldened street gang looking to destroy plush vegetation wherever they go. My wife seems, naturally, to know how to grow things. I just do what she says.
Sometimes Jesus’ farming parables get a little lost on me – maybe I don’t have ears to hear. This Sunday’s gospel is the classic parable of the Sower and the Seed (which, to me, sounds like the name of indie band. I digress). It seems pretty straight forward that Jesus is saying only about 25% of people who hear the good news are going to get it and follow.
The problem for me, and maybe this is my ignorance of farming, is that I don’t think that the overall premise of the story makes sense. What I know about gardening is that you don’t just walk around your property randomly throwing seeds. Like I wouldn’t trying to plant tomatoes in my driveway.
No, a reasonable farmer/gardener would either only sow seed where it would likely grow well or change the bad ground into well tilled, fertile soil. What does that mean? The sower should be turning over the path, digging up the rocks, and pulling the thorns – then sowing seeds.
What I think it means for us is that we need to be preparing the soil in our own hearts and in our world where we are planning to plant the seed of hope in the gospel. Listening to preaching or reading a spiritual book is all fine and dandy, but if haven’t prepared ourselves to really listen and reflect on what we hear/read, we won’t bear as much fruit as we could.
The absolute best way, I’ve found, to till up the soil of my heart in order to receive the gospel, is to go to Confession. Not as punishment for my sin, but as the way that my heart is turned over and prepared to be a fertile place for God’s word. The rocky sin gets removed. The habitual thorny vices are ripped out. Then there is opportunity for the seed of virtue to grow without sin getting in the way.
If I’m trying to plant the good news of the gospel in a rock hard world full of thorny people, I’m not going to have much success until I’ve earned the right to be heard and made the kind of friendships that open others to my witness.
Having said all that, last year I had a fennel bulb grow in between my driveway and cement front porch. How? I’m not sure. Sometimes all it takes is a crack and brave soul with good aim to grow the good news even in the most inhospitable of environments. So go and be bold in sowing the seed of the gospel, but trying tilling the soil first.
Go to Confession. If it’s been a while, tell the priest that. If you aren’t Catholic, tell the priest that. If you don’t know how to go to Confession, tell the priest that. Just do it.