You Provide the Soil, God Does the Rest (15th Sunday, Year A)
Growing up, we were blessed to have wonderful neighbors. An elderly couple lived next door to us, and since their children were grown and gone, they adopted us as their honorary grandchildren. They shared much of the wisdom they had learned throughout their lives. For example, this gentleman taught me woodworking, how to work on small engines, and even tinker around with computers and other electronics. One of the most formative activities they shared with us was gardening. Each spring, they surrendered a portion of their yard to us kids so we could have a garden. For several months, my siblings and I would climb eagerly over the fence to plant, water, weed, and eventually harvest the garden for that year. There’s something spiritual about plowing the earth, planting, weeding, and cultivating a seedling into a food-bearing source of nourishment. This hands-on activity was crucial in teaching foundational virtues like patience, hard work, and persistence.
Practically, I learned that four things are necessary for a good harvest. The essential elements, whether it be a small garden in a backyard or a hundred-acre farm are these: Sun, water, good seed, and rich soil. Abundant sunlight is the engine for plant life. It fuels growth and development, it prevents moldy soil, and without it, nothing happens. Water is the life blood of every living thing. Water enables the plant to be rooted in the soil and draw nutrients from the earth. Most of the fruits and vegetables we eat have water as their main ingredient. It seems less important now because we can go to a nursery or hardware store and buy packs of good seed or even seedlings that are ready to plant. But in the ancient world, good, fresh seed was a treasure. You would not waste a single one and hopefully it would be the plant you wanted and not mixed with troublesome weeds and other worthless plants. Finally, there was the soil. The ground that was used for planting would need to be fertile and receptive to life. It would need to be turned and free of large trees, roots, rocks and other obstacles. Sandy or rocky soil, clay and many other types of earth would be undesirable because they would not provide the proper environment for strong, healthy plants. Without one or more of these four elements, the crops would not produce an abundant harvest.
Jesus uses this image of seed and soil, weeds and harvest to describe the kingdom of God. In this parable, Our Lord helps his listeners imagine what it takes to produce good fruit and enjoy the fruits of heaven. What are the practical implications for us, 2000 years later?
This parable reveals the generosity of God in regards to our salvation. When it comes to preparing an abundant harvest, Jesus shows us that God is willing to cover three of the four variables. God is the one who provides the seed for the sowing. The seed is the saving gospel, that Good news that has been handed down through the teaching of Church and the witness of the Apostles in Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Notice how freely God sows the seed! He is not cheap, he does not cut corners, he does not withhold it from some areas or peoples. He scatters it extravagantly, without counting the cost, in the hopes that while many will ignore him or burn out, as a result of his efforts, many will be saved.
God also provides the necessary warmth and light that is needed for life and growth. He gives us this in his Son, S-O-N, which is even greater and more essential than the sun, S-U-N. Jesus Christ is the engine of all spiritual life and dynamo for any growth towards God. With him all things are possible and without him, nothing will happen.
Finally, God pours out the rain needed for any good harvest. This is his grace, showered on us through prayer, works of charity, and the seven sacraments, most especially the Eucharist and Confession. God knows exactly what we need and how much we need to get through good times and bad, through dry spells and times of abundance and he is always willing to release these graces into our lives so we can receive nourishment and deepen the roots of our spiritual life.
The only factor that God does not control, the only element he leaves to us is that of the soil. God relies on us to provide the place for the seed of his gospel to grow and develop. He wants us to take an active role in bearing an abundant harvest for the kingdom of God. He wants to share the joy and and satisfaction that come from watching something life-giving and wonderful spring from the smallest of beginnings.
So where does he sow the gospel? In the human heart, mind, and soul. As we reflect on this parable today, we might ask ourselves how suitable are our hearts, our minds, and our souls. Are they fertile places, ready to receive the Good News of Christ? Are they open to the ways we need to be challenged in order that we might grow and bear fruit? Are we doing everything in our power to be that rich soil that provides a safe, nourishing place for God’s life? Do we have a habit of daily, quiet prayer where our spiritual soil is turned over and refreshed? Or is it full of the weeds of greed, envy, laziness, lust, anger, pride and gluttony? Are we the packed ground that causes the faith to die away in times of trial and difficulty. Have we allowed the routine of daily life and our desire for comfort and control harden us so the seed of the Gospel has nowhere to sink its roots?
Let us resolve today to cultivate a rich place in our lives for God. No matter who we are, no matter what mistakes we have made in the past, God is here to help and get us ready to bring forth a wonderful harvest. May we be the ones who ‘who hear the word and understand it,the ones who bear fruit and yield a harvest of a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.’
Categories: ARCHIVE Fr. Kevin Schroeder