Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sowing the Seed in Our Hearts

The Gospel reading for today repeated the first section of the reading from Sunday, July 16. It recounted the parable of the sower and the seed (Matthew 13:1-9). This gave me the opportunity to revisit a wider interpretation of the parable as Pope Francis expressed it in his Angelus Address for the Sunday before last. Francis's exposition of the imagery provides a good meditation on God's work in our lives.

First, here is the text from the Gospel:
Jesus taught the people in parables, saying, "A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear" (Matthew 13:3-9).
Jesus then goes on (in verses 10-23) to give his disciples the foundational way of reading the story. The seed bears fruit or fails to do so depending on the conditions of the place where it falls. Jesus identifies each of images of the conditions of the ground with a specific set of people: those who have no openness (the path), those who are superficial (the rocky ground), those who are preoccupied with worldly concerns and fears (the thorns), and finally those who receive the Gospel with joy (the rich soil).

A further meditation and personal application of this story, however, may lead us to discover that we have all four of these conditions in our own hearts and in various facets of our lives. The Lord sows the seed of his love prodigiously in our hearts, but how much of it do we allow to flourish? We don't have very much "rich soil" in our hearts where the gift of God can take root. Too often we are distracted, preoccupied, or negligent. The Lord longs to turn the whole of our hearts into his own flourishing fields and gardens of new life.

However, as Pope Francis indicates, the same Lord who sows will also tend more and more the soil of our hearts through prayer and the sacraments. He will clear away the obstacles and prepare the land to bear more abundant fruit:
"The parable concerns above all us: it speaks, in fact, of the soil rather than of the sower. Jesus performs, so to speak, a 'spiritual radiography' of our heart, which is the ground upon which the seed of the Word falls. 
"Jesus invites us today to look inward: to give thanks for our good ground and to work on the ground not yet good. 
"Let us ask ourselves if our heart is open to welcome with faith the seed of the Word of God. Let us ask ourselves if the rocks of laziness are still large and numerous within us; [if] we identify and we call by name the brambles of our vices. 
"We find the courage to make a beautiful reclamation of the land, bringing to the Lord in Confession and in prayer our stones and our stumps. In doing so, Jesus, a good sower, will be happy to do an extra work: to purify our hearts, removing the stones and thorns that stifle his Word."