Today’s reflection is for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 12, 2020, and the readings can be found by clicking here.
Our family has recently moved into a nice house in Denair, but while the house is great, the soil is horrible! We didn’t want to put in sod, so we used grass seed instead…that may have been a mistake! Growing grass from seed is incredibly difficult—especially in bad soil! No wonder Jesus uses it as a way to help us understand faith and God’s word, and Christian discipleship.
Jesus mentions four places where the seed, which is a synonym for faith in Jesus, the Word of God, fell: on the path, on rocky soil, among thorns, and finally on good soil. Our work today, is to reflect quite honestly about the soil of our heart and of our home. In what way are we the target of Jesus’ message for us today?
As we heard, the “path” are those who hear God’s word, but it has no effect. It does not penetrate the heart, and the evil one steals it away. Tragically, many times the environment in which a person hears God’s word is twisted and unloving. One of my best friends is an Atheist today, after his Christian-missionary father quoted Scripture while abusing him as a child. Clerical abuse as well has created dry, arid soil, that is opposed to faith. It is very difficult indeed to receive God’s word when the heart remains closed; when the soil was ruined by neglect or abuse. Seed without love or seed amid abuse fails to penetrate the heart. We should mourn and pray for the sinful world that makes the ascent of faith such a difficult hill to climb.
Other seed, Jesus tells us, is sown on the rocky path, and it does begin to grow, but it’s delicate. Without roots it cannot weather the sun. When I planted my lawn, I had to water every day, a few times a day. The water quickly went through the soil and the roots of the baby grass were too small to reach it. So it is when we practice the faith in a minimalistic, obligatory sort of way. When we do only what we must to do: Mass on Sunday, Catechism on Sacramental years, and reconciliation only once a year. The Word is there, but it lacks frequency, depth, and produces no passion. It’s better than nothing, but it doesn’t get us through the real trials that life brings—death of loved ones, disease, accidents, and the like. A bunch of water all at once is no good. Water only occasionally is no good, but a light watering, often, does wonders for nurturing new faith. Parents must remember this when catechizing their children. When faith is new, we must not stay on the normal watering cycle. A little bit, often, in a loving, prayerful environment is the key.
Some seed, we hear, fell among thorns, and as St. Paul told the Corinthians, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1COR 15:33) We usually think about this with regard to kids and faith, but this is equally true of adults and faith. Who we hang around will either help our faith grow, cause our faith to flounder, or destroy our faith. If we are hanging around people whose values are not those of Christ and the Church, whose political views are not aligned to the love of God and others, whose language, drinking or drug habits, or anger issues are inconsistent with the Good News of Jesus Christ, then our faith and that of those we love is being choked out. We are disciples 24/7/365. Is our company faith-fertilizing, or full of thorns?
Finally, it was in the rich soil that fruit was produced in abundance. As we have come to understand, rich soil doesn’t just happen. It is intentional. I brought twelve yards of topsoil into my backyard, and soil requires water and nutrients. We must feed our soil if our desire to have a beautiful yard, and we must feed our faith if it is to be beautiful, strong, and lasting so that Satan will not steal it away, that suffering will not wither it, and that bad company will not corrupt.
Hear me, each of us for our own faith and soul’s sake must commit ourselves to doing those things that nourish and enrich our faith. Sunday Mass for sure, but maybe daily Mass once in a while too, reconciliation often, intentional prayer at least twice a day, Scripture and Catechism study, reading about the Saints, or watching movies about faith and the people of God, study groups, retreats, Teams of Our Lady, and similar groups. These are the practices that enrich the soil of our soul making it a place where the love of Jesus and His Church can grow.
If we are parents, and are not practicing this life with our children, while their academics and sports may be spot on, the seed of their faith, which is ours to nurture, is on the path, on rocky ground, or among thorns. St. John Chrysostom said, “Isn’t it absurd to send children out to jobs and to school, and to do all you can to prepare them for these, and yet not to ‘bring them upon in the chastening and admonition of the Lord’ (EPH 6:4)?” He says, “Discipline is needed not eloquence; character, not cleverness; deeds, not words. These gain a man the kingdom.” Amen?
God’s word does indeed go forth as Isaiah says, but will it fall on the rich soil that Jesus speaks of today? Is our faith growing or has it become stagnant? Is my child’s faith growing? What can I do to make it better? God’s desire is that the seed of his Word rest in good soil and produce fruit a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold in us, in our family, and in our church. The only question is, “Do we have ears to hear?”
For YouTube video presentations of this and other reflections, please click here.