Today’s Gospel is one of the more familiar Gospels for all of us. This parable about the sower of seeds is the first of seven parables that Matthew placed in the center of his gospel. Each of the parables adds a specific dimension to the reality that Matthew is experiencing: although there are disciples who have begun to believe in him, Jesus is still experiencing much rejection among the people. You know, we sort of have been led to believe that Jesus’ public ministry – until His final days – was a walk in the park. It simply wasn’t so. While the Pharisees had issues with him from the beginning, there were countless Jews who did not understand his message nor had no time for it.
In the parable, the sower goes out and sows a great amount of seed. For various reasons much of the seed does not come to fruition. However, some of the seed that fell on rich soil produces an extraordinary amount of fruit.
Matthew concludes this section by having Jesus amplify the parable of the sower by transforming the meaning of the seed from the word which initiates life in the kingdom, to the person who is called to life in the kingdom. Some people hear the word without understanding its deeper meaning; some receive it, but fall away when tribulation comes; some hear it, but worldly anxiety and greed choke off the life it gives; some hear the word, understand it, and bear an extraordinary amount of fruit.
That’s quite a life’s lesson for us, isn’t it? How many of us have gone through life following one stage or another of the seeds in today’s parable?
The Divine Sower has spread the seed abundantly throughout the world. But there must be a lot of barren ground and barren hearts when we look at the world today. The atrocities that are being committed every day – some of them in the name of God – seem to multiply every day. All we need to do is read the headlines and it’s enough to not just shake you in your boots but shake your heart as well. What’s happened to the world that seemed to exist just 40 or 50 years ago?
So we can sit in our pews, shake our heads and say that the word of God has not taken root. What a shame! What a travesty! But don’t get too complacent. Because each of us, in our own way, has betrayed the seed of life that have been given to us so generously. Perhaps we are not the barren ground and perhaps the seed of life eternal has planted some roots. It’s a question of how deep those roots go in our life.
What happens when it comes to making sacrifices for our faith? What happens when the lures of today’s materialistic life take over? What happens when the delight of riches begins to choke our hearts? What happens when we puff up our chests as we stride around the beautiful home that we have or we count the size of our 401k or our stock portfolios? Is it done with total gratitude to God for giving it to us? Or do our hearts swell with pride at how gifted we were or are? How many of us will give up part of what we have for others. Remember the model of St. Francis? The son of a wealthy man who had the world at his fingertips and, one night, he gives it all up. He walks naked through the street declaring that all he is what the Lord gave him. He spends his life, a simple man, extoling the virtues of Christ and bringing thousands to Christ – just as he does even today. But if we do not get that all that we have is a gift from God. If we do not get the fact that what we have should not just be used for only our own pleasure but to help others, we are not getting it. Folks, I don’t think most people do get it. I don’t care if someone comes to Mass every day, I don’t care if you say the rosary three times a day, if we are not living the life of Christ by caring about and by reaching out to those that have less, to those who are in need, then we are just like the seed which fell on rocky ground because our faith has no deep roots in their lives. The sacramentals that the Church gives us – the rosary, novenas, adoration, vigils — those are there to help strengthen our faith. The Living Body and Blood of Christ offered to us daily is ours to take and to be transformed. To be transformed. To stop and say “What am I doing for Christ today? To go to bed at night and ask “What did I do for Christ today? Every day. Every night. Every breath. If not, are we not like those that accepted the faith and it took root in them, but later on, “the cares of the world and the delight in riches chokes the word and it proves unfruitful,”— these are our Lord’s own words.
The last class of Christians is like the seed sown on good soil. They not only accept Christ and his teaching, but they live up to it, and, come what may, they are faithful to it. They take it to their hearts and they live it every day. These will produce fruit and will earn for themselves the eternal happiness promised to us..
Each one of us can look into his or her own conscience today and discover to which class he or she belongs. Are some of us perhaps, like the seed that fell on the rocky ground? When Christianity makes no very difficult demand we are all for it, but when it demands mortification, the curbing of passion, real sacrifices for our neighbor, do we forget our Christian calling then and ignore its precepts? And how does our type of Christianity stand up to the temptations of the world—the desire to get all the enjoyment we can out of this life, licit or illicit, breaking God’s commandments weekly or maybe daily? Are we chasing after wealth and power, using all our energies to rise in the world to be above our neighbor by fair or foul means? If the above are our aims in life, our Christianity has been or is being choked out of us.
You know, I pray every day that the Lord gives me enough years to continue to preach His Word and His Gospel. I pray to have the years to preach not because I am special. I am not. It’s not because I am deeply spiritual. I am not. But it is because my heart burns with the words of Christ. My call to ordination was shaped by the Franciscans 40 years ago and by the words and actions of St. Francis. I was in The Third Order of St. Francis when I was 14 years old. What did I learn? What were the seeds that were sown in my path? This – this world and all that we have – are nothing compared to the glory that God has stored up for us. There is a life that awaits us that defies any description. There is an all abundant love that surrounds us and is greater than any of us will ever know in our mortal life. There is a call – there is a call – that is made to each of us by the Divine Sower – to follow him, not just in our words but in the daily deeds of our life. The question is do we have the wisdom and the strength to do that?