My wife Judy loves flowers. She loves helping them grow and enjoys looking at them when they are blooming…the colors and shapes and combinations. She is always watching the weather forecast to see if rain is coming…if not, she has a plan to be outside watering them early in the morning. She usually stops as she passes by her small flower garden by our driveway, to see how they’re doing and to enjoy them. She looks forward to visiting arboretums and gardens and nurseries near and far. Wherever we go she has her eyes open for the flowers and enjoys stopping and looking.
Today’s gospel reading reminded me of Judy and her flowers. It’s the well known gospel of the sower and the seed. I’m sure you remember that the seed that falls on the walkway, on rocky ground, and among thorns all quickly die; but the seed that falls on good soil, produces wonderful growth…30,60, or 100 fold.
When I hear this parable, the question that often pops into my mind is “what exactly is the good soil and how do you get this good soil”. Hmmmmm. For gardeners in the 21st century, we can simply visit Home Depot and pick up a few bags of top soil. But what about the spiritual soil that the Lord is referring to.
Our pastor at Mass today gave some clues to preparing this good spiritual soil. He suggested “prayer, fasting, and almsgiving” …. the classic Lenten advice to growing in holiness. “P F & A” can include a study of the scripture, receiving the Eucharist, loving our neighbor by helping and serving them in many ways, including financially …. denying the flesh by fasting, and more. All good suggestions.
Preparing good soil is an on-going effort. You don’t work on it one day and then forget about it. It’s like Judy and her flowers…it’s a constant effort… it needs to be always on our mind. To me the best way to cultivate good spiritual soil is to obey the word of God day in and day out, in big ways and small ways.Every time we hear and obey God’s will, we enrich the spiritual soil and get it ready for the next seed that falls.
Part of preparing and protecting the good soil is to also resist the challenges that Jesus mentions… “attacks of the devil, the tribulation and persecution we face, the cares of the world and delight of riches”. All of these can turn the good soil into lousy, rocky, dry, clumpy soil. (Mt. 13:18-23)
So, let’s be good spiritual gardeners who are always alert to preparing good soil ….. watering and nourishing it, keeping the weeds and varmints away. If we do, the seed of the word of God will grow and flourish and produce a return of 30,60, or 100 fold in our lives and those around us. And that is very good news.
Parable of the Sower:
“Hear then the parable of the sower. When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”(Mt. 13:18-23)