In the chapters and verses leading up to today’s Gospel, opposition is growing, pushing back against Jesus and his ministry. Some do not like that he has cured people on the Sabbath or that Jesus emphasizes mercy and compassion over rules and regulations. Things get pretty rancorous; some go as far as to accuse Jesus of being in league with Satan. Other just keep asking for another miracle, another sign. And yet others believe. Through all of this, Jesus keeps sowing the seeds of faith.
This leads the Twelve to ask Jesus, “What gives? How can people hear your teaching, see your miracles, witness your cures, and still they ask for another sign? What is with that? Can’t they see that your works are the very promises of God fulfilled? Why don’t people believe?” Jesus tells them, “Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes.” (Mt 13:15) And yet, Jesus keep sowing the seeds.
It is the same barrier that Isaiah faces with the Israelites in our first reading. Isaiah is speaking to people who are in captivity in Babylon. Jerusalem has been destroyed, their country lays in ruin, and they are wondering what it means to be God’s chosen people. Isaiah is trying to tell them, all this happened because you closed your hearts and minds – you made other choices, but you know what? No matter what choices we have made, the arms of God remain open wide. Isaiah tells them: All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, buy grain and eat; Come, buy grain without money, wine and milk without cost! Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what does not satisfy? Only listen to me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. (Is 55:1-2) The seeds continue to be sown, even to the hard of heart. The step for the thirsty towards the water is to listen.
Only listen to me and you shall eat well. There are no preconditions to this invitation. It is not first make your life pure and holy, then come. There is no entry fee. There is only “come” and “listen.” Pay attention and come to me; listen, that you may have life. I will make with you an everlasting covenant (Is 55:3)
Back then did everyone come, listen, pay attention, and then choose life? Nope. And, this problem remains in Jesus’ day and in ours. It is the problem Shakespeare notes in his play Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene II, as the Roman Senator Cassius remarks to the would-be assassin: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves” Does everyone today come, listen, pay attention, and then choose life. Nope, and the problem my dear people remains in ourselves.
Jesus keep sowing the seeds saying Pay attention and come to me; listen, that you may have life.
When explaining the parable to the Apostles, four times, Jesus explains, “ the seed sown…is the one who.” Jesus is the sower and we are the seed in the soil. Think about it. We begin in the hand of Jesus, imbued with his Grace, and then sent in to the world – free will and all. And we make choices that position ourselves on pathways, on rocky ground, among the thistles, or in good soil. Here’s how it plays out – (a) We have the Word and Sacraments, but we never take the time to understand and love them and “the evil one comes and steal away” all we have received. (b) We receive the Word and Sacraments with great joy, but at some point in life conspires against us and that joy is lost. Maybe it became embarrassing to be known as faithful or holy. May there was joy, but weak faith (c) Perhaps one simply heard the intoxicating call of luxury, wealth, power, and privilege. Or the worries of modern life became distracting or overwhelming and our faith was choked and lost life. (d) Or despite all these things, we are intentional about our journey of faith in the midst of modern living. We listened and chose life.
We are a people who take a stance in life: on the pathways, on rocky ground, among the thistles, or in good soil. And it is not as though we are reduced to wishing and hoping that Jesus sows us in the good soil. We are people of free will and intention. It is our work, assisted by family and the faith community, to place ourselves upon good soil. And that is just the state; then the work continues.
Think about good soil. Great! But soil left without water, unattended, left barren, at best will grow weeds. We have to prepare and maintain the soil. If we want to be people who bear “fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold” as the gospel promises, then we have to prepare and maintain the soil. If you’re thinking, “well, I attended Catholic schools” – well, good for you. If you’re attended Sunday school when you were young – good for you. How many years ago was all that? What are you doing now to keep the soil good and ready for the seed Jesus will sow in your life today, this week, this month, or this year? Where is the water, the fertilizer, the weeding, the pruning, and all the rest?
Today we are the seed sown in one place. And I do mean “today” – because Jesus and the Word of God, are still with us today – in the Eucharist and in the Scriptures – in the power of the Holy Spirit moving among us. We are still in the hand of the Sower. Today we can make new choices. And in every choice, hopefully we are reflective enough to learn anew how God is creating and molding us, encouraging us to till the soil of our lives, uproot thistle and weeds, and remind us to be intentional about our listening and choosing life. The promise is constant: so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it. (Is 55:11). And so, Jesus keep sowing seeds
What will you do to prepare the good soil?
Hear the parable of the Sower. Whoever has ears ought to hear. Amen