What Kind of Soil Will You Be?
A Reflection on the Gospel of Matthew 13:18–23 - 28 July 2023
Internet Image from Vanderlinden
A theme in St. Matthew’s presentation of Jesus’ parables is the mystery of the rejection or acceptance of the kingdom. It is truly a mystery that anyone would reject the gift of mercy and salvation; yet they do, in droves! As the perfect Farmer, Jesus tells us in the Gospel today that it is all about the soil. In the Parable of the Sower, all the seeds are good. The problem is the soil. God, the Sower, in His plan for the salvation of the world has worked the fields hard to prepare it to receive the Gospel. For God
“… wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4 NABRE) “… not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NABRE)
The Lord has done everything possible to prepare the fields, us, to produce the greatest possible yield. He has given us Sacred Scripture that we might understand His infinite love, embrace truth, and reject sin. God also infuses us with His divine life in the Sacraments, so that we are open to the seed through Baptism and have the strength through the Eucharist to grow strong in truth and love of God and neighbor. Finally, God has given us the Church to help us remain the most fertile of soil through the gift of Sacred Tradition and the witness of all the Saints. Given all the grace that God has poured upon the fields, how could it possibly fail? Yet, it does, because in freedom we often reject these tremendous graces.
Jesus tells us in the Gospel that the harvest is diminished through hearts that have become impenetrable through ignorance or stubborn refusal of the Word, Christ.
The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the Kingdom without understanding it, and the Evil One comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. (Matthew 13:19 NABRE)
There is a necessity to constantly broaden our understanding of the Gospel, to till the soil, vice allowing fertile soil to become hard-packed. Hard-packed soil is like concrete. Tilled soil is open, where water and nutrients sink in, and seedlings burst forth. To till our soul is to constantly engage and wrestle with the one we love. St Jerome wrote,
“First we must listen, then understand; after understanding, we must bear the fruits of good teaching and yield fruit…” (St Jerome as quoted in Simonetti).
Many Catholics receive Confirmation and think that they are, “done with Faith Formation.” Unlike many of our Protestant brothers and sisters, we often do not value on-going Adult Faith Formation. Our faith and the Spirit no longer move us. Our faith becomes, “blah” and love grows cold. Constant, thought-provoking spiritual development is necessary. Do some tilling through faith formation, reading, study, and lively faith-based discussions. You cannot give away what you don’t have.
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The Gospel today tells us that,
The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. (Matthew 13:20–21 NABRE)
We also must engage in some root therapy if we are to remain fertile. Roots provide stability and nutrition to any plant. The gardener stimulates root growth in established plants by making sure the soil has all the nutrients it needs. With the right soil and water, roots flourish and are stable. St Paul tells us that we must be rooted deeply in Christ. He writes,
So, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:6–8)
We have work to do. Satan sows so much hatred, anger, and recrimination in the world that he can distract us from the Word and its roots wither (Galatians 5:19–24). To walk with Christ is to rise above the noise of evil, rooted in the knowledge of eternal life and living a life of love for God and neighbor. This world is not our home for we are citizens of heaven. Hatred, anger, and recrimination have no room in our lives, in our thoughts, and most importantly, in our speech (James 3:6). Fill yourself with God. The Saints all hungered for the Sacraments. That is true root therapy! It is in the Sacraments that Christ, truth and love, pulses in our veins, and animates our every action. The Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist, build impregnable roots.
Finally, we must get rid of those nasty thorns that threaten to choke the life from us. Jesus tells us,
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. (Matthew 13:22 NABRE)
Anxiety and the lure of riches, thorns, have their origin in the fear of loss of control. That fear grows like weeds. If you do not do something about them, they soon overwhelm. The Christian often suffers from worldly cares and begins to take steps on their own to avoid the seeming disaster around every corner. This is as if our Lord’s care and love is not enough. We have to be prudent, but fear cannot dominate our thinking. Jesus tells the Apostles, He tells us, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NABRE) We defeat the thorns through wrapping our soul around the fact that nothing is greater than Gods love for us.
A farmer must constantly work the soil of the field to ensure a rich harvest. The Lord has prepared the soil. He has done all He can such that no one may perish but all will come to eternal life. Jesus tells us,
“… the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
Soil that produces fruit the fruit of the kingdom is tremendous in its capacity. If we remain good and fertile soil, imagine the generations of blessing of which we become a part.
So, what kind of soil will you be?
New American Bible. Revised Edition (NABRE). Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.
Simonetti, Manlio, ed. Matthew 1–13. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001. Print. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.
Vanderlinden, Colleen. “Healthy Soil and How to Make It.” The Spruce, 14 June 2022, www.thespruce.com/healthy-soil-and-how-to-make-it-2539853.