"Jesus said to his disciples:"Hear the parable of the sower.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. 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. 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. But 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 thirty-fold." (Matthew 13:18-23)
Some of my fondest childhood memories, being an Italian Canadian are from watching my nonno work in the very vast vegetable garden at his home. This was definitely a way that he kept some sense of his culture while living in a new land. From my childhood gaze it did not seem to be too much work. I would look on with amazement as he would patiently till the soil. I was excited because I knew that soon this garden would be full of life and many good things for us to eat. It seemed almost without err that every year nonno's garden was extremely fruitful and also the envy of the neighbor. This often manifested into a nonno war of sorts and it was surely entertaining to see him compare tomatoes.
This was not without great effort though, or hard work. To cultivate good soil and bear rich fruit takes sweat and sacrifice. For such reasons I have always loved this parable of the sower. As time passes in my own spiritual journey these words of Jesus take on greater meaning.
I can look back and view the various natures of my own spiritual soil and find how things have surely changed with the course of time and cooperation with our Lord. I can see the presence of "rocky ground" in the early days of conversion and how much that initial joy of "hearing the word" ignited an honest desire to live in accordance to Christ's teachings.
In that time however, I remember falling. As Jesus alluded to, with the sight of tribulation or persecution, there I was back for His mercy and forgiveness.
My soil needed some serious tilling then! There is great beauty in this though if one recognizes the importance of cultivating good soil, and of patiently striving to till it through all the seasons and changes of life. It is an ongoing process.
This is done through patient endurance and trust in God, but also maintaining reverence for living a sacramental life. The initial Joy of those "rocky ground" days was an essential part of the process. That joy to me was incredibly real and undeniably from the hand of our Lord, it pressed me onward to continue the work.
I think of nonno here, tilling soil even when the blazing sun was beating against his back. Sometimes God's pruning and His means of having us truly understand His word to us can can seem to burn us internally and take us to places within that we would rather ignore. Yet, if we run then, we will never know the joy of harvest time. We will never reap the fruits of knowing how our own personal witness can aid in building up the love of God, and encourage others to till their soil. We will not see that glimpse of God's radiant unconditional love for us.
God does not leave us without help. Christ has given us His Church to aid us in growing in virtue and given us many tools to aid our garden. Taking part in Mass, receiving the Eucharist, and frequenting Confession help this process. By grace and by our willingness we can till the spiritual soil and reap great fruits. We do not persevere in this because of what may be given to us, but because what has already been done for us in Christ on the Cross.
Before the fruits of harvest, before the sharing of the word and proclaiming of Good News, it is right that we till some soil. It is important that we do our work. This is why courage and perseverance is often used to describe the experience of those who are seasoned in their own vocations.
When I meet with a priest who has been obedient to His call for over 60 years, or a married couple who celebrates their 50th anniversary, I am aware that there are and have been many moments of blazing sun on their backs, but they have taken this to the Lord. They have tilled and worked to maintain good soil.
Let us strive everyday to live our faith, and to be mindful of the personal work we must do so that our soil can be rich and fruitful in the vineyard of Christ. (CC)