15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our Lord continually calls us to a better life through the Church’s proclamation of his Word.  Our Lord compared the Word of God to a seed, which a farmer plants in the ground.  For the seed to grow well it needs to be planted in good, well-prepared soil.  But what kind of soil do we offer God’s Word?

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We’ve just heard Our Lord paint a very familiar picture from everyday agricultural life in Palestine, and he draws a very important lesson from it.  And it’s a lesson we can all readily understand.  It’s the story of a farmer who goes out to sow seed in the rich soil of his field, but some seed accidentally falls on rocky ground, and some of it falls among thorny briars and fails to take root.  The seed needs protection from birds, wind and frost until it takes root and sprouts to produce plants, flowers and fruit.  The harvest will very much depend on the quality of the soil and the care and attention the seeds receive from the farmer, and of course the weather, which is always unpredictable.

The Word of God is intended to produce fruit in our lives; and Our Lord compares it to seed sowed in the earth by the farmer.  When we were baptised the delicate and demanding seed of the Word of God was first planted in our hearts.  And if it doesn’t get our wholehearted attention by finding a home in our lives, then it withers and dies like seed sown on the rock or among thorns.  So very often when the Lord comes knocking on our door we fail to make him welcome because we are so preoccupied with the meaningless pursuits of the present moment.  In order to be a cultivator of goodness and virtue, we need to dig deep within ourselves.  God doesn’t want part-time or half-hearted followers.  His Word never blossoms alongside greed, pride and selfishness.

Now I’m sure none of us needs to be convinced that growth in the life of Christ is not always a smooth or straight-forward process.  The different types of soil can well be the varied responses we make to his Word, depending on the twists and turns our lives may take.  When we meet with setbacks and disappointments, obstacles may stack up against our good intentions and weaken our firm resolve.  Moments like this call for deep faith, otherwise we will just give up the struggle.  No matter what the situation, we have to struggle to believe.  And anyone who is not prepared to make that struggle is not worthy of the Kingdom.  Now, that seems a harsh thing to say, but Our Lord tells us this himself on many occasions.  We all know Catholics who have given up the practice of their Faith because the going got a little too tough.  They are among those who put their hand to the plough but kept looking back and couldn’t commit themselves to the job in hand.  And yet for those who believe, for those who persevere, the Word of God has an immense and mysterious power to change us.  The hard, thorny patch that our lives may be currently experiencing could well be Our Lord’s way of calling us to a deeper union with him.  Experience tells us we have to work, and work hard for anything that is worth having.  And hard work brings its own reward.  Reaping the rich harvest of God’s goodness depends on our openness to receive his Word.  So very often, when God is sowing the seed of his love around we are cold, off-hand and too proud to allow ourselves to be won over.  And yet, that being said, there is good soil in every human heart, and given time and effort, and sometimes a considerable amount of pain, the Spirit of the living God will put down deep roots in our lives, assuring us of salvation.

We all know that a farmer or a gardener who doesn’t take care of his land, or neglects the seeds once they are planted, will run the risk of producing no harvest at all, or at the very least a bad one.  We only have to look around us to see how much effort the local farmers have to expend in order to make their seeds grow and flourish.  Fertilised land, intense manual labour, plus all the machinery and financial investment – all these contribute to a farmer being able to produce a decent crop.

Now, compare the backbreaking effort the farmer needs to expend in order to make his crops grow and flourish; compare that to the effort we expend in order to make the seed of faith grow in our hearts.  Have we broken up the soil of our heart and fertilised it with good works and prayer and the regular reception of the Sacraments, so that the seed of faith may take root and actually grow?  Have we watered this soil and tended the fragile seed as it grows in our hearts?  Have we taken precautions to fight against the disease of sin which threatens the seed of faith? How about those persistent weeds that continually crop up and we just can’t get rid of: those daily distractions that threaten to stifle the growth of our faith?

I feel sure that if you didn’t really want to cultivate the seed of faith in your heart, or to cultivate and deepen your relationship with God, then you wouldn’t be here at Mass this morning.  If the Holy Spirit had not moved you and inspired you to come here today you would be elsewhere, you’d be at home washing the car, or at the beach, or playing golf, or watching TV.  You have instead chosen to respond to God’s call.  And that means you have faith in your heart.  With this knowledge, that God has chosen you, cultivate and care for the seed he has planted in your heart.

And so, may we be seen for what and who we are: faithful followers of Christ, good farmers and cultivators of the Word entrusted to us by God himself.

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