Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost – 2020

My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!

In every lesson that we are given in the Holy Gospels, we ought not simply just to listen to what is said, just to hear merely with the outer ear, but rather we ought to let that lesson take root in the depths of the heart. In such a way we can bring forth abundant spiritual fruits.

In the Holy Gospel today we hear such a lesson. It is, in fact, a lesson about how best to receive a lesson; a parable about the various ways in which the word of Him Who is the Word is received in the hearts of people.

In this parable, we have a sower, who goes out to sow his seed. And this sower is an image or representation of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who went out to us; that is, He took flesh; and in sowing the seed, He spoke to us of the kingdom; broadcasting the seed of faith that might produce the fruit of salvation. His teaching is the seed; and the hearts of those who hear Him, who hear His teaching, are the ground on which the seed falls. And this ground is variously described in the parable as being “on the wayside,” or “on the rock,” or “among thorns,” or, finally, as “good ground.”

Our Lord, of course, goes on to explain and describe the various parts of this parable to His disciples. As a good Teacher, He leads His disciples – and us – to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the ways in which the Lord’s word, under the figure of a seed, is received and then will either grow and produce fruit, or will not grow – or even take root – in the hearts of the hearers.

Notice well, that whether the seed will take root, grow, and bear fruit is dependent on the ground which receives it. It is not dependent on the seed.

Here the Lord puts the lie to those who say that His message must change, that His word must be adapted to “fit the times.” The same seed fell on all types of ground, and yet only the good ground properly received it. The reason the seed failed to produce on three-quarters of the ground on which it fell was the fault of the ground, and not the fault of the seed. Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever continues to sow the same saving word to all peoples, but only those in whose hearts may be found that good ground will see it take root, and grow, and then bear fruit. If the seed does not grow, it is not the seed that needs to be changed, but the ground. If the message is not lived, it is not the message that needs to be changed, but the person who receives it.

And here we might take for ourselves an important lesson from the parable today. We have our Lord’s explanation, we have the key to understanding what our Lord is saying in the form of His parable. But it is not enough that we have an understanding of it. It’s not enough that we simply receive this parable.

The different kinds of ground received the same seed. The wayside, the rock, the thorny ground, and the good ground… they all received the seed. But only the good ground let the seed produce fruit.

See, we must be the good ground. The good ground, that ground which is rich and fertile, bearing fruit a hundredfold, that good ground is a good soul, a good heart, freed from its passions, and ready to bring forth the fruit of faith.

Now, ground, in order to be rich and fertile, often must be prepared, must often be tilled and broken up. Stones must be removed. The soil itself aerated. It is quite a job; it can be very heavy labour.

Of course, there are places in this world where it seems that good, fertile ground simply abounds everywhere, and little needs to be done to prepare the ground for growing. But history might show that even in such a case, such ground is fertile as it is as a result of long and varied processes, sometimes of rather intense nature, such as flooding, volcanic eruptions, and years upon years of aging.

So likewise the soul, which must undertake ascesis – the daily picking up of one’s cross – the denying of oneself in our disordered passions – praying, even when we don’t feel like praying – fasting, keeping vigil. These, too, are quite a job. They can be very heavy labour. We can even face quite intense difficulties, spiritual floods or volcanoes; times of waiting, and what seems like spiritual dryness and barrenness. But they are necessary preparation to get the soil of our hearts ready to receive the seed of the word.

Likewise, good soil is fertilized; often by having a healthy dose of manure dumped on it. Very much the same might happen – at least metaphorically – to the person who wishes to make the soil of their own heart a fertile ground for the seed of the word of God. Be humbled, and be joyful, even if you do have to suffer being dumped upon, for such is a sure way to allow the word to grow strong within you, and to bear spiritual fruit beyond your dreams.

“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear,” Our Lord says, concluding His instruction to us.

Today, let us hear. Let us not block our ears, but let us hear our Saviour’s word, and let us accept the heavenly seed of the word with open hearts.

Let us root out of ourselves every earthly care, every disordered passion, so that the blessed and saving word, the seed of faith, will not be choked, but rather will find a fertile and prepared ground. In this way we shall, like the good ground, see the seed grow and bring forth fruit by the divine grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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