By Fr. Glenn Jones
“I say, old chap; awfully unkind of you.”
Such were the words that went through my mind—or words to that effect (ahem!)—when a humongous firework was exploded at 5 a.m. very near my living quarters. Sigh.
Driving on the interstate in early morning, a car rockets past everyone in the early morning rush, and suddenly careens over 5 lanes of traffic to make the exit, causing other drivers to swerve in surprise. Sigh.
Vitriolic emails from “Christians” not only condemning me to eternal damnation, but wishing me to go there. Heavy sigh. Missed that “love thy neighbor” thing of the Gospel, did we?
A young lad rushing over to assist and elderly lady load some heavy items into her car. Ahhh … now that’s more like it! Sigh.
These are some of the memories that were sparked while reading our Catholic Mass Gospel parable this weekend – one of Jesus’ best known: The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23)—one applicable not only to the Christian, but to everyone seeking the good.
Brief recap: In that parable, a sower of good seed goes out to plant. Some seed falls on a hard path and fails to sprout at all … some falls into rocky soil, sprouts but dies for lack of sufficient soil … some falls into thorns, sprouts, but is choked off … and some falls into the good soil, grows and produces and abundance of fruit. Jesus goes on to explain that the seed that fell on the path is like those hear but cannot understand the Word of God, so it does not even begin to grow. The seed landing on rocky soil are those who hear and understand, but fall away when challenged. Seed in the thorns are those who hear and understand the Word, but worldly cares and the lure of wealth chokes it off. Finally, of course, the seed that falls onto good soil produces the fruits of faith, charity and good works in accordance with His Word.
Well, our hearts and spirits, of course, the ground which the seed of God’s Word falls upon. But unlike earthly soil which has no choice, we choose to be the type of soil we wish to be for the good seed.
Our psalm at the same Mass says of God: “You have visited the land and watered it, greatly have you enriched it…” We Christians believe that, just as the Holy Spirit comes with water in baptism, He comes with spiritual water of grace all throughout our lives … if we simply ask and long for it remembering Jesus’ assurance: “…it is not by measure that he gives the Spirit…” (John 3:34)…and ofttimes penetrates even the hardest of hearts even without their asking, such is God’s love and munificence, for He “…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1Timothy 2:4) St. Paul and his famous conversion come to mind.
But … we have that marvelous gift of free will—at the same time wonderful but yet terrifying—and so we must choose the soil we wish to be.
Like the hardened path that some good seed fell upon, those who are bent on self-interest alone will not understand Christ’s overall message of charity and self-sacrifice for the good of others—a message which goes far beyond Christianity alone and recognized in virtually all cultures and religions. For those of such hardened hearts, theirs is a sad dog-eat-dog, get what you can how you can, look after #1 world. You reap what you sow.
Those of rocky soil can only hold to the word when things are bright and rosy, but when challenge or trial confront them, want of courage leads them to take the easier path of acceptance and popularity, which cannot but elicit to mind a rather biting passage: “…many even of the authorities believed in [Jesus], but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it…for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42-43) It is a poor soldier who runs from the sounds of battle.
Those of the thorny soil recognize the goodness of the Word and Jesus’ message, but worldly troubles and wealth—either surfeit or shortage—suppress action upon it. And thus we remember: “…give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ or lest I be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:8-9) … and, of course, “…those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare…For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10)
Ahhh, but the good soil nurtures the seed … nurtures the message and Word of God, to go out and produce the fruits of it, and “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) … good fruits of good works of selflessness, of charity … of love—both of God AND neighbor.
But … a warning. A good field suffers much violence—plowing, hoeing, weeding, etc. Likewise, one who seeks to do good will necessarily have to inflict violence upon his own will in order to become good ground—refusing to seek himself alone, but rather giving when he’d rather keep … helping when he’d rather just go on his way or do his own thing … stopping when he wants to proceed, and proceeding when he’d rather stop. And yet … it’s not the path, the rocky soil, or the thorns which the planter cherishes, but rather the field of good soil—which itself provides seed to spread to the world … to the joy of the Master.
You have visited the land and watered it;
greatly have you enriched it.
God’s watercourses are filled;
you have prepared the grain.
Thus have you prepared the land: drenching its furrows,
breaking up its clods,
Softening it with showers,
blessing its yield.
You have crowned the year with your bounty,
and your paths overflow with a rich harvest;
The untilled meadows overflow with it,
and rejoicing clothes the hills.
The fields are garmented with flocks
and the valleys blanketed with grain.
They shout and sing for joy.
Rev. Glenn Jones is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and former pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos.