Seed and Soils

Jesus told a parable about sowing seed and the different types of soil, and then he explained what it meant.  You and I are supposed to hear the Gospel, understand it, not be lured away by superficial things, and we’re not to abandon our faith when life gets challenging.  That’s the whole parable and its meaning, so what more is there to say?

It’s really not a text that we should think about when we’re trying to get to sleep some night because it’s not that comforting.  It’s clear from Jesus’ explanation that we’re supposed to be the soil in this metaphor, but I have an issue with that because soil can’t control where it ends up, whether packed under the foundation of a slab of concrete, or
surrounded by weeds and thorns or rich enough for planting crops.   So if I have no more control over how we receive the Word than soil has regarding its use or its geographical location, what am I supposed to do with this text?

I think there are only two options.  One, we can obsess about what kind of soil we are and how poor a job we’re doing when it comes to growing the Kingdom of God.  The other option is to put ourselves in the role of the farmer, the one who sows the seed, rather than the soil.

Looking back over my faith journey, I can point to times when I didn’t have a clue what living the Gospel was all about.  I heard the Word proclaimed at Mass every Sunday, but it didn’t seem to be really planted in my heart very well because, as soon as Mass was over, my life seemed pretty much the same as before.  I guess I was like the “path” in the parable, with the potential for change snatched up before the seed ever took root.

There truthfully has never been a time in my life that I didn’t believe in God, even
in the dark times, and even if I kept Him at arm’s distance.  I knew from an early age that God wanted something from me in the way of a priestly vocation, but I had other plans.  I got married, had children, and tried to make my path the one that God wanted. I was kind of hoping He would just leave me alone and find someone else to be His priest, because I couldn’t imagine how that could ever be, considering the other choices I had made.

If there is one thing I know, it’s that God doesn’t change His mind much!  So, eventually, I just gave in and said, “OK, Mr. Smarty Pants, you want me as your priest, you make it happen and I will do it.”  I drew my line in the sand and dared God to cross over it…which He did. Thinking that I had done this “big thing” for God, I guess I maybe expected that life would get easier, or that the issues that had plagued me since childhood would go away, or that the character defects (a polite word for “sins”) I knew I had to surrender would somehow get taken care of.  That’s not what happened.  Sure, there was joy and relief after having given in to God’s plan for my life, but problems, old and new, were still there.  I was like the rocky soil, I guess, because the problems I expected to leave were still hanging around, just like before.

I couldn’t see how to incorporate my faith into my struggles, and I couldn’t just be
thankful for the abundance of God when I saw so much lack. After all, God
wasn’t paying my credit card bills; He wasn’t in any big hurry to repair the
broken relationships in my life; he wasn’t improving my unhappiness in my
career.  In fact, He wasn’t doing very much of anything except taking up more of my very limited time every week.  A lot of things needed tending to, and God was just one more thing.  It’s not that God wasn’t important, it’s just that He was one priority among many.  Clearly I was the soil with the thorns.

So, what about today?  Today I’m a priest, just like He wanted, and I’m celebrating the Gospel in Word and Sacrament every Sunday, and I get to wear an array of pretty clothes in public.  Surely I must be the “good soil” by now, but truthfully, I don’t know. With the exception of when I was like the soil on the path, where I wasn’t really opening up my life to God, I always kind of thought I was good soil–until something happened and I realized that I wasn’t. So, how do I know that today is any different?  How do I know that in a few months or years, I won’t look back on today and ee that I still wasn’t good soil and that I was still resisting God? The truth s, I can’t be certain, so I can either obsess over that, wondering what kind f soil I am, or …..  I can decide not to e the soil in this story!  I can be the farmer instead.

I like that uch better actually!  I am the sower of the seed, I stand up in church and proclaim the Word, I celebrate Eucharist with all the faithful, planting those seeds of faith and insight in their hearts.  I notice who takes a catnap during my homily, and if I want, I can think about who is really listening to me, which of the congregation is thinking about what they’re going to have to eat after Mass, which of them is here only for the potluck suppers, and which of them probably won’t be here at all in a year.

That is precisely the problem with putting ourselves in the role of the farmer!  It’s altogether too easy to set ourselves up as judge and then make determinations about the quality of other people’s commitment to being good soil.  Institutional religion makes this same mistake again and again, not even oticing that people are leaving, that more and more pews are empty on Sundays, nd that young people are completely turned off to religion.  They watch the news, for God’s sake, so they now exactly how we act, and nevermind what we say, because all of that is just noise. So, as tempting as it is for us
to put ourselves in the place of the sower, that’s not where we belong. We are
the soil. Jesus is clear about that.

So what are e supposed to do? How can we make sure we’re the right kind of soil? What do
we do if we’re not? The answer s so obvious it’s embarrassing.  Verse 18 which opens this parable says,  “Hear hen the parable of the sower.” The parable of the sower. Not the
parable of the soil. This parable is not about us, it’s all about God! And what oes God do in this parable? He sows the Word everywhere, indiscriminately, on very type of soil, over and over and over again. Because he obviously wasn’t aying attention in 4H whenHe was in high school.  Because His love is completely irrational and ll-encompassing and all-forgiving.   At different times in my life I’ve been every ype of soil mentioned in this parable, yet God did not give up on me.  He continued to sow the seed. I have ignored
God many, many times, however, God has never ignored me, has never given up on
me.  God has sent His Word to me innumerable imes and is doing it right now, and will continue to do so.

What kind of oil are you? Only God knows, and He doesn’t even care.  Whether at this moment you’re hard-packed clay esisting the rain, or a thorny patch of garden, or rich and fertile, God loves ou and is coming to you right where you are. God alone can transform you and help you bear fruit, fruit that produces seeds of its own in abundance.

Let anyone with ears listen!

 

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About frmichelrcc

I have a degree in religious studies from the University of Wisconsin, did graduate work in theology at St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wisconsin, and also at St. Paul's University in Ottawa. I have been a Benedictine since I first professed as an oblate in 1982, making final profession in 2009. I have worked as vocations director in a large diocese in the mid-west and am a spiritual director in the Benedictine tradition. I have 3 sons, one of whom is now in God's loving embrace in eternity, and 2 grandsons, Bradley and Jacob.
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