“The Parable of the Sower
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
During this month of July, the month of the Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus, let us ask of our good Lord to deliver us from all evil! This Sunday is the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time. This weekend I share with you a message centered on how to have our souls better receive our good Lord’s grace. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week:
“The Parable of the Sower - The seed and the path. Lack of interior recollection prevents union with God.
St. Matthew tells us in the Gospel of today’s Holy Mass (Mt. 13:1-23) that Jesus sat beside the sea and that such great crowds gathered about Him to hear His words that He had to get into a boat so that they could listen to Him from the shore. Sitting now in a small fishing-vessel, Our Lord began to teach them: A sower went out to sow. And the seed He spoke about fell on very different types of soil.
In Galilee, where the terrain tended to be very uneven and hilly, it was only the narrow strips of land in the valleys and skirting the river banks that were sown with seed. The parable faithfully records for us the agricultural situation of that particular area. The sower scattered his seed broadcast, which is why some of it would fall onto the path. The see that fell on those paths would soon be eaten up by birds or trodden underfoot by passers-by. The detail of the rocky soil, covered perhaps by only a thin layer of earth, was also true to reality. Because of the lack of soil-depth, the seed shoots up more rapidly, but only to have the heat dry it up just as quickly, since it has no depth of root.
The soil on which the good seed falls is the whole world; it represents each individual person. We too are soil for the Divine Seed. Even though the sowing is carried out with great love - it is God who pours Himself into our souls - the results depend largely on the condition of the soil on which it falls. Christ’s words tell us forcefully about the responsibility man has to prepare himself to receive God’s grace and to correspond with it.
Some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart. The path is soil that has been trodden on until it has become hard. These compacted areas are dissipated, empty souls, prepared to accept only external things. Such souls are incapable of recollecting their thoughts and guarding their senses. They have no order in their affections and are not particularly watchful over their feelings, so that they frequently allow their imagination to engage in useless thoughts. These souls are like ground that has never been tilled or cultivated, having always turned their face away from God. Their hearts are hardened, like those constantly trodden pathways. They hear God’s word, but the devil easily snatches it away from them. He is not idle; rather, he has his eyes always wide open and is always ready to spring and snatch away the gift that you do not use. (Cardinal J. H. Newman, Sermon for Sexagesima Sunday: Calls to Grace)
We must ask Our Lord for fortitude so that we never become like those who are like the path on which the seed fell - negligent, lukewarm and full of scorn. (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on St. Matthew’s Gospel, 44, 3) Negligence and lukewarmness are manifestations of a lack of contrition and repentance, and of our failure to put up a determined struggle against venial sins. The first time the Divine Sower scattered His seed onto the soil of our soul was in Baptism. How often since then has He given us an abundance of His grace! How often has He passed close beside us, helping, encouraging and forgiving us! At this moment, in the intimacy of our prayer, we can say to Him quietly: O Jesus! If in spite of the poor way I have behaved, you have done for me what you have done, what more would you do if I were to respond well? This truth will lead you to be generous without measure. Weep and show with sorrow and love how much it pains you, for Our Lord and His Blessed Mother deserve from you a different kind of treatment. (J. Escriva, The Forge, 388)
The rocky ground and the thorns. The need for sacrifice and detachment in the supernatural life.
Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil; but when the sun rose they were scorched, and since they had no root they withered away. This stony ground represents superficial souls with little inner depth, souls that are inconstant and incapable of perse- vering. They have good dispositions; they even receive grace with joy, but when the moment comes to confront difficulties they turn back. They are not capable of sacrificing themselves in order to fulfil the resolutions they have made so their resolutions die without bearing fruit.
St. Teresa taught that there are some people who, having overcome the first enemies of the interior life, cease to make any effort; they lose heart, and give up the struggle when they are only a couple of steps away from the fountain of Living Water - the water concerning which Our Lord told the Samaritan woman that whoever drank of it would never thirst. (St. Teresa, The Way of Perfection, 19, 2) We must ask Our Lord for constancy in our resolutions, and for a spirit of sacrifice so that we do not give up when faced with difficulties - as we surely will be. We have to begin time and again, with holy stubbornness, and we have to strive always to reach the sanctity that Jesus calls us to, and for the attainment of which He gives us all the graces we need. St. John of the Cross taught that the soul that truly loves God never allows laziness to prevent it from doing everything in its power to find the Son of God, its Beloved. And after having done all it can, it is still not satisfied and considers it has done nothing. (St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, 3, 1)
Other seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. This is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches stifle it, and it proves unfruitful.
Love of riches, a disordered ambition to gain influence or power, and excessive concern for well-being and a comfortable way of life are like sharp thorns that prevent any union with God. The souls of people who seek only such things are souls immersed in material things, being wrapped in a deep-seated avarice that leads us to appreciate only what we can touch. Such eyes are firmly fixed on earthly things and consequently are blind to supernatural realities. (J. Escriva, Christ Is Passing By, 6) It is as though they were blind to all that really matters.
If we allow our hearts to become attached to money, influence or praise; if we set our hearts on the ultimate comfort we see advertised; if we give in to our own whims and seek so many things that are quite unnecessary, we are allowing a serious obstacle to God’s love to become embedded in our hearts. It is difficult for anyone obsessed by the thought of owning more and more possessions, and by the constant determination to seek out what is most comfortable, not to fall into other sins. In connection with such things, St. John of the Cross comments: This is why Our Lord called them ‘thorns’ in the Gospel, so that we should understand that anyone who fondly caresses such things with his will, will be wounded by some sin. (St. John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, 3, 18, 1)
St. Paul teaches that anyone who puts his heart on earthly things, as though they were the absolute good, commits a type of idolatry. (cf. Col. 3:5) This disorder in the soul often leads to a lack of mortification and to sensuality, so that we give up looking at supernatural things. Those words of Our Lord’s are always fulfilled: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:34) The seed of grace will be choked without any doubt in this bad soil.
Correspondence to grace. Bearing fruit.
As for what was sown on good soil, here we have the man who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.
God hopes we will be good soil that will receive His grace and bear fruit. The greater our generosity towards God the better and more abundant will be the fruit we produce. The only thing that matters, comments St. John Chrysostom, is that we should not be a beaten-down thoroughfare, or rocky ground, or thorns, but that we should be good soil… Our hearts must not be that path from which the enemy, like the birds, snatches the seed trodden underfoot by passers-by. Our hearts must not be the rocky ground where the shallowness of the soil causes the seed to germinate immediately so that it is scorched by the sun. Our hearts must not be a thistle-bed of human passions strangled by the cares of this world. (St. John Chrysostom, Sermon, 101, 3)
All men, whatever their lives may have been in the past, are able to become soil that is prepared to receive
God’s grace. God pours Himself into our souls in accordance with
the degree of welcome He finds there. God gives us so many graces
because He trusts each one of us; there is no soil that is too
impervious or too uncultivated for Him, so long as it is prepared to
change and to respond to Him. Any soul can become rich pasture
land, although previously it has been nothing but desert, because
God’s grace never fails us, and His care is greater than that of the
most expert husbandman. Once grace has been given, the results
depend only on man, who is free to correspond or not. The ground is
good, the sower is the same and the seeds are the same in each case.
Nevertheless, how is it that one gives a hundredfold, another sixty fold
and another thirtyfold? We can see that the difference depends on the
person receiving it, for even where the soil is good there is a great
deal of difference between one patch of ground and another. You can
see that neither the farmer nor the seed is at fault, but the soil on
which the sowing was done. This is not a result of nature, but of the
disposition of the will. (St. John Chrysostom, loc. cit.)
Let us consider in our prayer today whether we correspond with the
graces God gives us, and whether we apply the particular
examination of conscience to those harmful roots in our soul that
prevent the growth of the good seed. Do we get rid of any noxious
weeds through frequent Confession? Do we try to increase the
number of acts of Contrition that prepare our soul so well to receive
God’s inspirations? W e can never be content with what we are
doing to serve our God, just as an artist is never satisfied with the
painting or statue he is working on. Everyone tells him how
marvellous it is, but he thinks: ‘No. It isn’t quite right. I wanted it
to be better.’ This is how we should feel. Moreover, the Lord has given us so much. He has a right to the very best from us - and we
must go at His pace. (J. Escriva, The Forge, 385) Don’t let us fall
behind.” (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez)
Through the intercession of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, St.
Joseph, St. Michael and St. Paul, may God grant us the grace to
cooperate with Him in making our hearts bear fruit for His glory!
In Christ through Mary,