The parable of the sower and the seed is probably very familiar to us all. It’s also a fairly long Gospel reading, and one of the few that Jesus Himself explains in depth to His apostles. So, I’ll focus primarily on one idea: perseverance.
All of the readings today use agricultural imagery to some extent. Anyone who has done any gardening or basic yard work knows that, if you want to have a nice yard, beautiful flowers, or a good crop of vegetables or grain, it takes time. First you have to decide what you want to grow and where, and get the seeds or plants from a nursery or a friend who has those plants already. Then, once you have made your decision, you need to stick with it, weeding, watering, fertilizing, mowing and pruning. A good garden is the result of an initial big decision about your goals, turned into many little decisions to give the time and effort to carry out your plan.In my previous assignment, when I was teaching at a seminary, I used to cultivate a garden of perennials and wildflowers. I got most of the seeds and starts from my father’s garden, and dug out the rocks and added fertile soil to the flower bed. It was a constant battle to keep the weeds down, and I also had to protect my garden from hungry deer, and from well-meaning people who thought they were helping by mowing down or pulling up perennials that were not in bloom at the time. If I neglected it for a week or two because I was away on vacation, the weeds got the upper hand, and I had to work twice as hard to get it back in order. It was a lot of work, but it paid off when each kind of plant bloomed in due season.
Jesus tells us that our own spiritual lives are much the same. He gives us the seed of His Word in our soul, but whether or not we receive it or help it bloom depends on what we decide to do. Circumstances certainly affect us, but whether the seed is eaten by birds, is choked off when it sprouts, or bears fruit one hundred fold, depends largely on our decisions. Every time we face temptation, we can choose to leave that rock in place and let the brambles grow, or we can choose to make the effort to pull it out. Holiness, like a good garden, is the result of making an initial decision to follow Christ, and putting it into practice by sticking to that decision each time we face an obstacle. Every time we opt to be generous with others instead of selfish or impatient, to take a moment to say a prayer instead of acting on a sinful impulse, or to take a hard and honest route instead of a dishonest shortcut, we are beautifying the garden of our soul, bearing more fruit. With our words and example, we are sharing seeds and shoots from our spiritual garden to help others start or increase their own.
St Paul tells us that our perseverance in following Christ is destined to bear fruit, not just for ourselves, but for all creation. When we transform ourselves by acting under the guidance of God’s love, we transform the world and we advance towards the redemption of our bodies and of all creation when Jesus comes again. May God grant us all the hope, strength, and constancy we need to transform the spiritual wilderness of our world into a new garden of Eden where God walks among us.