15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 16, 2017
Today’s readings remind us that if the Word of God is going to grow within us and bear fruit, we need good spiritual soil – just like plants need good earthly soil to grow.
We hear this in our First Reading (Isaiah 55:10-11), where God’s word is compared to rain and snow that water the earth, making it fertile and fruitful.
We hear this in the refrain of today’s Psalm: “The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.” (Luke 8:8)
And we hear this in today’s Gospel (Matthew 13:1-23), The Parable of the Sower.
In this parable, the seed being sown is the Word of God trying to make its way into our heart and soul. Jesus uses this parable to teach us that there are obstacles that can prevent God’s word from taking seed and bearing fruit.
Jesus cautions us about:
- Seed sown on the path: That can be stolen and taken away because we hear but don’t understand. That’s like hearing God’s word at Mass and then not giving it another thought.
- Seed sown on rocky ground: That is initially received with joy, but does not have roots and can’t hold up to life’s trials. That’s like attending an inspirational retreat on the weekend, then falling back into old habits on Monday.
- Seed sown among the thorns: We hear the Word and it takes root, but bears no fruit because, when we are pressed by life’s difficulties, we lack trust and allow earthly concerns to choke out God’s grace in our lives.
To take root and produce fruit, seed must be sown on rich soil.
Producing Good Soil
So, how do we produce good soil, capable of supporting strong roots and abundant fruit? It begins with growing in relationship with God. It requires an open heart and committed spirit; it requires patience, persistence, and a willingness to grow.
Good farmers (and good gardeners) appreciate the importance of building up good soil. So, they conduct soil tests before planting their crops. They want to check the pH of the soil and determine how the soil needs to be amended and improved to help assure an abundant harvest.
The same process works for those who want to assure that their spiritual soil is capable of supporting an abundant harvest of grace. Here are some questions you might contemplate to conduct your own spiritual soil test.
A Spiritual Soil Test
- Do I have a regular prayer life? This is the first step to building a relationship with God. Regular prayer must be a priority in our lives.
- Is my prayer a two-way conversation? Good relationships are loving and sharing. So, when I talk (pray) with God, is it prayer a conversation between two friends, or do I monopolize the conversation with an outpouring of my wants and needs?
- Do I take time to read and reflect on the Word of God? How can scripture or some other worthy spiritual help nourish me? Am I a committed learner?
- How am I growing in my understanding and practice of my Catholic faith? Am I “comfortable” in my faith, or am I committed to growth? Am I growing as a spiritual person, or am I living the same spiritual life I did when in high school?
- Where have I witnessed spiritual growth? (My spiritual director always challenges with this one!) Where have I recently seen God in my life? In what ways have ways I have grown spiritually in the last three, six or 12 months?
To create and maintain rich spiritual soil that is open to receiving the Word of God, we have to ask: How am I being fed? Who are the people, the activities, the resources in my life that help me replenish and improve my spiritual soil?
Being Patiently Persistent
We have to be patiently persistent in our faith. If you’ve ever had a garden, you know what I mean. After you’ve prepared the soil, planted and watered the seeds, it seems like all we are doing for the longest time is watering mud. You can’t see any top growth in your garden but you don’t stop watering and fertilizing. Then, one day you notice the tiniest of leaves peeking through the soil – you know that your seed has taken root!
All of your patience and persistence will pay off in time. This is what maintains good soil and leads to new growth.
Sowers of Seeds are Good Witnesses
With this good soil and new growth, we can become more like Jesus; we can be “sowers of seeds,” helping the Word of God grow in others as well. The best way to do this is through our witness.
The Rite of Baptism for Children begins with instructions to the parents and godparents, reminding them of their responsibility to:
- Train the children in the practice of the Catholic faith
- Teach them to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught, by loving God and our neighbor
This is the responsibility of all Christians, to be sowers of seeds, inviting others to develop their own rich spiritual soil that sustains us in faith.
The best way to sow these spiritual seeds is not by merely teaching or telling, but by demonstrating through our witness of how we love God and neighbor.
If you are a parent, you know full well that your children learn more from your actions than your words (both the bad things, and the good things). If you’ve survived teenagers, you know that only taking a hard stand (“My house, my rules!”) will have limited effect in teaching them. They learn better when they witness respect, courtesy and responsibility being exercised by their parents.
Here’s the bottom line: If you are a parent, don’t you want your children to witness you growing in faith? We want to be good witnesses for Christ. It is the best way to share our faith with others.
Pope Paul VI (who was pope from 1963 to 1978) said it this way:
“Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses”
As we prepare to gather around the Lord’s Table, we ask to be nourished by God’s grace. By that grace, may we become good witnesses, and share God’s abundant love.