“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Matthew 13:3b-8
The seed represents the Gospel, and the key to its growth is our level of understanding – the quality of our soil. When the Good News is received but not understood, it is quickly swept away by “the evil one.” When we understand, but lack conviction, our faith springs up quickly, and dies just as fast. If our spiritual life is choked by worry and selfishness, the Word likewise dies in our hearts and does not bear fruit. But in good soil, when the Word is understood with strength, the seed flourishes.
The determining factor is our understanding. What, then, does it mean to understand? We can labor a lifetime studying Scripture and reach various levels of semantic and contextual understanding. But in this parable to understand means to embrace Christ’s message: to not just hear the message of salvation, but to become one with Christ’s example of selfless, self-sacrificial love.
If we do not understand the Gospel as calling us to love God and our neighbor above ourselves, then the message is easily swept away when it conflicts with self-interest. If we understand, but remain self-centered, then the call to love is scorched by the appeals of worldly wealth and power. If we hear the message of love, but give way to the thorns of greed and fear, our faith can bear no fruit. Only when we accept the Gospel message not as just a path to our own salvation, but as a fundamental call to surrender ourselves to the love of God and the needs of our neighbor, can we be fruitful and grow the Kingdom.
Eternal God, give us the strength to surrender ourselves, and to grow your Kingdom from the fertile soil of self-sacrificial love of You and all your children. Amen.