on Luke 8:5-15
There is no question as to whether or not the Lord has sown the seed of the word of God in your heart. He has done so. He pours out his grace upon all of us constantly. He is present with us always. So, rather, the question is, do we receive him? If we become like good soil, we can receive the seed and with it live and grow forever.
Maybe we can recognize ourselves in the various kinds of soil that Jesus describes in his parable of the sower.
Perhaps, like the overtrodden soil, into which the seed cannot nestle, we are beset constantly by distractions and temptations – devils convincing us to turn away from the word in our hearts – from what we really know is beautiful, good, and true, and to turn instead again and again to our enslaving passions and sins, gluttony, lust, pride, or drunkenness, or whatever else.
Perhaps, like the rocky soil into which the seed cannot grow roots, our commitment to the Lord is fleeting. We embrace him with a quick fervor when we hear the good news that Jesus offers us abundant life (John 10:10b), but when it becomes all too apparent that the way to this life is the painful and difficult way of the cross (Luke 9:23), we find there are stones within us blocking further growth – a stony stubborn unwillingness to give that much, to yield, to let go of our own way (cf. 1 Cor 13:5b).
Perhaps, like the thorny, weedy soil, which chokes the seedling to death as it tries to grow, we are not so much discouraged by suffering as seduced by comforts and pleasures of this life, so that, while the word of God sounds good enough to us, we’re deluded into believing we don’t really need it. That’s nice enough for other folks, we think, but I’ve got what I need from my bed or my couch and TV and internet. Endless diversion and entertainment at my fingertips. Who needs to go to church so often?
Perhaps, like me, you’re thinking, yikes, my soil is weedy, rocky, and overtrodden all at the same time.
But whatever kind of soil we have been like so far in our lives, the Lord returns and sows the seed again and again. Like a good gardener, he’s out every year with his bag casting seeds. A sower does not plant only one season, but every planting season as it comes around. We go through seasons in our life. However we have been until now, there is no reason to despair. There is every reason to hope. Our sower has not abandoned us. He is coming again and again.
We want to become like good soil, so that the next season when he comes around, we are prepared to receive him. Much can be done with soil to prepare it to receive seed. Gardening isn’t only sowing, and our Lord is a good gardener, not only a sower.
You and I are the earth. Remember that “you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). We are the earth in which the Lord is preparing to plant his garden.
If he sees that you’re overtrodden, he’s building a fence around you to redirect the path away from you. Your deliverer is coming to deliver you from the devils that tempt you. To cooperate with him in building this fence, change your habits. Stop treading the well-worn path from one sin to another. Stop returning again and again to your sin like a dog to his vomit. When the temptations come, as they surely will, immediately take refuge in the Jesus Prayer – “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.” And the Lord will deliver you. Repeat the prayer as often and as long as the temptation persists.
If the Lord sees that you’re like rocky soil, he is raking out the rocks. Whatever stony idols you’ve clung to, preferring them to God, he’s raking them out. He’s taking out your heart of stone and giving you a heart of flesh. He’s breathing his spirit into you so that you will walk in his ways. He is delivering you from all your uncleanness. And he’s summoning the grain and the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field and making it abundant (cf. Ezekiel 36:25-30). The Lord is the good gardener. To cooperate with him in this raking, yield and do not resist him. Let go of whatever you’re clinging to that is not God. You let it go and he’ll rake it out. He’ll loosen the soil and make it receptive to his seed.
If the Lord sees that you’re like soil choked with weeds, he’ll uproot those weeds. Whatever riches or comforts or pleasures you’re overly attached to are passing away. The Lord is uprooting your attachment to them. Unlike the stones, which are negatives, the weeds are positives – they’re living things too – but anything, even any good thing, that we put in the place of God will be uprooted. To cooperate with the gardener in pulling up the weeds, embrace ascesis. Simplify your life. Give any excess to those in need. Fast. Pray. Make some prostrations in your prayer. Humble yourself before your creator.
Finally, the soil is almost ready. It is no longer trod upon, nor rocky, nor weedy. The gardener has prepared it. Only one step remains. If we are gardeners or farmers, we know how best to enrich the soil at this point – with the compost. Soil is enriched by death and decay, out of which grows forth new and abundant life. Soil thus enriched will easily receive a seed and help it grow strong and lively. The remembrance of death will enrich our hearts to hear and keep the word of God.
In a Romanian skete on Mt. Athos, they keep the bones of the departed monks in an ossuary. And on the skull of one of them is written, “What I am, you will be, too. What you are, I’ve been myself.” Brothers and sisters, we are going to die. And then, we will stand again in the glory of the Lord. This whole life is preparation for that coming experience of God.