The final part of our series reflection on the Parable of the Sower is the happy ending. Now, I am a firm believer in happy endings. Every Christian should be because the story of our faith is one with a happy ending. Some of us get stuck at Calvary and forget that though we live in this vale of tears, we are a Resurrection people.
One of the great lessons of the Parable of the Sower is that God’s Word is constantly surrounding us. Often I hear my students ask why God no longer speaks to us the way He used to. I respond that God is constantly talking to us. The question is whether or not we are listening.
We have a choice on how to respond to the Lord’s call. We can ignore it (the path), we can make it purely emotional (the rocks), we can let worldly desire overwhelm us (the thorns), or there is the final option: we can let it grow in us (the good soil).
The key mark of the good soil, according to Christ, is that it bears fruit thirty-, sixty-, and a hundred-fold. What is this fruit?
We must bring people closer to the Lord. If we experience Life because of Him, we must bring people to Him. By converts, I don’t exclude people who already Catholic or Christian. I was raised Catholic all of my life, but I count my coming to Christ at 17 years old as my conversion.
It is very interesting that Christ uses the metaphor of the seed, not just because it symbolizes growth, but also because it is food. We in the first world may not quite fully appreciate the attachment people in Jesus day (and in many parts of the world today) have regarding food. There was great food insecurity. Would we eat today or no? That is why the people wanted to make Jesus a king when he gave them seemingly unlimited food. It is also why He taught us to pray for our daily bread.
Food gives us life, satisfaction, pleasure, and joy. When we find Jesus the Bread of Life, we have our souls fed by His body and our spiritual thirst quenched by the Living Water that He gives. We are starving beggars who’ve found a banquet that costs us nothing with food to spare. How could we not tell everyone about the feast and bring them into the banquet?
One of the surest signs that we are on the right track is if we are bringing others to Christ. I should make a small caution that this is not absolute proof of our goodness. How many great preachers have fallen into sin and darkness? Even St. Paul did not think that making many converts was in and of itself enough as he wrote: “after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Cor 9:27)
But if we are with Christ, then we will produce fruit? Why, because the we can let Him accomplish the Paschal Mystery inside us. The only way to bring people to new life is if we die to ourselves. And the only way we can truly die to ourselves is if we let Christ do it inside of us. Then we will be like the wheat He spoke of: “Amen, Amen I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it bears much fruit.”
This does not always mean going out and preaching. Sometimes it does. But sometimes it means living the best Christian example as possible.
My old pastor (God rest his soul) told the story about how his father, who was not very religious, would wait for the bus to take him to work every morning. While there, he would see across the street every day a man walking with braces to get to morning mass. One winter day, the whole sidewalk was a sheet of ice. And once again his father saw the man in braces gingerly walking over the treacherous ground to make it to mass. His father said to himself “If this man can risk this injury to go to mass every day, what is keeping me from going too?” And immediately he went across the street and started going to mass every day.
And that is why my pastor ended up becoming a priest (along with his brother).
I’m sure there are people in our lives who have given us similar witness. We must go and do likewise. The man in the braces probably did not know that anyone was watching him nor what a profound impact he would have on my pastor’s life and every life that his priesthood would touch, including my own. The good that we do, even if we don’t see it, has a ripple effect for generations. What if that man in braces decided it wasn’t worth the risk to go out? I would venture to say the lives of thousands would be altered forever.
He was the good soil.
How do we become good soil and bear fruit?
First of all, we must remember that all of it grace; God must bless us with His gifts of faith, hope, and charity. And then we receive the gifts we must respond.
The answer, I think, is in what we learned from the other seeds. They failed to achieve their purpose because of distraction, superficial emotionalism, and worldly desire. It seems to me that the solution is to engage the opposite: attention, deep commitment, and detachment.
First there is attention.
I find that I am the most sinful when thoughts of God are pushed far from my mind. But if I can constantly keep Him in mind, then I can avoid being led astray. As Dr. Peter Kreeft often says, we must practice the presence of Jesus.
Second, deep commitment.
I am convinced that the main reason so many marriages end in divorce is because their foundation is simply emotion. But marriage isn’t a declaration of feeling. It is a statement of permanent commitment. This creates the eternal bond. If we want to bear fruit, we must take the plunge and fully commit. How often do we talk about getting more involved in Church or charity, but we keep it on the boarders of our lives. But if we really want to change, we must commit our time, talent, and treasure. This commitment will drive us on to do God’s will even when we don’t feel like it.
Third is detachment.
I don’t just mean from material possessions, though that is part of it. Some of us are called to embrace poverty, some are not. But by detachment I mean that we have shifted our focus from the things of earth to the things of heaven. I need to no longer be attached to worldly things like money, fame, lust, power, possessions, and the like because none of those things we be in Heaven. I may as well lighten my spiritual baggage now.
So which shall you be? Which shall I be? Will we be drawn away from Christ or will we draw others to Christ? What kind of seed will we be?
As always, God leaves the choice to us.
Copyright 2014, W.L. Grayson