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A farmer’s work

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Gospel Commentary July 12, Mt 13:1-23 


I recently witnessed a minor miracle in my parents’ backyard. After almost a decade of work, my dad finally got nice, green grass to grow in what had been a desert-dry bald spot for most of my childhood and beyond. It took years of cultivation, preparing soil and scattering seed, often with mixed results. But finally: success.
I think about this little victory as we reflect upon this Sunday’s Gospel passage from Matthew, the famed parable of the sower and the seeds. The sower goes out to sow, and the seed he scatters falls on different sorts of soil. Accordingly, it either withers, grows poorly or bears fruit based on the soil. 


We’re lucky that in the same Gospel, Jesus does the legwork of interpreting the parable for us. The seed is the word of God, Christ himself. Our souls are the soil. All this raises the necessary question: What type of soil do we cultivate in our lives? Can God’s word take root there? 


The truth is, God wishes to cultivate the soil of our hearts just like my dad with our backyard bald spot.  He never gives up on us. He never gets tired of lavishing care on us, even when we bear thorns and thistles. Even now, at this moment as you’re reading these words, God is at work in your heart and soul so that his word may bear fruit. The transformation from dry, rocky soil or cracked clay to a fertile garden is not the work of a day, but often of years of slow care. It even seems like failure from time to time. But God’s love is unconquered and he never abandons us. He never stops trying to get our lives to bear the fruit of salvation.


For our part, it’s a matter of cooperating with this graced work. How do we do that? 


First, we must allow the dry soil of our daily routine to be broken up and overturned through daily prayer. Prayer is God’s tiller. In a habit of daily, silent prayer, God can break through the sterile noise of our life and burst our rock-hard habits asunder, enabling us to reorient all to Christ. Till the soil of your life with prayer. Ten minutes a day is a good place to start. 


Second, good soil must be fertilized. There’s a saying: garbage in — garbage out. What we put into our mind is what we put into our soul. Allow your soul to be fertilized with true, good and beautiful things.  Allow it to come alive through small, deliberate acts of love to your neighbor. In knowing the truth and choosing to do the good in love, in responding to grace, we create a rich dwelling place for God.


Third, clear out the weeds and keep them out. A habit of confession is essential, as is a habit of penance.  Confession once every two or three months and a habit of weekly penance go a long way to keeping the word from being choked out by the world.


Last, seek the seeds of the word where they may be found: the Eucharist and the Scriptures. Try to attend Mass at least once a week on a day that isn’t Sunday. Spend time before the tabernacle. Certainly, reflect on the Scriptures as a part of your daily prayer. The Gospel for the day is a good place to start. Invite the Holy Spirit to enlighten you, and to help those seeds take root and grow.


Above all, be patient. God’s work is a farmer’s work, slow and patient. He’s a Father who loves us and never stops cultivating us. If we work with him, his work will certainly bear fruit.


Fr. Miserendino is parochial vicar of St. Bernadette Church in Springfield.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020