Matthew 13:1-23
God prepares the soil in our hearts
by Rev. Jack Peterson

Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

Home Page
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index

Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.  Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore.  And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: "A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.  It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.  Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.  But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.  Whoever has ears ought to hear."

The disciples approached him and said, "Why do you speak to them in parables?"  He said to them in reply, "Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.  To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; for anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.  Isaiah's prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:

You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see.  Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them.

"But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.  Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

"Hear then the parable of the sower.  The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.  The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.  But he has no root and lasts only for a time.  When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.  The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.  But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold."

Jesus begins His address today, “One day a farmer went out sowing.” Our Lord uses a familiar analogy to state that God is similar to a skilled and attentive farmer who constantly tills the soil of our hearts in order that His presence and His word will take root and bear much fruit. 

First, God, our loving Father, works hard to clear away rocks and tree stumps from the soil. Each of us battles with various inordinate attachments that get in the way of God’s presence and action in our lives. We gradually get attached to certain activities or attitudes that make it hard for God to work the soil. Some attachments are objectively sinful. God wants to dig them up, a process that may take time and careful attention, and carry them away.  These sinful attachments might include pornography, outbursts of anger, skipping Mass on Sundays or stealing what belongs to another. On the other hand, some of our attachments are objectively neutral or even good, such as exercise or a zeal for watching sports. However, they slowly grab hold of us and take away our freedom. That is, we become too attached to these morally neutral things, allowing them to rule our lives and keep us from other activities that are more important, such as prayer, Mass, quality time with family and service to our neighbor in need. While morally neutral in themselves, they become sinful for us because they keep us from doing the will of our heavenly Father.

Pride is probably the largest obstacle in the garden of our hearts. It prevents us from recognizing our rocks and tree stumps. It keeps us from even caring about God and what He desires to give us. Pride keeps us from honest reflection upon our lives and how we are neglecting the more important things in life. Pride tempts us to focus on the faults of those around us and to neglect an honest look at the plank in our own eye. Pride convinces us that we can address these issues a little later in life. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray for humility today and decide to help God clear away one important inordinate attachment from our lives.

Second, in addition to removing obstacles, God desires to add good things to the soil. He is dedicated to mixing in plenty of nutrients. So, the Father has given us the sacred Scriptures, which when prayed with on a regular basis and reflected upon with other believers, enrich our lives 30, 60 and a hundredfold. The Lord adds to the mix the example and prayers of the saints. We can hardly overestimate the capacity of these great witnesses to encourage us in our efforts to live Christ-like lives since they are living Gospels for us to examine and imitate.  Finally, the Lord sends other people of deep faith into our lives at key moments who by their genuine care, intense love for God and encouragement help us to encounter Jesus and invite Him to reign in our hearts. Pick one of these nutrients that God uses that you have been neglecting and rededicate yourself to accepting this gift from the hand of the Lord.

Finally, God pours down abundant rain upon the fields. The lush green, rolling hills of Ireland come to mind. We know that rain is absolutely essential for life, for an abundant harvest. The spring rains represent for me that aspect of the Father’s work where He goes over the top with His amazing goodness and love for us. God chooses to come to each one of us personally and attend to the specific needs of our hearts. For example, the Father and the Son pour the Holy Spirit into our hearts. God chooses to come and dwell in us, to make us temples of His Holy Spirit. That Spirit teaches us to pray and actually prays in us and through us. The Holy Spirit sets our hearts on fire with a love for God that is both life-giving and contagious. The Holy Spirit grants us courage to make tough changes in our lives, to stand up against persecution, and to bear witness to Christ and His Resurrection. 

The Holy Spirit bestows gifts that assist us as He propels us into the world to help others encounter Jesus Christ. In addition, God chooses to nourish us on our journey with His very self in the Eucharist, the great gift that He saved for His parting gift as He left for the cross. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6: 51).

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, what kind of soil is your heart these days?

Home Page
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index