Preparing the Soil of the Heart
Fr. Scott A. Haynes
At that time, when a very great crowd was gathering together and men from every town were resorting to Jesus. He said in a parable: The sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside and was trodden under foot, and the birds of the air ate it up. And other seed fell upon the rock, and as soon as it had sprung up it withered away, because it had no moisture. And other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. And other seed fell upon good ground, and sprang up and yielded fruit a hundredfold. As He said these things He cried out, He who has ears to hear, let him hear! But His disciples then began to ask Him what this parable meant, He said to them, To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to the rest in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. And those by the wayside are they who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved. Now those upon the rock are they who, when they have heard, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, but believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among the thorns, these are they who have heard, and as they go their way are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not ripen. But that upon good ground, these are they who, with a right and good heart, having heard the word, hold it fast, and bear fruit in patience.
The parable of the Sower and the seed is easy to understand, because Christ explains it to His disciples. In the parable, the seed is the word of God, and the Sower is the Son of God. Some seed falls on the path but is sadly carried away by evil spirits. Other seed falls among the rocky crevices; it sprouts but then withers away. Some seed falls among weeds and sprouts but gets choked out by the troubles of life. Lastly, the only seed that thrives is that which falls into good soil. This seed bears fruit. Overall, three quarters of seed fails. But that seed which falls in good soil brings forth returns of thirty, sixty, or a hundred-fold.
If we are to thrive and grow in the spiritual life, it is imperative that we prepare the soil of our hearts. We want our hearts to be “good soil,” in order that we may bear fruit in the garden of God’s grace. Farmers use plows to break the hard ground, so we use asceticism to break our hard hearts. We struggle against our passions by prayer and fasting. As we break the pride of our hearts, God assists us in our various circumstances, so that we might learn to break our self-reliance, depending on ourselves, so that, broken and humbled, we might begin to overcome our arrogance and selfishness.
The next part of preparing the soil of our hearts is achieved by softening the ground. By confession of our sin, by repentant tears, and by the giving of alms to the poor, the Lord enlightens our minds to see our own wickedness, to make us aware of our own sinfulness, as He pours out His loving mercies upon us as oil into the wound. As God blesses and protects us, He softens our hearts by His loving grace. Once repentant and cleansed, our hearts are fertile ground to be planted with the seed of the Word of God.
As we delve into study of God’s Word, we increase in the knowledge of Christ, for “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ” (St. Jerome). Because our hearts cannot love what we do not know, we must immerse ourselves in the Word of God, so that we take on the mind of Christ and be renewed in the image of Him who created us. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the soil of our heart receives the spiritual seed that feeds our souls—the Word made Flesh—Christ truly and substantially present in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus feeds us and strengthens our hearts through the Sacred Mysteries, enabling us to bear spiritual fruit we never thought possible. With Christ the Sower, our hearts are prepared to be the good soil for His planting. Through Christ we are readied to receive the seed of God’s Word, to spring forth new life, to grow by patient endurance, and to bring forth spiritual fruit pleasing to the Lord.
Though our human flesh seeks pleasure and comfort, we must discipline it, seeking the penance of the ascetic life, as we fast and pray, striving to live a virtuous life. With alms in hand, let us show mercy to our neighbor. Let us cry tears of repentance as we mourn our sins. Let us feed upon God’s Word, the Church’s teachings, the lives of the saints, and the Saving Mysteries of the Altar that we might prepare our hearts to be good soil for Christ the Sower.