Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wednesday in the 3rd Week of Ordinary Time (I)
The Seed that Tills the Soil

Readings: Hebrews 10:11-18; Psalm 110:1, 2, 3, 4; Mark 4:1-20

The parable in today’s gospel is well-known to us. Perhaps too well-known. How do we understand it? How do we apply it to our situation today? What enters our minds and hearts as we hear about the sower going out to sow?

There is a tendency that may be common among some of us, especially those who, like me, try to take our faith seriously. When we hear Jesus telling us to imagine a sower going out to sow, we immediately notice, and quite rightly, how the size of the harvest depends on the type of soil. We quickly realize that it is only the good soil that yields a rich harvest, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold. What then is the logical thing for us to do? We resolve to become good soil. We tell ourselves that we must take our faith more seriously. We must pray more, be more active in church, do more charitable work. Perhaps even take time off to go on a mission trip… and so on… All these resolutions are, of course, very laudable. And we are probably right to think that it is crucially important to till the soil of our hearts so that it can better receive the seed that is God’s word?

But isn’t it true that all too often these resolutions tend to fizzle out rather quickly? Isn’t it true that, when we take this approach to the parable, we find ourselves actually living out in our own lives what Jesus says about the seed that fell on rocky ground and into thorns? The soil of our own resolutions and will-power is too shallow to yield a good harvest. The seed may spring up straightaway, but then quickly becomes scorched in the heat of the noonday sun. We can’t quite sustain the effort needed to continue fulfilling all our resolutions. We may also begin to realize that the soil of our resolutions is really filled with the thorns of many mixed motives. We may, for example, be doing what we do, mainly because we wish to enjoy a sense of accomplishment, or so that people may think well of us. All these thorns can choke the seed of God’s word. And we yield no harvest.

Could there perhaps be another approach? Could it be that rather than focusing first and only on the soil, and on our own efforts to till it, we need instead to remain ever focused on the seed that is sown? For this seed that is God’s Word to us in Christ is truly extraordinary. What ordinary seed could yield a hundredfold harvest? And this seed was once again sown in our hearts when the first reading was proclaimed just now: I will put my laws into their hearts and write them on their minds. I will never call their sins to mind, or their offences. Isn’t this the mind-blowing message that God has for us in the life, death and resurrection of Christ? I will put my laws into their hearts… I will never call their sins to mind… And isn’t it true that something happens to us when we continue to listen carefully to this powerful Word of God? By first humbly receiving the wonder-working power of this seed of God’s Word, by letting it find a home in us, we actually allow it to do for us what we are unable to do for ourselves. We allow it to thoroughly till the soil of our hearts, to transform us, and to give us the strength and wisdom we need to yield a rich harvest in our lives. We may then perhaps be led to make resolutions, even the same resolutions we mentioned earlier. But rather than our own efforts, we will be relying instead on the power of God. And that makes all the difference.

How is the seed of God’s Word tilling the soil of our hearts today?

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