Matthew 13:1-23
A Farmer's Work by Rev. Miserendino
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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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 thirty-fold.  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."

I recently witnessed a minor miracle in my parentsí 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 Sundayís 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.

Weíre 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 Godís 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 youíre 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 Godís 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, itís 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 Godís 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. Thereís a saying: garbage in ó 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 isnít 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. Godís work is a farmerís work, slow and patient. Heís a Father who loves us and never stops cultivating us. If we work with him, his work will certainly bear fruit.