Reflection for Saturday, September 18, 1999: 24th week in Ordinary Time.
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Jesus spoke to them in a parable: "A farmer went out to sow some seed. Some fell on rocky ground . . . But some fell on good soil, grew up, and yielded grain a hundred-fold."||I like to garden. Gardeners and farmers have many things in common. We carefully plan and prepare the environment each year to give our crops their best chance of thriving. We add compost or fertilizer to the soil, till the land, plant the seeds and pray for the right balance of sun and rain. When necessary we weed so that our plants to do not get choked off and prune to maximize growth. Ultimately, however, we have no power to make things grow. At best we prepare the environment through careful husbandry of our resources and time. But we are completely dependent on God and nature for the sacred transformation from seed to tomato.|In today's Gospel reading, we tend to focus on the various challenges to the seeds: the footpath, rocky ground and briers. We think about ways we may be tempted, about how we could be praying more or doing more community service. I find myself trying to figure out which kind of soil I am: "Oh, I hope I'm the good soil! I don't think I have many briers in my life, although simplicity has gotten much more complicated now that I own a home!"|This approach to the parable can be helpful. The truth is that I have probably been all those types of soil at one time or another. But the spiritual journey is a long path. Hopefully I live my life at least in the fundamental direction of being the good soil.|Perhaps it is also helpful to turn things around a bit. After all, since Jesus had to be so explicit with the disciples, it's pretty clear that even they were not always the "good soil" who heard the word! I suggest we think about the farmer in the parable. Presumably Jesus is talking about himself as the farmer. Jesus sows the seeds of God's word and hopes those seeds take root and bear fruit. Like other farmers and gardeners, Jesus does not control the growth of the seeds. He certainly hopes all the seeds he plants will take root and bear fruit in abundance, but ultimately he cannot force us to accept the Word of God. How well we have prepared our soil plays an enormous role in how well the seeds-the Word of God-will grow within us.|What is so different about Jesus as a farmer from traditional farmers is how liberal-even prodigal-he is with the seeds. Jesus does not plant his seeds only where they are most likely to grow well. He scatters them over all sorts of soils, which gives all of us the opportunity to respond. Jesus spreads the Word of God and loves unconditionally, foolishly, prodigally, even where there can be no expectation of bearing fruit. His farming technique is reminiscent of the love that the "prodigal father" showers on the "prodigal son" in another well-known parable of Jesus.|No matter what, God is always offering us God's Word, unconditionally loving us as this foolish farmer spreads seed over even rocky ground. The best I can hope for is that I may bear fruit through perseverance on a long path, even though I sometimes encounter rocks and briers. I believe this "Prodigal Farmer" offers me that hope.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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