God has a Green Thumb
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Is 55)
In Arizona, driving down the freeway, there are big billboards pointing the way to a special tourist attraction called “The THING.” I never went, but when I read the above passage from Isaiah (one of my favorite passages in the bible), I thought of the “thing” for which God sent his word. I never saw the tourist THING, but I definitely want to see the “thing” that God will bring about in the world: salvation. The passage is a statement of complete confidence in the effectiveness of God’s Word to ultimately save the world.
This passage is a profound backdrop for understanding today’s Gospel: The Parable of the Sower. Each of us has heard this Gospel many times. The Sower goes out to sow his field and as he sows the seed (seed=Word of God), the seed falls on four types of soil: exposed on the path, rocky ground, thorny, and good soil where it really bore fruit.
Each of these “soil situations” describe the realities that people face in the world. This understanding is relatively new for me and maybe for you too. Usually, when we hear the Parable of the Sower, we put the emphasis on ourselves, asking “What kind of soil am I for God’s Word?” We hope that we are good soil, but we fear that we just be the soil on the path (exposed and shallow) where the seed gets eaten by the birds, or we might be the rocky ground (not much soil at all) where the seed doesn’t have a chance to grow. Or, I bet most of us, think we’re more like the thorny soil, choking off growth of the Word within us by the “cares of the world and the lure of wealth.” And of course there are those who provide a nice tilled soil for the Word, well fertilized by prayer, etc.
This is our usual interpretation of the parable: very personal, and, if we’re honest, can create a bit of fear: the odds are 3 types of soil to 1 to “make the grade” so to speak. The odds are against us being good soil, and, really when we look at other people in the world, close by or where ever, the odds are really against most of them too. After all, we think we’re nowhere near in as bad a condition as they are, in our humble opinion.
The main problem with this whole line of thinking is that it takes emphasis off of the main protagonist of the parable: The Sower! This is where we need to stay. Yes, the conditions of soil are real and in life we find ourselves experiencing some or all of them, but this is not the point. We need to focus on the Sower in the parable who represents our loving, merciful, indiscriminate Lord, who goes out to sow with his bag of seeds and just throws them everywhere, zillions of them, in every direction, all over! The seeds of God’s Word fall everywhere, on all types and conditions of soil. God’s Word is Love and meant for human being without distinction or merit, completely indiscriminate in its distribution.
The only downside in this very open and loving interpretation of the Parable is the human heart. If, in our hearts, we see God as a judge or a God of violence, then it is easy to close ourselves off to Love. Our hearts get hardened and the only way to survive (we think) is to put others under our judgment and violence to defend ourselves.
The Good News is that we don’t have to live this way, constantly judging ourselves and others. Whatever the condition of our soil, or anyone else’s soil, for that matter, we know that God’s Word is trying to plant itself in every person and God’s Word is greater than any condition of soil it lands on. Let the Holy Spirit, the wind or breeze of God, blow us to where we can grow. The Holy Eucharist serves as the most powerful fertilizer in the world to bring nutrition and life into the most difficult situations we find ourselves. Gathering here to listen to God’s Word we make it possible for our Sower Lord to do what he does best: sow seeds that can grow in us and cause true joy to spring up in our hearts! God has a green thumb!
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.