St Luke chapter 8:5-8:
A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.
And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture.
And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it.
And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit a hundredfold.
And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear…
THE GOOD GROUND
Hearts which have become hardened due to a lack of contrition are incapable of receiving the divine word.
A great crowd came together and people from town after town came to him. Jesus took advantage of this opportunity to teach people about the mysterious action of grace on souls. Since his audience was made up largely of farmers, Jesus used an agricultural parable. 'A sower went out to sow his seed' … The sower is Christ himself. He works all the time to extend his kingdom of peace and love in souls. In this effort, he depends on the freedom and personal response of each person.
God can be found in souls in the most diverse circumstances, as diverse as the types of soil on a farm. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and was trodden under foot, and the birds of the air devoured it. The seed was completely lost without having given any fruit.
Later on, Jesus explained to his disciples the parable and the reason for this loss: The devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts. Hearts which have become hardened through a lack of contrition are incapable of receiving the divine word. This bad ground represents the heart which has become accustomed to unclean thoughts, so 'parched' as it were that it cannot receive and sustain the seed. The devil finds in souls of this kind a source of resistance to God's saving grace. On the other hand a soul which reacts to imperfections and transgressions by sincere repentance actually attracts divine mercy.
True humility allows God to sow his seed and have it bear abundant fruit.
This is why we should use this parable to examine our spirit of reparation for the falls of every day, even in the least serious things. Do we go to confession frequently and with a sincere yearning for divine assistance? Let us ask Jesus to help us to avoid any and all sin, to keep away from whatever might separate us from his friendship.
You have reached a level of real intimacy with this God of ours, who is so close to you, so deeply lodged in your soul. But what are you doing to increase and deepen this intimacy? Are you careful not to allow silly little hindrances to creep in which would upset this friendship? Show courage! Don't refuse to break with every single thing, no matter how small which could cause suffering to the One who loves you so much. Our need for prayer and sacrifice if grace is to bear fruit in the soul.
'And some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture'. This signifies those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy; but these have no root, they believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. At 'the moment of truth' they succumb because their allegiance to Christ has been rooted solely in feeling and not in prayer. They have therefore been unable to endure difficult moments unscathed, or take in their stride the trials of life or periods of spiritual dryness. Many people are pleased by what they hear, and sincerely resolve to pursue the good. Yet when adversity and suffering come, they soon abandon their good works.
How many good resolutions have come to naught when the spiritual life has become a struggle! These souls were seeking themselves rather than God. To look for Jesus is to follow his footsteps wherever they may lead, no matter if the trail is smooth and easy or uphill and arduous. The key thing is to have the firm desire to reach Christ, to look for Jesus for the sake of Jesus. We can accomplish this only if we are faithful to our daily prayer, whether it comes to us easily or is more of a sacrifice.
'And some fell among thorns and the thorns grew with it and choked it'. This represents those people who, having heard the word of God, are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life. It is impossible to follow Christ unless we lead a life of mortification. If we don't, little by little the attractions of the world will overcome the things of God.
In the end, the soul abandons the spiritual struggle for the sake of worldly things. When a person has his heart set on temporal things, he deadens the acuteness of his sensitivity and weakens reason. Prayer and mortification prepare the soul to receive the divine seed and then give fruit. Without these means, life remains sterile. The system, the method, the procedure, the only way to have a life abundant and fertile in supernatural fruits, is to follow the Holy Spirit's advice: All roads that lead to God have to pass through prayer and sacrifice.
Prayer and perseverance: beginning again with humility
Jesus first describes the circumstances that will result in failure before going on to the promise of the good ground. He does not allow himself to be disappointed, however, but fosters the hope that everyone might eventually become good ground: 'And some fell into good soil and grew, and yielded a hundredfold'. They are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience. All are capable of giving abundant fruits to the Lord, regardless of their past history.
God is always sowing the seed of His grace. The most important thing is not to become like a much-trodden path, like outcrop rock, like thistles. We have to become good ground. The heart cannot be fair game for birds and passers-by. It has to provide enough ground for the seed to take root. The sun of human passions and a dissolute life should not scorch the seedlings of divine promise.
There are three prerequisites for our becoming good ground: to listen with a contrite and humble heart, to be earnest in prayer and mortification, and, finally, to be disposed to begin and begin again in the interior struggle. We cannot let ourselves become discouraged if the fruits of our struggle are not readily apparent, even after many years of effort.
IN COVERSATION WITH GOD: volume five (Fr. Francis Fernandez)