Sunday’s Gospel parable of the seeds being sown and not bearing fruit makes me ask instinctively, “What type of soil am I? Am I the soil by the pathway or the rocky soil or the soil that is filled with thorns?” If we are honest, we will realize that we exhibit these qualities of a bad soil in one way or another. Haven’t there been times when we let our lack of understanding of God’s words, or temptations or trials or earthly worries or desire for riches crowd out God’s words to us? What then are we to do if we experience all these qualities of an unfruitful soil in our lives? Are we condemned to a life of unfruitfulness unless we get rid of them all?
Maybe we need to shift our focus away from asking what type of soil that we are and begin to ask, “How much good will do I have towards this seed that has been planted in me?” To have a good will toward the seed that has been planted is to have a resolute desire and striving so that God’s purpose in planting this seed is accomplished in my life no matter the struggles and sins that I may face in life. The seed that God plants in us has both divine life and purpose enabling it to achieve what God intends if only we receive it with this good will.
The Prophet Isaiah in the First Reading writes to the exiled Israelites about God’s promises to free them from bondage and return them to their own land despite their present sufferings and past infidelities to the covenant. The people however doubted God’s words. The Lord speaks to them through the Prophet to remind them that His words to them has a divine purpose and nothing will prevent this purpose from being achieved, “My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” They only need to hear His words with good will and allow it to achieve the divine purpose which will come to fulfillment in God’s own time and in God’s own way.
In the Gospel, Jesus gives us the main quality of the rich soil that bears fruit abundantly: “It is the one who hears the word and understands it and bears fruit.” The richness of this soil lies not so much in the absence of hungry birds, inhibiting rocks, or choking thorns or anything of that sort; but its richness lies principally in its ability to receive and let God’s purpose in planting this seed to prevail over and above what it may lack or the adversities it may face. This seed, no matter the present adversities, will bear fruit a hundred, sixty or thirtyfold depending on the good will present in those who receive it.
The divine purpose of sowing the seed is for the salvation of souls: “It is not the will of your father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.” (Mt 18:14) The same potent seed is sown everywhere and in every type of soil. Each soul, no matter its present condition or past experiences, can always hope to bear fruit because “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”(Rom 11:29) This is the main reason behind our striving to develop and maintain a good will towards what has been given to us.
In the Second Reading, St. Paul reminds the suffering and persecuted Christians in Rome that “the sufferings of the present time are as nothing compared to the glory to be revealed for us.” Because God has gratuitously planted in us the seed of divine life, the life of grace, the divine purpose of planting this seed will be achieved even in the midst of persecution and hardship if we have a good will towards this seed. Grace is indeed the seed of future glory. By possessing this seed of glory now, they already “have the first fruits of the Spirit and also groan within themselves as they wait for adoption, the redemption of their bodies.” The divine purpose of giving us eternal life marches on even as we face earthly trials.
The Venerable Pio Bruno Lanteri (1759-1830), the founder of our congregation, the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, left us a timeless counsel of the spiritual life in this phrase, “Nunc Coepi.” It means, “Now I begin.” This is the motto and defining attitude of people of good will, those who are ready to embrace the divine purpose repeatedly and over and over again no matter the failures of the past or the sufferings of the present. It is the motto of those who never give up in corresponding to divine grace at each moment because they know that the God who lovingly plants His seed in us never stops planting no matter how unfaithful we have been in the past. Those of good will strive with a peaceful perseverance to correspond with His grace and they refuse to yield to discouragement. They are neither slaves of the past nor fixated on what may come in the future but like St. Paul, they “forget what lies behind and press forward to what lies ahead, the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13-14)
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we should not wait until we are perfectly cleared soils before we can bear fruit. We will never completely understand the truths of the Gospel, the devil will always be vigilant to snatch the seed from us, there will be tribulations and trials that come from the word received, there will be earthly worries and cares and the desire for more riches remains a constant temptation. But we can be people of good will, firmly resolved and striving without respite so that the divine purpose is never trumped by the devil, our weak flesh, and the world.
In addition, asking, “What type of soil am I?” places the focus on us and not on the divine planter and His purpose for planting. God knows us before He freely chose to plant His seeds of truth and grace in us. He saw our lack of understanding, our inclination to sin, our weakness before the enemy of our salvation, our sufferings, our worries and our worldly desires. Yet He never hesitates to place His life-giving seed in us knowing that nothing can prevail over the divine purpose borne in this seed if we have a good will toward it.
The divine sower, Jesus Christ, continues to sow His seed in our hearts in this Eucharist. He is also the source of all our good will. The angels sang at His birth, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will.” We priests repeat His timeless words over the bread and wine at Mass, “This is my body…This is my blood.” His purpose in those words still retains their potency today as it did over two thousand years ago. Bread and wine cannot resist the divine power and purpose behind these words. At these words, bread and wine are changed into His own body, blood, soul and divinity. Nothing can overcome His divine purpose to share His life with us, not even our past sins or our present trials. It is not about what type of soil we are; but it is about how much good will we have in receiving Him and allowing His purpose to prevail in our lives.
Our Mother Mary leads us in the way of this good will. She is the one who received the seed of life from the Holy Spirit and bore the greatest fruit ever – the God-Man Jesus Christ. She did not completely understand the message of the Angel Gabriel and how she was to be both virgin and mother. She faced trials and sufferings in her life, climaxing at the foot of the Cross. But in her good will, she let the divine purpose prevail over all that she experienced. If we follow in her footsteps, we may still have our lingering temptations, worries and earthly anxieties, but we can become that truly rich soil that bears fruits a hundred, sixty, or thirty fold if we have a will that is good enough to embrace the divine purpose and begin again, again, and again.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!