Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Matthew 13:1-9

Within each of us our Beloved God has planted a seed, and if we can say the Holy One prays for anything, it might be simply that this seed bears good fruit. As followers of the Way of Jesus, that’s our prayer, too, for ourselves and for each other, that  the seeds take root, sprout, and grow.

When Jesus walked ancient Palestine, people were very intimate with the earth and the cycles of seasons, in ways most us in urban societies might find hard to imagine. That’s why agriculture metaphors like this resonated so strongly for those listening to Jesus. Sowing seeds, for example, suggests a spirituality rooted in the ground of being in the world just as we find it, while also suggesting a sense of urgency since the fate of seeds could be a matter of life and death for people relying on the land to bear its fruit. The parable of the sower, in particular, must have struck a chord, because we find it in the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, and even in the gospel of Thomas.

In his book, New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton uncovers another layer to this parable by describing the planting of seeds as an ongoing process. Within each moment, the wind of the Holy Spirit carries seeds of opportunity: our Creator plants these seeds deep within our heart, and what happens next is up to us. Are we ready to receive this gift, ready with rich, fertile soil?

Jesus doesn’t shy away from giving a difficult answer to that question, namely that much of the time the answer is “no.” We aren’t ready, and as our Father in Heaven watches with loving compassion and hope, the seed fails to bear fruit. And every time it doesn’t, each and every time, God suffers with us. And then the next moment comes, and the next, and the one after that, and with each new seeds are planted as hope springs afresh for our Beloved and for us.

Now we may wonder why the seeds might not find fertile soil, but instead a desolate road where birds can come and snatch them up, or rocky ground with nowhere to take root, or thorns that choke any new growth. It could be that we’re a slave to our egos, fearing the death of self that allows for new growth, a new life in Christ. Or maybe we’re trapped by lies we live by, lies like we’re worthless, or ugly, or broken, or alone. Or we could be distracted by the many things of this world competing for our attention, pulling us away from God’s home at the small, still point within our heart of hearts, that place of fertile ground.

But these stumbling blocks are also reasons to hope,  because as each moment passes, and as each new seed is sown, we start to learn more about what’s preventing the seeds from taking root and growing. These stumbling blocks are also reminders that we can’t overcome these barriers alone, that we’re not on this journey alone, that we need to turn to Christ for help, and to our sisters and brothers in Christ who want to give those seeds a fighting chance as much as we do.

But our greatest hope comes from this: God loves us so much and is so generous that these opportunities are endless, seeds arriving from one moment to the next on a sacred and life-giving wind. They’re arriving in this very moment, and in this one, and in this one, here and now. And one day, in one of those many moments, we’ll find ourselves using our will to choose to surrender to God’s will for us, which is that we awake to who we truly are, beautiful and beloved servants of Christ’s Light, sharing the Holy One’s Peace and Love, perhaps even helping one of those seeds find fertile ground in our neighbor.

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8 Comments

  1. John G. on July 24, 2020 at 17:37

    Br Bartoli,
    I appreciate the thought that the stumbling blocks themselves are reasons for hope because we learn more about what’s keeping the seeds from growing. Also that we do not travel this journey along but with companions who want the seed to grow. And finally, that God constantly sends new seeds to germinate in our hearts afresh out of his great love for each of us. Amen

  2. Jeanne DeFazio on July 24, 2020 at 08:33

    Wow! Sharing this encouraging message today! Thanks so much!

  3. Roderic on July 24, 2020 at 08:30

    Well said!

  4. Helen on July 24, 2020 at 08:27

    Thank you for this hopeful- and challenging- message, Br. Bartoli.

    Thank you, generous Seed Giver, for inviting us to till our soil, pluck up weeds, raise our heads to the sun and rain and sweet breezes, be humble and patient in the storm, and receive in awe the good gifts all around us.

  5. Diane on July 24, 2020 at 06:44

    Amen, amen! In these difficult times I am grateful for this message. With all that is going on in the world around us (both near and far) it is so often difficult to keep on keeping on. Thank you for your messages of hope and the promise that it brings.

  6. John R. Dawson on July 23, 2016 at 14:07

    Dear Br. Bartoli……What a wonderful message you have prepared, and presented. Thank you! I assure that it is very clear to my mind, heart, and spirit as to what it is meant to convey. Hopefully, and prayerfully, the seeds of which you write will find fertile soil in my in my spirit. You’ve most certainly done your part.

  7. Ruth West on July 23, 2016 at 11:37

    Thanks for this good homily. I pray that our hearts can be, will be fertile ground for the seeds planted by the Holy Spirit, and that we will furnish the right conditions for growth. Even when the initial planting is on the best of ground, we must still furnish water and light for the seeds to grow. I see that as showing forth the fruits of the Spirit in our everyday living. May God bless you and all your companions in that place.

  8. Bobbi on July 23, 2016 at 08:35

    As I set out on my early morning walk on this very hot July day, I pray that new seeds of love get planted in my heart. Thank you, Br. Nicholas, for this message of hope.

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