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.
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