July 13, 2008

God the Farmer

My friends in the good soil,

"God" is a difficult concept to really grasp. One of the ways we try to understand God is through analogy - comparing God to something or someone else. St. Patrick famously used the three-part clover as a tool to explain the Trinity, and Christ Himself used parables many times. Today's theme, in the Mass readings, is God's harvest; God is a farmer, sowing seeds and reaping the results.

What seeds does God sow? The prophet Isaiah expresses it in this way:

"...Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down... so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth... achieving the end for which I sent it. (Isaiah

God's word is the seed He sows - His word passed down through Tradition, recorded in Scripture, and His Word made flesh in Christ. Isaish tells us that God's word is efficacious - it achieves the desired effect without any further help. Imagine if all seeds were efficacious. You could plant a seed in the ground and walk away, then without any further help, one day you'd have a healthy, lush plant. God's Word does not need any further help to bear fruit, but it can be stifled. Christ warns about this in His parable from the Gospel of Matthew:

“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,and when the sun rose it was scorched,and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit,a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. (Matthew 13:1-9)

The seeds of God's Word can be stopped, but it takes effort. If we provide the good soil - a ready heart and mind - and avoid thorns and birds, the people and things out there that want to stop us from growing as Christians, then the seeding will work. We don't have to provide anything, we just have to not put any block in place.

At first glance, that may seem like a disheartening parable. There are many, many things that can prevent the seed from growing. Remember, though, the words of Isaiah that God's Word goes forth "achieving the end for which I sent it." As long as we don't actively stop the seed from growing, it will grow. God needs no help to achieve His goals for each of us. We simply have to let Him.

We need this. We need to let God do His work on us, unhindered. All the pains we feel, as Paul writes, are labor pains (Romans 8:18-23). We are hurting because there is something planted in us, waiting to grow, wanting to grow, if only we stop holding it back.

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