The Cultivation of our Hearts for an Abundant Harvest July 13, 2023

When I was a kid our family would travel throughout the state of Wisconsin. Whenever we would travel to or near Madison, my dad would always say the same thing, “this is some of the richest soil in the country.” I would then look and see soil that was dark and apparently fruitful. That story comes back me whenever the story of the Sower and the Seed is proclaimed in the Eucharistic liturgy.

Jesus lived in an agrarian society where water, soil, wine, and crops were integral to the life of the people. Jesus makes frequent and effective use of these elements – used in his ministry as metaphors – for the nature and life of God and also for the discipleship into which he calls his followers. The story of the Sower and the Seed is well known in Scripture and is central to the Gospel of Matthew. In the story, the sower represents Jesus and the seed his word. In some respect, a better title for this passage might be the Sower and the Soil. The sower is generous in distributing his seed, but the story turns on what type of soil the seed finds. Another important aspect of the story are the external conditions which effect the growth of the seed – whether it is sun, thorns, or hungry birds.

We believe in a God who does not impose on us but rather offers and invites. One of the most important aspects of our spiritual lives is our disposition in relation to God’s presence and message. Do we have an open heart to God – have we allowed God to cultivate our hearts such that God’s word finds rich soil? Or have outside elements had their effect on the soil of our hearts. Perhaps there are rocks and thorns to be cleared such that God’s word can penetrate more deeply into our lives and produce more abundant fruit. I think of the saints here – they lived their lives of faith with intentionality and purpose. Their hearts were wide open to God so that God could do the work of cultivation and through their faith and gifts produce a rich harvest. You might say that the soil of their hearts looked similar to that good soil near Madison.

When I read this passage today, I often think of the pandemic as one of those outside elements that has affected the harvest of faith. What was the state of our hearts when the pandemic came – where were our lives of faith and discipleship? Certainly, many have not returned to Mass – I say this not with judgment but with a yearning for more and more believers to experience the goodness and grace of God in the Eucharist. This is the most important hour of our week – where we meet the living God in word and sacrament and where we are grounded in eternal realities. We also meet our fellow sojourners at Mass and are strengthened in the communion we share. The liturgy is a place where God seeks to cultivate our hearts so that his living word might product abundant fruit.

Another place where God cultivates our hearts is in prayer and spiritual reading, including the reading of Scripture. Prayer is a conversation with God – the place where our faith and God’s love and grace come dynamically together. Prayer is the opportunity to sit down with the one who made us, sustains us, and desires to be close to us. God can do so much with an open heart, but this requires intentionality on our part – taking a step in the direction of God. What does your prayer life look like? Perhaps God is calling us to more intentionality in our prayer life. Do we desire to have that rich soil which marked the hearts of the saints?

Jesus, the sower, will continue to generously spread his word. Imagine the abundant harvest of faith that would occur if Christians allowed God to cultivate and til the soil of our hearts. My hope as your pastor is that movement of faith would begin here at our beautiful community of faith with the cultivation of hearts of those who love and serve the Lord.

Fr. Daniel Griffith