In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ today we heard the familiar parable of the sower in the Gospel (Luke 8:5-15). This parable has much to say about how we should live our lives.
In His explanation of the parable to His disciples, our Lord describes the seed as the Word of God (Himself) and the soil as various types of souls. Most of us at some point of time in our lives have had to prepare soil for a garden or a flower bed. The preparation of our souls to receive the Word of God, the incarnate Word of God, the seed in the parable, is very much like the preparation of a garden or a flower bed.
The first step in the preparation of a garden or flower bed is a decision to have a garden or flower bed. This can be equated to deciding to give our lives over to God. We haven’t done anything, all we have done is made a decision. For a few of us this is a very easy decision because it is natural to want to live in harmony with God and His creation. However, most of us want our own way; we want to be in control, which puts us into conflict with the world, our neighbors and even if we don’t realize it – God.
This first step is often the hardest decision we can make in our lives. Sometimes all it takes is for us to hear something that will soften us just enough to make the decision. However, all too often it takes some tragic event for us realize that the way we run our lives does not work. Resulting in the realization that we need Christ in our lives.
Once we get past the decision phase of planting a garden we need to take action. If we do not take action then we do not have a garden. All too often we make plans that never come to be because we did not take the actions necessary to bring them into being. This often happens concerning taking actions to improve our spiritual life.
When we first start our garden we encounter hard and unyielding ground, very similar to the hard ground in the parable. In order to start preparing the ground we have to get out the roto-tiller, a pick axe and a hoe violently attacking the ground to start loosening it up. Those that start to prepare their souls for God experience the same thing. They have to take violent actions in the way they live their lives to change their lives. This is what the Lord means when He says “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matthew 11:12) These violent actions are spending time in morning and evening prayer, reading Holy Scripture and other spiritual books, fasting and confessing of sins.
Confession is extremely helpful in preparing the soil because it rids us of our sins. When we first sin it is like a thread that is easily broken but, unrepented sin is like a robe that binds us. It makes us hard like the hardened packed soil that is bound together. The confession breaks this bond of sin allowing grace to enter.
However, like the garden our work just does not end here. We must further sift through the soil removing the rocks and break up the soil even more so that seeds can be planted. Water and nutrients must also be added for the garden to grow. After the initial cleansing of our souls then we must remove those things that block us from God like the rocks because we do not want to have our new way of life to just parish because it has no roots as the seeds that fell on rocks in the parable.
The rocks or things that block us from God are our passions and idols; power, money, sex, gluttony, addictions, etc. We need to take on ascetical practices in order to remove the passions from our lives. Such things as giving alms, helping those in need, watching what enters us through our eyes, ears and mouth also watching what comes out of our mouths are all very helpful in removing the passions.
Along with removing the rocks or passions, more will be revealed to us about our sins and nature to further break up the soil of our souls. We will continue to remove our sins through confession making the soil of our souls finer and proper for planting.
At this point the fruit of the Word of God will start to emerge from the garden of our souls. We will “seek peace and pursue it” (1Peter 3:11) Again we will need to continue to feed the soil of our souls so that Christ can grow in us through our prayer, reading and the reception of His body and Blood.
In the parable some of the seed falls in an area where weeds grow up around the sprouts and choke off the new plants. Weeds grow in any garden and must be removed for the garden to flourish. Within the garden of our souls new passions and sins can develop that will work to keep us from Christ, the Word of God. The Lord reminds us of this in two passages within the Holy Gospel. The first is the parable of the tares where an enemy sneaks in and plants tares in a crop of wheat to ruin the crop. (Matthew 13:24-30) The second is when the Lord speaks regarding the proselyte that having been converted has been made worse than a devil. (Matthew 23:15) Thus, we must be ever watchful over our souls to remove new sins and passions so that our new life in Christ does not become ruined.
Finally, the Lord speaks in the parable about the good ground and that it yields fruit a hundred fold. We see the same with any garden in which the soil has been properly prepared. It is beautiful and yields an abundance of flowers and fruit. The same happens with the garden of our souls as we receive the Word of God having properly prepared the soil of our souls for it. We will be more loving and peaceful and grow to be like God. Others will want to be like us, causing them to prepare the soil of their soul to receive the Word of God. Thus we will be fruitful and multiply replenishing and subduing the earth. (Genesis 1:28)
My dear brothers and sisters in I pray that each of you continues to prepare the soil of your soul no matter where you are in the process so that it may be good soil that bears the fruit of Christ a hundred fold.
Delivered by protodeacon fr. Milan Medakovic at St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church, Steelton, PA on the 21st Sunday after Pentecost 2011