Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Parable of the Sower Has Message for ‘Thorny Boy’

 During my morning devotions recently, the gospel reading was Jesus’ parable of the sower. You remember the story, right? Some seed was scattered on the path, some on rocky ground, some on thorny ground, and some on fertile ground. The seed on the path was immediately eaten by birds. The seed on rocky ground had no roots, and so the plants withered. The seed on thorny ground produced plants that were choked by the thorns. And the seed on fertile ground produced a bountiful harvest.

Jesus then explained the parable’s meaning. The seed stands for the Word of God. The path symbolizes those who have the Word preached to them, but they don’t listen, they don’t hear, and God’s holy Word has no effect on them. The rocky ground symbolizes those who hear the Word and rejoice, but soon after, trials and tribulations cause them to revert to their old faithless way of life. The thorny ground represents those who hear the Word and start to grow in faith, but then the worries of life and the pursuit of wealth become such distractions, they do not produce much of a “harvest.” Finally, the good soil represents those who hear the Word of God, rejoice and let it fill them with faith, as they truly produce a wonderful harvest of good works and love.
Ever since I first heard this parable at Mass — check that, I mean ever since I first paid attention to this parable at Mass — I identified with the thorny ground. At age 28, I finally came to believe that God is real and Christ is Lord, and it completely changed my life. In other words, I finally heard the Word and rejoiced. But then, life got in the way. As comedian Gary Gulman points out, “The thing about life is: it’s every…single…day!” 

Every day there’s always a new problem, a new challenge, a new stress, a new reason not to want to get out of bed in the morning. And in our fast-paced modern world, we are inundated by responsibilities and obligations. It’s relentless.

Many mornings, when I drag myself out of bed and think about my hectic schedule for the upcoming day, I’m already looking forward to 9:30 pm, when I can crawl back into bed and go to sleep. So, yes, for me personally, the quest for prosperity and the many worries of daily life are like thorny bushes that are choking my faith life.

I try to read the Mass readings each morning and meditate on them. That’s my daily devotion. But as I’m reading and allegedly meditating, my brain is focused on that day’s sizable to-do list. And when the Mass readings on a particular day are lengthy — like some of those epic stories from the Old Testament — I sarcastically think to myself, “Oh great, a long one. Now I’ll never get to work on time.” I’m pretty sure that’s not the mindset God is looking for when someone reads the holy Scriptures.

Every year when the parable of the sower is the gospel reading at Mass, I feel a twinge of conscience. The Holy Spirit says to me, “Hey, Thorny Boy, last year when you heard this reading, you said you were gonna clean up your cluttered schedule, stop worrying about stupid stuff, and spend more time in prayerful meditation. So what happened, huh?”
To which I reply, “Hey, Holy Spirit, since when did you start talking like Robert DeNiro?”

(Actually, God’s Spirit communicates with us in whatever ways are most effective. For me, a wise-guy DeNiro voice often works best.)

Later on that same day, when the Mass reading was the parable of the sower, I read this online: “If Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.”

Whoa, it’s bad enough the “thorns” of life — worries and anxiety and struggling for financial success — often choke my faith. But if all the busyness in my life is being caused by the sinister Evil One, that’s unacceptable.
Well, we’re on the verge of Holy Week, the most sacred time on the entire Church calendar. This would be a good time to prune away some of the thorns that are choking my faith life. I certainly want to deepen my relationship with the Lord. But most of all, when the Parable of the Sower is the gospel reading sometime next year, I’d rather not hear the Holy Spirit say, “Hey, Thorny Boy…”

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