We heard the Parable of the Sower this week in the Divine Liturgy, which is customary on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council. Despite having heard this parable many times before, this time I got something new out of it.
Here’s the parable as told in the Gospel of the Holy Apostle Luke:
A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold. When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Jesus goes on to explain that He is the sower, and that the seed is the Word of God. The ground is the human heart, and the condition of our hearts determines whether that seed takes root.
Some hearts are trampled down by passions, vices and the pursuits of the world. Some are hard as stone and not receptive to the love of Christ. Other hearts may receive the Word of God, but it is choked out by temptation and sin.
But some of the seed fell on good soil. That good soil is the heart that is sensitive to the Word of God, and receives it with gladness. The heart that welcomes the teaching of Christ is the one where His Word finds fertile ground in which to sprout and grow.
I’m no expert farmer, but I’ve tended a garden or two. I know that in order for your vegetables to grow, you have to prepare your soil. Tilling, digging and fertilizing happens before anything. A lot of work goes into getting the ground ready before you ever plant a seed.
As our priest explained the parable of the sower to us, he called to mind the preparation of the soil, and it dawned on me that this was a new way for me to look at this parable.
My upbringing as a Protestant told me that God’s salvation was not through our works but through His grace alone. But the Orthodox Church shows us that we must prepare our hearts through study, prayer, fasting and participating in the sacraments to truly be receptive to Christ.
We work together with Christ in our salvation by tilling the soil to make it a receptive place for His Word. We fertilize it with Scripture and the Eucharist. The garden of our hearts must be tended constantly for God’s Word to grow inside of us.
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. – I Corinthians 3:9
It is never enough for us to simply rest and say, “I’m saved through faith in God alone.” We must tend to our hearts at all times, lest they become inhospitable and infertile soil. The parable of the sower teaches us that we must help the seed that has been planted if it is to grow.
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