Tend the Word of God with Care

07-10-2020Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian Manning

Our first reading from the Book of Isaiah is a very beautiful reading as our summer now unfolds and all the wonderful plants and flowers around us grow in the sun-light and are watered by the occasional rain that falls. Our first reading tells us that it is God who makes the rain to fall on the earth so all things may grow. The symbolism is that God “waters” us with his sacred love and thus we grow in living a life of meaning and purpose. Ultimately there is a harvest time when all plants mature. The fruit of all this growing is that there is a spark of the divine in each one of us and it is clearly God’s everlasting love.

Saint Paul is quite descriptive when he compares the work of the harvest to a mother’s labor during childbirth. He tells us that this labor or work is hard and often painful, but the end result is the joy of holding her newborn baby. It likewise takes the same hard work to make a crop healthy for the harvest, but the yield is very great.

Our Gospel passage shows Jesus telling a parable in which he describes the soil on-to which the seed may fall. He offers many possibilities. If it falls on the hardened path, birds may come and eat it because it is not embedded in the soil. Or it may land on rock, which has very little soil and roots cannot go deep enough. Thorns and weeds (weeds are sometimes called unwanted flowers!) may come and choke out the seed’s growth. And finally, only if the seed falls on good soil can it take hold and mature into a fruitful harvest.

Obviously when we interpret the parable we realize that we are the soil in which God plants the seeds. The question, though, remains: Are we fertile soil or does our sinfulness or righteousness make us thorny? Or are we filled with weeds of distraction and busy-ness? Note in the passage from Saint Paul’s letter he points us in the direction of hope. One of the major themes in his letters to the early believing communities is that our great hope and salvation rests in Christ who died for us. He makes clear that it is Christ who removed the thorns of sin for us.

Gardeners know by experience that you must pay attention to the care of the soil. Many times we can take care of the problems by ourselves, such as loosening soil or weeding better, but at other times we need the help of a professional. And at still other times all we need to do is add some new material to the soil to provide nutrients. Thus these are the various lessons we need to remember: sometimes we can help ourselves, sometimes we need help from others, and, just as importantly, sometimes we need to directly help others.

Remember the marvelous image in Isaiah of the rain that will not return to God until it has watered the earth and recall the thought that God’s word to us will not re-turn to God void. We must ask ourselves how we care for this Word of God in our lives. The answer is: by our self individually, with the help of others, and finally by sharing it with others who are in need.

Father Brian