Sunday Readings: We must see in ourselves a heart in need of salvation and conversion.
In today’s gospel we find Our Lord preaching to a crowd along the seashore. He presents to them many parables as He teaches, but the account from Matthew focuses on the parable of the sower and the seed. I would like to go in a different direction this week. Instead of focusing on the gospel, let us look at what Isaiah and Paul offer us in connection with what Jesus is saying. Our three readings today present to us a clear image of who Jesus is to us, and who we are in relationship to Him.
“Gross is the heart of this people...lest they...understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them” (Is 6:9-10). Jesus quotes this line from Isaiah when His disciples ask Him why He teaches in parables. At first glance, it seems as if Our Lord is cold towards the people. Yet, when we look at it in reference to the parable, we see what He is getting at. The Father is the sower and He sows the Word, His only Son. He scatters the seed all over the soil, sending He who is the Word forth among us, to dwell with us. Our hearts are the ground where the seed of the Word is scattered, and they will remain “gross” without the Word. They are gross, not in the sense of being disgusting as we often think, but rather, as its root and definition suggest, in being coarse and unacceptable. Without the Word, our hearts will not be in a condition to bear the fruit of life as they are made to be by God the Father who created them, much like a sower who creates and cultivates His field. The prophet Isaiah further illuminates this meaning in our first reading.
“Yet just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful...” (Is 55:10). Instead of the analogy of the seed, the prophet views the Word as the rain come down from heaven that gives life to the soil and earth, which again, is the heart of the human person. What Isaiah offers us is much deeper than a nice little image. It is an insight into the way in which God the Father and God the Son relate to us. “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but shall do what pleases me, achieving the end for which I sent it” (Is 55:11). The Word, Christ, comes forth from the Father, indeed from His very mouth. When we speak, we are communicating our very selves to an other. We share what is from within. God does the same. For from the mouth of the Father comes the Word, His Son, and He will do what is pleasing to the Father so as to accomplish His purposes. The Son will not give up and return to the Father empty. He has come to make the earthen soil of our hearts no longer “gross” but “fertile and fruitful”. Christ did not return to the Father until He had watered the whole earth with His Blood from the Cross. He is now bringing the fruits of His work, the Church, born from His pierced side, to Father by means of the Church, His Mystical Body. The Church, united to and under Christ the Head, converts and draws all of our “gross” hearts on earth to the Father.
“We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now” (Rom 8:22). Just as coarse soil pines and wails for water, so too do our hearts yearn and cry out for God. The waters of the world will not last to keep us thriving and alive in the heat that comes from the pressures and fallenness of humanity. These waters will feel pleasant at first, refreshing even, but when the scorching rays come down, they will serve only to deepen the cracks in the soil of our hearts now shifted and opened by wordly waters. Our hearts must have the true water, the life giving water of Christ, for which “we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption” (Rom 8:23). This starts at our baptism, as we are made adopted sons and daughters of God, and continues as we drink deeply, from the side of Christ, the life that pours forth from His Sacred Heart. It is in this intimate spot where we come to be converted, healed, and sanctified throughout our lives. God Our Father has given us everything, His very Self, in His Son Jesus, but we must see in ourselves a heart in need of salvation and conversion so that we too may please the Father in returning to Him, united in the Son, not empty but with “a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold”.