This past week I got to visit my brother and his family in St. Louis, which was a great time. We did the usual: fireworks, golf, lots of grilling, and the Holy Mass. Yes, I have all my fingers, though my nephew really loves snaps! One afternoon I was walking around my brother’s neighborhood and I was struck by the number of people who don’t know Jesus. This hits me every once and a while. The impression in a crowd, an airport, or any common place and I just get sad that these people are concerned about many things but only one thing is necessary.
On Tuesday, as my mother and I were flying back to Omaha, there was a loud group of people in the seat ahead of us. They were swearing, speaking of impurity and downright nastiness that wouldn’t be allowed even on cable tv. I was embarrassed for my mother to have to hear it.
Each time I was praying the Rosary. The first time, while I walked, the second, in reaction to their foul conversation. Each time I related my sadness at their sin to our Lord, imagining myself as that good Catholic priest in the midst of a world that needs Jesus. Each time, our Lord turned my prayer on its head.
I am the foul conversation. I am the chattering and mindless people unaware of the presence of God. I am the unbelieving the world that Christ comes to conquer.
Our Gospel passage today is one of my favorites and one that remains on my heart often. The four types of soil are usually thought of as whole individuals. They also can represent portions of our own Catholic heart. Do we hear without understanding and without receiving and allow Satan to snatch the Gospel truth away? Do receive with joy but wilt under tribulation, even when we remember that our Lord himself suffered? Do we receive the Gospel but allow worldly concerns to steal our attention?
Jesus gives the warning of the prophet Isaiah, not only to his early listeners but also to us. “Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them.” I know this applies to my own heart at times. Our Lord asks me to give up different things- a few years ago it was my Blackberry and I didn’t want to listen. I fought him for months. My heart was scaly and hard, my ears and eyes were closed to his word.
These words apply to most any of us in America today. We have heard just enough of the Gospel to be inoculated. Small pox, measles, mumps, and Christianity. We’ve received just enough to identify it and reject it. Even in 1975 Pope Paul VI was worried about Christians who were baptized but lived outside the Christian life. Could that be said about all of us? I think so. We must cultivate the soil of our hearts so that we will receive the Word of God and bear fruit.
We need the Sacraments, the moral life, and prayer if we are to make our hearts receptive. Receptive, to receive, we must be diligent about our prayer so that we can receive and bear fruit. How do we know we are bearing fruit? When those we are around everyday begin to want to know more about Jesus too. That is the fruit of the Christian life. If we strive for our own continued conversion. If we strive to make our own spiritual soil more receptive, then our children, our friends, and our neighbors will begin to seek after Jesus as well. That is the fruit of the Christian life: more Christians.
If you are troubled by this, if you think it too difficult for you, receive these words of Saint Paul. “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” Every saint has born this burden and through their help we can too.
Cross posted at Pius XII Newman Center