Today's readings confront us with a very important question: How do you prepare the soil of your heart to fruitfully receive the seed God wants to plant in it?
In the First Reading, God tells us through the prophet Isaiah that He will send out His Word to the earth. Just as the snow and rain water the land and bring it to life, God's Word will go forth to produce fruit. God promises that it will not return to Him empty.
We learn in the Gospel, however, the fruitfulness of the Word will depend upon the condition of the ground on which it falls. Take a moment and reread Jesus' parable of the sower and the explanation He gives His disciples.
The sower, of course, is God. The seed is His Word, which comes to us in the Scriptures, in prayer, in our interactions with other people, in the Church's teachings and those of the saints, and especially in the Eucharist and the other sacraments. The ground is our hearts.
What is the current condition of your ground, of your heart? Do you hear the Word but lack understanding and allow the enemy to snatch the seed away? Do you receive the Word with joy at first but lose interest as soon as the going gets tough? Do you allow the cares of life or the pleasures of riches to choke the Word? Or do you prepare the soil of your heart so that the seed of the Word falls on rich ground and can produce abundant fruit?
Most of us have experienced all of these conditions at various stages of our lives, but our goal should always be to prepare the soil of our hearts so that God's Word can find a home in us and reach out through us to everyone we meet. How do we prepare the soil of our hearts?
1. Pray, pray, pray. We will never be ready to allow God's Word to bear fruit in us if we don't open ourselves to Him and strengthen our relationship with Him. This is the primary purpose of prayer. Remember, we don't pray so much to get something as to get Someone.
2. Go to Mass every week and more often if possible. This is essential. Mass is the highest worship we can offer to God, and in the Eucharist, we receive God Himself, Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.
3. Read good spiritual books. The Bible is a must, but you should also dig into the writings of the saints and of modern Catholic theologians and writers like Scott Hahn, Brant Pitre, Edward Sri, Peter Kreeft, and others.
4. Strive to form your conscience and make good moral choices in thought, word, and deed. Sin corrupts the soil of our hearts, and we need to avoid it as much as we can. When we do sin, we must learn how to recognize that we've gone astray and get back on the right path through repentance and Confession.
5. Avoid negative influences, whether they are people, television shows, movies, music choices, websites, books, magazines, or whatever. When you make poor choices in these areas, you risk contaminating the soil of your heart.
6. Be sure to set your priorities. God and your relationship with Him should take first place in your life, followed by your family and friends. Everything else needs to be relegated to its proper place in the hierarchy.
Jesus, please help us cultivate the ground of our hearts so that we may receive You and bear fruit a hundred fold. Amen.