Blog & Pastor Letters

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

07-16-2023Weekly ReflectionDeacon John Cantirino

Anyone who has a yard or garden knows the challenges that come with having it look well-kept and being full of the type of plants or flowers that are visually appealing. It takes more work, attention, and perseverance to keep certain growths out than it does to nourish those flowers and plants that one desires to have. When there is a lack of attention to nurturing, then all sorts of weeds, crabgrass, and other undesired plants start to appear. It takes real, consistent effort to have a beautiful, flourishing yard or garden. The gardener must always supply the right conditions, and correct the harmful conditions, for the planted seeds to develop and flourish. The seeds are the seeds; the surrounding conditions make all the difference for the end results. But this example is not limited to a physical garden or yard.

When our Lord speaks in this Gospel, He is using imagery that was familiar to most of the people. Many of the people worked on the land, they were much closer to it than we are today. But the words of Christ are pointing to a much deeper truth, a much more important reality; that of receiving the word of God and allowing it to grow, to flourish, to produce fruit in our life.

Each of us can look at the different conditions into which the seed, the word of God, is placed and relate it to different times in our life. Times when the word perhaps meant little to us, times when it wasn’t appreciated or properly understood, times when it wasn’t a priority, and times when the word did embed itself in our heart, when we allowed it to germinate, grow, and reach its fullness in our life. If we really want to grow in holiness, to interiorize the word of God, then we must continuously work at “tending the soil,” that is taking care of the state of our soul, so the seeds will have deep roots. As we journey through this life there are so many things, that unless rooted out from one’s life, will do nothing but stifle the deep rooting of God’s word in our heart.

If the Word is not understood, it can easily be taken from us. How is this possible in our modern world? Actually, it is easier than ever for this to occur. There is an overwhelming amount of pressure being exerted against faith. Recent studies have documented how few people attend church on a regular basis, how few people believe or understand the importance of baptism, Eucharist, or marriage. There is a rise, along with an associated prestige, in the new atheism. If one doesn’t understand the Word of God, one can easily be convinced to give it up. As part of tending to your garden — your soul — you must continue learning about the Faith.

Closely connected to this is the rocky ground that Jesus speaks of in the Gospel. Believing in the Kingdom of God, believing in Jesus Christ and his teachings, may produce backlash, ostracism, and anger as a response from others. It is prayer, constant communication with our Lord, which will enable you to resist these outside pressures and internal temptations. Don’t let your heart become the rocky soil that Christ mentions. A commitment to Christ and the Kingdom may at times be rocky but don’t allow your heart, mind, and soul to become hardened and rocky.

It’s a fact that no matter how well a yard or garden is attended to, there always seems to be some weeds or unwanted growth that appear out of nowhere and very unexpectedly. This same problem can take place in our own life and spiritual journey. It is quite easy, sometimes, to become so totally absorbed in daily responsibilities such as career, family, friends, school, and social obligations that there is little to no time or energy left for God. If we don’t make time to allow the Word of God to take root in us, if we don’t put some effort in letting the Word of God develop in our life, then ultimately it will wither and die. It is all a matter of choice, a matter of our will.

The other great danger that can crush the word of God, in our heart and life, is that of the riches of this world. This can come from an overpowering love of and focus on money, but it can be more than that. The world offers so many riches in different forms; movies, TV shows, Internet options, activities, et cetera. We must choose carefully what we let into our heart, mind, and soul. Sin enters our soul through our senses. We need to discern what we view, what we listen to, what we search out on the Internet, and what we read, so it contributes to, not weaken or destroys, the Word of God within us.

There is a reward for effort that is spent toward the right end, toward the good. For the owner of the yard or garden, there comes a deep sense of satisfaction in seeing the results of a beautiful, flourishing, and alive with activity, yard or garden. For the person who truly nourishes the Word of God in their heart and life there will also be a flourishing of beauty and growth. A flourishing of beauty because the soul will be more reflective of the image of God. The soul will draw closer to the state of perfection, and as it does, it will become more alive than ever. Nourishing the garden of your soul will allow it to produce good fruit: those thoughts, actions, and words that please God, because they truly reflect God.