What the sower is sowing is the word. Those on the edge of the path where the word is sown are people who have no sooner heard it than Satan comes and carries away the word that was sown in them. Similarly, those who receive the seed on patches of rock are people who, when first they hear the word, welcome it at once with joy. But they have no root in them, they do not last; should some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, they fall away at once. Then there are others who receive the seed in thorns. These have heard the word, but the worries of the world, the lure of riches and all the other passions come in to choke the word and so it produces nothing. And there are those who have received the seed in rich soil; they hear the word and accept it and yield a harvest, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.
Jesus gave this parable to show how the word bears fruit in a person. In all situations, the word was heard. The difference is on how the word was received.
First, the word did not even had time to grow. It was snatched away immediately by the devil. I think this happens when we get distracted when we hear the word. I for one am guilty of this quite often. I would attend mass but will not be able to concentrate either because of an over active imagination or maybe just lack of concentration. When this happens, the word sown did not have a chance to grow.
The second way is when the word is received on an emotional level. Faith, as Jesus wants it, is not to be based on emotion. Faith based on emotion is selfish. The reason I say this is because actions based on emotional faith will be based on whether something feels good or not. It is not based on a firm commitment to love God above all things. That is why we often see people weep during their conversion and fall away after a few months. Very often too, an emotional faith leads to treating God like a switch that is turned on during depression and turned off when things are going well. And very often troubles are seen as God's punishment rather than as God's way of purification.
Notice on the third example, Jesus talks of worries of the world, lure of riches and other passions CHOKING the word. There is a desire to grow yet the grace of God is hindered by our attachment to things. Personally, I think the root cause of this is lack of faith in God or refusal to believe in the promises of God. I know this is difficult because through the years, the Lord has slowly and sometimes forced me into a situation where there is no escape, to teach me to surrender the situation to him. And I have learned that the more I refuse to let go, the more frustrated I become. But once I surrender the situation to the Lord, the Lord always intervenes. Quite often, the Lord does not show me an escape but he clears the way through the situation.
So what can we do, now that we know what prevents the word from growing in us?
To prevent the seeds from being snatched by the enemy, we sweep the road and gather the seed and plant them onto good soil. We must spend more time with the word. Spiritual growth is not possible without knowledge of scripture.
To allow the seed to take root, we dig and clear the rocks so the soil will be softer to allow the seed to take root. We must be willing to be broken by the Lord, let our faith go deeper than our emotions. When troubles come, we persevere and believe that God is faithful and will pull us through.
To prevent the thorns from choking the crop, we remove the thorns around it. This requires not only letting go of our anxieties but making a conscious effort to focus on the Lord and in doing his will.
It is only in doing these that we can eventually grow in our life with the Lord. As we start this year, may the Lord give us the grace to be more committed to the serious and truthful study of his word. May we allow him to dig and clear the rocks in our hearts so that we can worship him in spirit and truth. And finally, may we allow him to take away the thorns that choke our growth. And when he has done this, may he use us to proclaim his word to the world.