A meditation on the parable of the sower, Luke 8.
To understand a mystery is not to have a logical comprehension of it, but rather to attain to the Spiritual meaning of it; and this can only be attained through faith. So often, we think of comprehending a mystery as unlocking the secrets of the mystery, of using logic to completely remove the mystery and thus the need for faith itself. Faith tells us that God created the sun, logic seeks to unlock how and why He chose to do so. GK Chesterton once said that the poet will never go nearly as mad as the logician, because the poet seeks merely to get his head into the heavens, while the logician seeks to get the heavens into his head.
See, when we search the Scriptures with logic, we become blinded by our own knowledge, often finding meanings that were never truly there, while missing the very lessons that are the reason that we were given them. And when we do this, we become truly blind. As Jesus here states to the disciples, “to you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘seeing they may not see and hearing they may not understand.'” The kingdom isn’t a riddle to be solved, but rather, a mystery to be embraced, and that by faith. Take the Eucharist, for example. Jesus clearly states in the Gospel that “this is My body which is broken for you…this is My blood of the New Covenant…behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” In our minds, we claim to believe that He is with us always, we claim to believe all that the Scriptures tell us, but our logic teaches us otherwise. In our faith, we believe that God created all things out of nothingness, but in our logic, we don’t even believe that the Holy Spirit can turn bread and wine into flesh and blood. Logic tells us that the Eucharist is symbolic at best; whereas faith tells us that the Eucharist is transfiguring, it is literally partaking of that very sacrifice that the apostles partook of, creating this union, this synergy with God, this oneness between us and Him. And, this defies logic. So, what do we do? In the West, so often, we bow down to logic and ignore the faith necessary to believe the words of Scripture, the words of Jesus Himself. Like 21st century Eunomians, we deny anything that doesn’t make logical sense, we disbelieve anything that requires true faith in lieu of what our finite minds can comprehend.
Here we see the parable of the Sower. To those who hear by faith, this parable has such a deep lesson concerning the kingdom of heaven. The seeds which fall by the wayside are those who hear the words of God and are immediately filled with doubt and disbelief. Satan immediately makes them question everything that they see and hear, taste and smell. The words of faith are immediately removed before there is any chance of them ever taking root in the heart of the hearer. Often, they are blinded by “logic” and thus are unwilling to allow the words of faith to even take effect, they immediately cast the words aside as being nonsense. The seeds cast onto the rock seem to be most of the Western church. The hear the words and receive them with joy; they begin going to services, become a church member, even proclaimed themselves saved. But, it is a faith based on this one initial superficial emotional response. It is those who raise their hand during an altar call and “receive Christ” and yet do not open themselves up for a moment even for the Holy Spirit to work on changing their hearts. It is the one who calls themselves a Christian but are unwilling to cast aside any of their earthly cares, thus the moment temptation comes to them, having no foundation in the truth of the Church or her traditions, they walk away. They succumb to the temptations of carnal desires and leave the path of repentance and holiness, usually justifying it with statements like “once saved, always saved,” or, “I just want my own relationship with Jesus, I don’t need the Church.” And the further they distance themselves from the Church, the easier it becomes to fall away from the Church. The world becomes their church very quickly. The seeds which fall into the thorns are those who truly hear and receive the words of God, but are unable to cast aside earthly cares, concerns, pursuits. While they truly, fully believe in the words of God, and even the teachings of the Church, they are unable to cast them aside, to fully commit to the word of God. They very quickly find themselves trying to follow two masters, to chase after the things of the world while still abiding in the word of God, which Jesus teaches us is impossible to do. Ultimately, when the two come into conflict, you must choose one over the other, and someone not given to the ascetic life while inevitably choose the world over the Lord. They choose work over attendance in at the liturgy, they choose to indulge in sleeping over awakening to keep the hours of prayer, they choose the opinions of men over their faith in God. Rather than arriving late for an event, they determine that they don’t need to attend the Saturday vespers service; and eventually all of these cares of the world, these thorns, rob the seeds of faith of the nourishment that they need to grow. They may not fully fall away from the Church, but often become very lukewarm in their faith, finding joy in their belief but lacking the conviction to follow it.
The last of these is the good soil. It is he who receives the words of the Lord with gladness, who fully embrace it. It is he who has counted the cost, and found it worth it. It is the man who is willing to obey, to fully abide in the Lord, to sacrifice all for the sake of Christ. It is the man who chooses love, compassion, almsgiving, and thankfulness rather than personal pursuits. The man who fully embraces the asceticism that the Lord demands of all who would follow after Him, to truly “deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Me.” And, it is of these that the Lord speaks at the close of this passage when He states, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” May we all break up the fallow ground of our hearts, hardened by years of being in the world, and become this good soil that will allow the word of God to take root, to change us, to make us willing to sacrifice anything and everything that would come between us and the Lord. May we cling to the teachings of the Church and the words of the Holy Scripture and allow them to take root within us to help us to grow, by God’s grace, into the perfection of His holy likeness; becoming through His grace what He is through His essence. There are only two options given in Scripture, each of us has a Father, and we are either sons of the Lord, or sons of Satan. The goal of our life is to “hit the mark,” the target, and we must choose which target we are aiming towards. Anything that doesn’t make us more like Christ instead makes us more like Satan. May we all choose the aim of being more like Christ, and may the Lord lead us in this pursuit.
Christ is in our midst.