The Gospel is a familiar passage about the sower and the travails of growing things in difficult soils. I used to view this story as a rather immutable judgment about different kinds of people. This painted a rather dire picture. If we look honestly at the course of our own lives, we know that sometimes the fruit is bitter and not so desirable, and few can claim complete triumph over weeds that creep in to our fields. I have come to understand that any of us can experience each of these conditions in the parable from time to time. And we also need to remember that God can break up rock, provide water, and even apply herbicide on the thorns; despite these conditions, it is still possible to break free and be fruitful.
As I write this reflection, I think today was one of those days when the soil of my heart was being tilled. Did you ever find yourself grumbling about various problems, indignities, and struggles of life, all of which interfered with your own plans for the day? Compounding my consternation, we were short staffed and I had to hand deliver materials to colleagues in the medical complex on the other side of campus. I felt pressed for time, other demands were going wanting, plus the day was snowy and cold and I did not particularly like hospitals. But I trekked out on my mission, intent on getting this unpleasant task done and resuming my own agenda. To borrow the metaphor, I would pull this “weed” and get on with something productive!
This little unwanted journey took me through areas where I usually do not go, and I began to see things I do not usually see. I encountered a woman standing outside one of the clinics. Her tear-stained cheeks revealed that she was obviously dealing with something serious. In the waiting room, I saw children with medical needs and their parents with them, dealing with worry and powerlessness. And I also saw some good people trying to help them. Suddenly my own agenda did not seem quite so important. I was grateful for that unwanted gift of the delivery task.
I often resist exposure to the suffering of others. Yet somehow that exposure is needed to remind us of our common humanity and our common need for grace. Grace sometimes comes to us in our suffering, but sometimes suffering even brings grace to others in ways we do not understand. It made me think anew about this parable, causing me to realize that the good soil we need is not always where we think it might be, and the “weeds” we sometimes want so desperately to cut away may in reality be herbs that we need to heal us.
Today let us express our gratitude for those who help to transmit gifts of life, faith, and hope. And may God open our eyes to see Him working in our midst.
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