15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

     I’d like to think I have many skills and talents, but taking care of plants is simply not one of them. I’m not sure why. I can take care of a dog, I can take care of a goldfish, I can even take care of a human, but when it comes to a plant, they just always seem to die. My inability to keep plants alive has become a running joke amongst some of my friends. As a matter of fact, a few years ago, some of my friends gave me a cactus as a gift and I promptly gave it away because I would not be able to live with myself if I killed a cactus.

     I don’t know what it is. I can’t get plants to grow, they always seem to die. It doesn’t make sense. I grew up around plants, my dad loves to grow orchids, which I understand are difficult to grow. Some Sunday’s I’ll go home and our kitchen table will be filled these orchids and it looks like dad is doing a science experiment. He’s measuring all kinds of stuff in the soil. It looks like he belongs in a science lab not in our kitchen just trying to grow some plants. As I have watched him over the years I’ve come to realize you can do most things right; you can give the plant enough sun, water, and I guess you can even talk to the plant, but unless the soil is good, that will plant will end up dead very quickly.

     The same is true in our own spiritual lives and that is what Jesus is getting at in today’s Gospel. You see, from the moment we were baptized, that seed of faith was placed within us. From the moment of our baptism, we were given everything we needed to cooperate with God’s grace to achieve salvation. But are we prepared to receive it. We gather here at church and that is good. God has graces He wants to shower upon us, but are we prepared to receive them. The soil of our soil has to be ready to receive what God is trying to give us and that is our part. It is never the case that God doesn’t give us what we need, the problem is that sometimes we are not ready to receive what He has to give us.

     We all want that gift of faith and there comes times in our life, when we need to fall back on that gift of faith, but it is not going to just kick in because we need it. No, it needs time to grow and if that soil of our soul is not ready to receive the gifts that God has for us, well, we hear in today’s gospel what happens; it withers and dies. The first step then in realizing how we are supposed be prepared to receive what God has to offer us is to stop and to acknowledge where we are at.

     Isn’t it true that the way you treat a plant through the course of its life changes as it matures? When you first plant that seed you don’t want to give it too much water or you will drown it out. It takes a certain level of nurture and care in the early stages and then as that plant grows up it requires a different type of care and when it is finally fully grown, at times you have to prune it and cut it back. They type of care that plant receives depends on the state it is in. The same is true in our own faith journeys. If we are not going to church at all it is crazy to say you are going to pray for 3 hours every single day. If we find ourselves able to make it to Mass every Sunday I think we have to ask how we can more fully participate. Maybe it means we need to show up a few minutes early so I we are prepared to receive what God wants to give us. Maybe it means opening the scriptures during the week to prepare for what will be proclaimed at Mass on Sunday. Whatever it is, we have to make sure we are tilling the soil of our souls.

     After we look inwardly we then have to look outwardly to some external markers. We are told in today’s Gospel that the seed which falls on the rich soil will produce fruit. Jesus tells us elsewhere in the scriptures “by there fruit you will know them.”[1]

     What about us? It is so easy just to think faith is about me alone. If the faith is truly alive in us, if that soil is truly fertile it will be shared with others. Maybe it will be shared with your children, other family members, or friends. I don’t think we can actually say we have fertile soil until we reach the point of becoming what I call spiritual grandmother or grandfather. Think about it. It starts with us. Somebody led us to the gift of faith; someone introduced us to Jesus Christ. God willing, we have spent years tilling the soil of our soul; we have come to know Him, we have come to believe Him, we have come to follow Him. Then the next step is to hand that on to someone else. To invite someone else to come to know Jesus. As they come to know Him, they come to believe Him, they come to follow Him, and they hand the message of Jesus on to someone else. Fruit has no reproduced over and over again.

     Today’s gospel is a chance just for us to stop for a moment in the midst of the summer and ask ourselves, what is the status of the soil of my soul. We know that God has given us the gift of faith. We know that God gives us everything we need for that gift of faith to be nourished. The question for us is where are we, what type of soil do we have and then what type of treatment does that soil need so that when we leave here we can be truly nourished.

     Each and everyone of us is in a different place which is why each and everyone of us needs to make that honest assessment. What is it? Is there something getting in the way that is chocking that seed of faith. Are there somethings I need to do to prepare a little better. What is the status of the soil of your soul and how is the gift of faith taking root in your life.

[1] Matthew 7:16

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