Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Scatter the Seeds

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Memorial of Saint Timothy and Saint Titus, bishops

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Paul, a slave of God and Apostle of Jesus Christ for the sake of the faith of God’s chosen ones and the recognition of religious truth, in the hope of eternal life that God, who does not lie, promised before time began, who indeed at the proper time revealed his word in the proclamation with which I was entrusted by the command of God our savior, to Titus, my true child in our common faith: grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our savior. For this reason I left you in Crete so that you might set right what remains to be done and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you. (Titus 1:1-5)

On another occasion, Jesus began to teach by the sea. A very large crowd gathered around him so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down. And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land. And he taught them at length in parables, and in the course of his instruction he said to them, “Hear this! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain. And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.” (Mark 4:1-9)

Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations. (Psalm 96:3)

When I was younger and listened to this parable of the sower, I heard in it a question about what kind of person I am. Am I like the soil that doesn’t absorb the seed, leaving the seed vulnerable to birds or other predators? Am I so hard of heart or close-minded that God’s word can’t penetrate my innermost being? Am I like the rocky ground with a shallow layer of topsoil, where the seed sprouts but soon dies, because there isn’t depth for roots? Am I initially responsive to God’s word, but then prove unable or unwilling to follow him all the way? Am I like the soil that’s full of thorns and weeds, leaving no room for the seed to mature? Is my soul so choked with the ways of the world or sin, that there’s no room for God? Or am I like the fertile soil, where the seed grows and produces a great yield? Do I let God into my life and then live a life that reflects God’s work in me? When I was younger, I thought that every individual could be characterized as one of these types.

Nowadays, I don’t see it as so much an “either/or” scenario. I am not any one of these types, exclusive of the others. Depending on the hour and the circumstance, in one day I can be all of them. Sometimes I just don’t listen when God is speaking to me. Other times I am very receptive to opportunities God puts in my path, but somewhere along the line my enthusiasm peters out and I don’t follow through on my commitment. Sometimes I realize that I have turned my back on God and walked in another direction. And, thankfully, sometimes I am open to the Spirit working in me and that is reflected in my actions and relationships. Of course, I would like to be faithful all the time, but because we human beings are sinners, it just doesn’t work out like that!

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to see that this isn’t just a story about how receptive I am to God’s word or the Spirit’s work in me. It’s also a story about being a sower myself. When I am the rich, receptive soil Jesus talks about in the parable, I am expected to yield a great harvest. I take the seeds of love and redemption given to me in Christ and sow them in the lives of others. Being a sower can be challenging, tedious and sometimes unrewarding work. I may plant a seed and never know in my lifetime whether or not it germinates and grows. It may take a very long time to reap what I sow. Of course, in our culture we like instant results, so this can be frustrating. I may plant seeds and discover that they have fallen on hard, shallow or weed-choked soil and so come to naught. Some people are just not going to respond the way I would hope no matter how faithfully I sow God’s word. The amazing thing about Jesus, however, is that in spite of the many challenges to sowing, he never stops planting the seeds of love and forgiveness in our lives. As his followers, we are called to steadfastly do the same for others. How they respond is beyond our control. All we are asked to do is scatter the seed wherever we go.

Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Timothy and St. Titus, both close friends of St. Paul and instrumental in the formation of the early Christian Church. I’m sure they would both have stories to tell about their experiences as sowers and reapers. They planted the seeds of faith in Christ and nurtured the growth of communities of believers in places such as Corinth and Crete. They knew all about the challenges and frustrations of sowing but remained faithful to the task throughout their lives.

In Cursillo, we are acting as sowers when we make a friend, be a friend, and bring a friend to Christ. When was the last time you intentionally set out to do that? If it’s been a while, think about the many opportunities you have each week to sow the seeds of faith in this way, pick one, and act on it.