Have you ever struggled with your faith?
Maybe you love God, but wonder why you don’t love Him more deeply and why that love does not seem to have a greater impact on your life. Maybe you are inspired by the lives of others you know who seem to be so much more deeply in love with Jesus, and you ask yourself, “Why am I not more like them?” “I wish I could pray like they do… I wish I could be involved like they are… I wish I had the knowledge they have.”
We are indeed blessed to have among us many holy and passionate souls who seek to do God’s will and whose love of Jesus is shown through how they love and treat others.
But we should remember that we are not all in the same place in our walk of faith. Conversion is not completed in a single moment. Conversion is a life-long, prayerful pursuit—a gift of faith, nourished by God’s grace, worked out in love.
If conversion is then, in part, a gift, who is the giver of this gift? The answer, of course, is God. Faith, itself, is a gift from God.
St. John of the Cross describes that first thought we ever had of God as God’s doing, not our own.
St. Josemaría Escrivá, the Saint of Ordinary Life, writes in Christ is Passing By, “It is Christ who pursues us lovingly: ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock.’”
St. Augustine famously wrote in his autobiography, Confessions, “Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”
The truth is, according to the Catechism, that although men and women are in search of God, God has first called each of us (CCC 2566-2567). Isn’t that a wonderfully reassuring thought?
So, how does God call us? How does He give us the gift of faith? For most of us, we first encountered the Risen Lord within the home. But, most fundamentally, God calls us through His word. And His Word does His will and achieves its end.
Isaiah, the prophet, describes the efficacy of the Word of God in terms of earthly signs (Isaiah 55:10-11) that we can understand. He writes of the rain and snow that come down from heaven nourishing the earth so that crops can grow and reproduce. In this way, human life is nourished and sustained. The rain and snow sent from heaven do the work and achieve the end for which it is sent. In the same way, Isaiah says, every word spoken by God will do the same.
This Word of God, about which Isaiah wrote, is not just a thing, the Word is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity and it… He became Flesh. His name is Jesus who came to do the will of the Father and that work will achieve its end.
In the story of the Sower and the Seed (Matthew 13:1-23), Jesus describes to the crowd how various people will receive His gift of Faith and respond to His invitation, but he does so in only in the form of a parable. But, to His apostles, He explains both the meaning of the parable and His reason for speaking in parables.
Jesus says that those who are open to God will understand the parables and to them, more will be given. But, those whose eyes and ears are closed to God will not understand and will instead be confused. So, He describes four different types of people who hear His Word.
And so, it may be helpful for us as we seek answers to reflect on this parable and consider, “What type of person, described by the Lord, am I?”
The Parable of the Sower
The Unbeliever—The seed sown on the path is the person whose eyes and ears are closed to God. They are not receptive to the Gospel, because their hearts are hardened. And so we ask… Have I allowed sin and pride to close the door of my heart against God?
The Shallow Person—The seed sown among the rocks is the person who is open to God, but who lacks the courage and perseverance to work out their salvation in fear and trembling, as St. Paul would say. A failure to nurture the gift of faith through prayer and the sacraments results in its loss when confronted by persecution or some other suffering. And so we ask… Am I a person of prayer? Do I faithfully celebrate the sacraments? Do I share the gospel with and minister to those God places in my life?
The Worldly Person—The seed sown among the thorns is a person open to God, but because of attachment to worldly riches, temptations, or worldly anxieties, faith does not grow and does not produce any fruit. And so we ask… Are my priorities correct? Am I more interested in the wonders of creation than in the Creator who made them? Do I think only or mostly about myself? Why do I think I will want to spend time with God in the life to come if I do not spend time with Him (in prayer) in this life?
The Believing Disciple—The seed sown on rich soil is a person who hears the Gospel with an open and receptive heart. This person understands the great treasure offered to them and embraces discipleship. And so we ask… Am I this person? Do I resist pride with humility? Am I truly committed to taking up my cross and following Jesus wherever He leads no matter the cost? Can I give everything back to Him and ask only for His love and my love of Him?
We all know in general terms what God requires of us. He requires our love of Him and our love of others. He has given us His Church in which to gather and grow as His family. Through worship at Holy Mass and receiving Him in Holy Communion, we are strengthened in faith, hope and charity. Through our prayer and virtuous good works, we cooperate with His grace and produce fruit.
May the Lord’s Gospel find in us much rich soil in which to take root, grow and produce fruit.
Into the deep…
Reflection on the Mass readings for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) — Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalms 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23 or 13:1-9.
Into the Deep by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is a regular feature of the The Integrated Catholic Life™.
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