Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Matthew 13:1–9
I am an amateur gardener. And by an amateur, I mean I buy beautiful plants, do nothing but water them, hope for the best, and when they die, I buy new ones to start the process again.
Therefore, you can imagine how I felt when I brought one of my potted plants back from the brink of death. Only a few days ago, it was in a pathetic state. It hadn’t flowered since I bought it, and its leaves were dying. While I would usually resign myself to yet another gardening failure, I decided to try to bring about revival this time. Placing the plant in a larger pot, I surrounded it with new soil and pruned away its dead parts. Today, it is full of green leaves and small, beautiful pink flowers. I finally learned that a plant can only thrive in healthy soil, the same lesson Jesus uses to call us deeper in this week’s gospel.
In Matthew 13:1–9, Jesus told the crowds a parable, a story meant to teach a spiritual lesson, using the images of a sower, seed, and soil.
He explained that a sower sowed the seed, which fell on four different types of ground. Some seeds fell on the path where birds came and ate them. Some fell on rocky soil where they could not take root and were quickly scorched by the sun. Some seeds fell where thorns eventually choked the growth, and the crops failed to produce fruit. Finally, some seeds fell on good soil, where they thrived, producing abundant fruit.
A few verses later in Matthew 13:18–23, Jesus revealed that the seed represents the Word of God, and each of the four soils represents four states of the human heart.
The path represents a hardened heart. A woman with a hardened heart is closed off from receiving God’s Word. The enemy then uses this opportunity to cause misunderstanding and confusion.
The rocky soil represents a shallow heart. Christianity sounds nice to a woman with a shallow heart, and she happily accepts the message until life gets hard or a “better” message comes along.
The thorny soil represents a divided heart. The worries of the modern age and the glamor of materialism crowd the heart and keep God’s Word from producing lasting change in that woman’s life.
The good soil represents an open heart. This woman receives God’s Word and allows it to take root and grow. It grows to maturity and produces a lasting change in and through her.
I pray you do not read this, diagnose your heart, and either condemn or congratulate yourself. Each of us will experience hardened, shallow, or divided hearts. We will also have moments of extraordinary grace and openness to God. He will cause glorious transformation in and through us. The spiritual life is not linear. It is often a game of two steps forward and one step back.
Instead, I hope to heed from this parable the timeless warning that the Lord gave us in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flow the springs of life.”
Your heart matters. Just as a plant’s growth depends on the soil’s health, the growth of your faith depends on the health of your heart.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church beautifully explains, “The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live… the heart is the place 'to which I withdraw.' The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.”
Do not neglect your heart. I believe the devil’s tactic for derailing a woman of faith is to distract her so much that she ignores her heart. While she is busy with other things, he invades her heart with lies that take root and crowd out God’s Word in her life.
I have seen him do it in my own life.
He feeds me the narrative that I am everyone else’s martyr. No one understands me; everything is up to me. Those messages lodge in my heart; resentment and unforgiveness make a home, hardening what was once soft.
He hypnotizes me with false images of perfect families and beautiful homes. Believing that God is making everyone else’s life easy, I expect Him to do the same for me. God works for me as long as things are good, but the moment I receive a cross, my fidelity wanes.
He convinces me that if I worry about the future, somehow, I will have more control over it. And the more money I have, the more autonomy I will have to exercise that control. Slowly but surely, I become trapped in my worry and materialism.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you are a woman who loves God, but you have neglected the state of your heart for a long time. Take a moment to take stock. What has grown there? Where has your heart become hardened, shallow, divided? Why? Where are you afraid to allow God’s Word to increase deep in your heart? What would you have to give up? What would be the cost? Is it worth it? Where is your heart divided, and what are you seeking to gain in service of those other idols?
Ask the Lord to show you what is truly happening in your heart. Ask Him to come in, clear the overgrowth, and cultivate new life. He will enter and clean it up, but He won’t do it without your consent, and it won’t be effective without your participation. He may ask you to forgive long-time grudges. He may ask you to pick up a cross or lay down an idol. He may ask you to find the help you need to heal from past events and traumas. If He does, say yes, because He loves you enough to clear out your heart so that His Word can thrive and take effect in your life.
Food for thought or journaling…
Take a moment to pay attention to the movements of your heart and write about one thing you would like the Lord to remove. How is He asking you to participate in that removal?
Dear Lord, I am committing to pay attention to my heart. Please show me what You want to clear away. I give You permission to do so and ask You to create the conditions that will allow my faith to thrive. Amen.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd edition (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2012), #2563.