"The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. . . ." (Mark 4:14-15). Today's Gospel passage is Jesus' Parable of the Sower from Mark 4:1-20. Using the familiar imagery of planting seeds, Jesus describes the challenges we face in receiving and responding to his Gospel. In three of the four kinds of soil Jesus lists, the seeds don't grow. Satan comes and snatches away the word sown on the path (v. 15), trouble or persecution destroy the plants that sprang up in rocky soil without deep roots (v. 17), and "the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth" are like thorns that "come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing" (v. 19). Only in one patch of good soil does the seed bear fruit.
This passages seems particularly relevant to me as I reflect on our experience of the season of Lent together. Lent might be seen an opportunity to prepare good soil in our hearts: Those who take on additional spiritual practices for Lent build strength to help them persevere when trouble arises. Those who share more generously during this season practice detaching themselves from the thorns of money and possessions. And those who dedicate themselves to more intense prayer in this season will likely find the spiritual battle intensifying around them. We all want to become good soil, but if we're honest, we'll also admit that much more needs to be done to purify our hearts. Our Lenten practices might be used to that end, but they might also reveal to us that we're poorer soil than we'd thought.
With that in mind, I find hope in verse 11 of this passage, where Jesus says to his disciples, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God." The fact that Jesus is explaining the meaning of the parable to his disciples shows that he considers them to be good soil. And he doesn't credit their fruitfulness to anything they did. Jesus instead implies that they're understanding was a gift of grace: "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God." This Lent, let us confess and resist the things that make us poor soil, but let us also ask God for the gift of being transformed into good soil, not by our own works, but by his grace.
Grace and Peace,