We are advised to take care of our heart, to watch our diet, to exercise, to undergo cardiovascular screening. But there is another heart, our spiritual heart. Jesus spoke often about our spiritual heart. Let us listen to some of what Jesus said about our heart:
This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me (Matt 15:8)
…the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile. (Matt 15:18)
…from the heart come evil thoughts. (Matt 15:19)
You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Matt 22:37)
Because of the hardness of your hearts. (Matt 19:8)
So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” (Matt 18:35)
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. (Matt 6:21)
Clearly according to Jesus following him begins in our heart and if our spiritual heart is unwell it hinders our response to Jesus.
What is the state of our heart? Is our heart open to receiving the words of Jesus or are we hard of heart and a source of grief to Jesus? We like to think of ourselves as good people and in that sense we are the fertile soil that received the seed and produced much fruit. But since none of us is yet a saint we each have areas in our heart that are in need of spiritual cardiac surgery. Let’s compare ourselves to the people in the parable to see where we stand.
The first type of person is this one:
The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. (Matt 13:19)
This seed unfortunately doesn’t even get a chance to sprout because it didn’t land on soil. There was a lack of understanding and the evil one stole away the word of God.
Do we ever reject part of the message of the Gospel because we do not understand it? Do we say we are Catholic but due to lack of understanding the faith also give support to contraception, same-sex marriage, abortion, embryonic stem cell research, pre-marital sex or a whole host of other issues where the Church’s teaching is not understood and we think we know better? There are reasons why the Church teaches what she does. Have we allowed prejudice or lack of understanding to prevent us from seeking to understand, and so reject part of the Gospel? Whenever we reject part of the message of the Gospel, to use the words of Jesus today, the evil one has stolen the word from our heart.
The second type of person is this one:
The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. (Matt 13:20-21)
This time the seed does get to sprout but when the cross comes – “tribulation or persecution” – we give up. Have we ever been moved at a parish mission or pilgrimage but did not continue to walk a new way with Jesus for some reason? Have we ever been moved in our heart by God through a good experience in Confession or at Mass or in private prayer but we quickly went back to our old way of life because we could not see beyond some temporary difficulty or disappointment?
The third type of person is this one:
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. (Matt 13:22)
It is “worldly anxiety and lure of riches” that this time hinder our hearts from being receptive to Jesus. Are there times when we are too busy to pray? Have we missed Mass because we were too busy or made up some other excuse? Are we too busy to read the Bible? Whenever we put “worldly anxiety and lure of riches” before God the word dies.
Finally the fourth type of person is this one:
….the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirty fold. (Matt 13:23)
Thanks be to God that we each in many ways hear the word, understand it and bear fruit.
There is some of each of these four types of person in us. We could be all four of these persons at once, or predominantly one of these types of person for a certain time of life. Let us do some cardiac surgery on our spiritual hearts so that misunderstanding and prejudice, or disappointment and the cross, or worldly anxiety and the lure of riches will not render our hearts infertile soil for the Jesus’ words, so that we do not grieve Jesus:
…the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirty fold. (Matt 13:23)