The Soil of Our Souls

If you’re like me, you probably can’t even count the number of times you’ve heard or read today’s Gospel, Mark’s version of the sower and the seed. That familiarity with the parable puts us in a polar opposite situation with the Twelve Apostles. “We get it, we get it. Good soil — fruit; bad soil — withered,” our minds might be saying, not understanding how or why Jesus’ closest followers had to ask him what the story meant.

Yet, Jesus’ response to us, I think, would be exactly the same as it was to his disciples. To paraphrase: “Don’t you get it? If you don’t get it here, how will you get any of my teaching?” Because responding out of familiarity, “We get it” seems to be just what he’s warning against. We think we know, so we let the teaching get snatched away, or let it wither, or let it get choked by other worldly concerns, including our own arrogance that “We get it.”

Looking at it like that made me realize, while the four types of soil can be seen as four types of people, four types of hearts our Lord is looking to penetrate, they also can be seen as four varying stages in our own hearts and our own faith journeys. Anyone who has ever been to a retreat, Cursillo, spiritual conference or other faith-filled event can’t help but leave it thanking God for how much they have been moved and changed and enlivened. God forbid on the drive home we see a broken-down car on the side of the road or a homeless person panhandling on the corner and we give them no thought at all. Or someone cuts us off and we’re quick to scream loudly. Fertile ground and a rocky path, right there in the same heart.

The key, Jesus tells us, is hearing the word and accepting it. In the context of the parable, the seed is sown in the soil of our souls. Accepting it, then, is the tending of that seed and that soil, becoming our own gardeners to make sure that seed bears fruit that is thirty or sixty or a hundredfold. We have to have an active role in the process, the accepting, the nurturing, the cultivating, developing and sharing of that which has been given to us.

Paul reminds us in his salutations to Timothy and Titus how the seed sown by Jesus is planted in us today, 2,000 years later. “Timothy, my dear child,” he says, and “Titus, my true child in our common faith.” Faith is handed down to us in close, personal relationship. Our parents, priests, teachers, catechists, spiritual directors; the writings of saints baring their souls; the epistles and Gospels and prophets and psalms. With the Holy Spirit’s help, these personal connections transmit the love of God through our Lord Jesus Christ down through time and space to our very souls. Now it is up to us to tend the soil of our souls, to accept the seed planted there and make it bear much fruit. And what do you do when you have fruit, abundant and overflowing? You give it to others.

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Mike Karpus is a regular guy. He grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, graduated from Michigan State University and works as an editor. He is married to a Catholic school principal, raised two daughters who became Catholic school teachers at points in their careers, and now relishes his two grandchildren, including the 3-year-old who teaches him what the colors of Father’s chasubles mean. He has served on a Catholic School board, a pastoral council and a parish stewardship committee. He currently is a lector at Mass, a Knight of Columbus, Adult Faith Formation Committee member and a board member of the local Habitat for Humanity organization. But mostly he’s a regular guy.

Feature Image Credit: Joshua Lanzarini,