Stony Ground

by Rev. Canon Stewart Murray

This article appears in the April issue of Crosstalk, the newspaper of the Diocese of Ottawa

On the surface the parables of Jesus are simple stories often drawn from the popular stories or everyday events of 1st-century Israel. They have the potential, however, to draw you into a conversation with the theme of the parable that can open up a deeper encounter with Jesus. I have been engaged in such a conversation with the parable of the Sower from the Gospels of St. Matthew 13:1-23 and Luke 8:1-15. I have always had an affinity with this story, perhaps because I am a gardener and have been a keen seed saver at times. I know some of the challenges of working to save seed from one season to the next and of the importance of soil preparation in a successful garden. The only element missing in the story is squirrels and chipmunks that along with the ‘fowls of the air’ devour my garden! In my conversation with the parable I am invited to ask: what kind of soil is my life? I like to think that I am the fertile/good ground open and ready to receive the word of God and to bear fruit a hundredfold , and I have no doubt there are times when this is true. But when I am honest with myself, I realize that is not the reality of my life. Often the word of God, the prompting of the Holy Spirit, falls by the wayside because I do not listen. At times, I am like the stony ground, open to listen but failing to act when the way forward is difficult. More often for me it is the thorns that spring up, cares and pleasures that crowd out the voice of the Holy Spirit. The question is, how do I become the more fertile/good ground that I desire to be? The image of the stony ground points us to some answers to that question. If our hearts and imaginations are hardened by anger or resentments towards our neighbour or by some situation in our lives, there is no room for the Word. To live the words of the Lord’s Prayer – “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us” – is the first step in breaking up our stony hearts. To further prepare the soil of our hearts we can add the richness of a spirit of thanksgiving to our lives. Giving thanks on a daily basis to God for all His blessings, for life, health, work, leisure, for the love of family and friends gives us an awareness of God’s goodness in the midst of our often turbulent lives. Rediscovering the Word in Scripture can open our hearts and imaginations to the desire of the living God to be in relationship with each of us. Committing ourselves to joining regularly with our brothers and sisters in our Parish community to share in the celebration of the Eucharist is also important – for in sharing in the Eucharist, we might be renewed by the gifts of Grace poured out for each of us each time we receive Jesus in Holy Communion. Finally, creating even small periods of time in our daily routines to be still and simply be in the presence of Christ, listening for His voice in the midst of all the voices that surround us each day, like “thorns that spring up and choke the word”, is essential. I find it helpful to always remember that God longs for us to be in fellowship with Him, so even our weakest attempts at reaching out to Him will be richly rewarded. The cross is a constant reminder of God's arms outstretched to embrace all of His creation. Let us pray that each of us and our parishes will bear much fruit to feed a world hungry for hope, love, mercy and forgiveness.