Do you ever wonder why it is that some people believe in God and take the practice of their religion seriously and others don’t? How is it that some people are converted and others aren’t? Why did I come back to my faith at 19 and many of my friends did not? Why did so many people listen to Jesus when he preached? Nobody knew who he was and he had no education to boast about and yet he gathered a huge following of people wherever he went. You could say that it was because he was the Son of God; but nobody knew he was at the time. I am sure it was because he was preaching the truth and people’s spirits recognized this, because all of us are searching for the truth; the truth about God and the truth about life and we instinctively recognize it when we hear it.
Truth is attractive to us and it pierces right to the heart, so that when we hear it we want to hear more of it, even though it may be difficult or painful for us to hear. Our faith is about a search for this truth, which has been revealed to us by Jesus Christ. That’s why we keep struggling with it, even though it can be a bit up-hill at the best of times, but it is too important to ignore, and deep down, we all know that. People flocked to hear Mother Theresa whenever she spoke. They say that even his critics listened to Pope John Paul II, because they recognized that he spoke the truth, even if they didn’t like it.
In today’s parable Jesus is teaching us two things about religion. First of all, that it is a part of life that some people will hear about God and ignore it, or become preoccupied with something else, or not like the idea that it means you might have to suffer for it. Only a few will actually hear it and really grow because of it, as God intended. Those who do are generally in the minority, but the other thing is that, the rich soil that he talks about, which bears fruit, doesn’t happen by itself. In other words, it is not just fate whether we will be open to believe or not, we have a part to play in it. Rich soil only comes about with hard work and a lot of care; preparing the ground, getting rid of the weeds and stones. If the word of God is to grow in us, we have to make some effort to be ready for it and help it to grow. We are not going to grow in faith just by watching television. Jesus says, ‘Try to enter by the narrow gate. For the road that leads to hell is wide and spacious, but the road that leads to life is narrow.’ It may not be the most attractive road, but it is the most worthwhile one. If we want our relationship with God to grow, we must make it happen, by taking time to develop our faith, through prayer, reading the Scriptures, listening to God. It won’t happen without giving it time, a certain amount of time every day and there is always time, because we always give time to what is important to us. Would you expect a relationship with someone to grow without giving it any time? Of course not, and faith is no different.
I think we also have to be careful that we don’t come to the church with the mindset of ‘What will they have on for us today?’ Our coming to the mass each week is a combination of worshipping God, as God commands us to, searching for God and trying to hear what God is saying to us. Ultimately, we get to receive the Body and Blood of Christ reminding us of how close the Lord wants to be to us.
Every so often when I want to go to confession I have found myself before a priest who I don’t like, but I have no other option unless I want to put it off for another time. But that is when I try to remind myself that it is God’s grace and mercy I am seeking, even if the particular priest I find myself with is not who I would choose. I think that is also a good approach to the mass. It is important that we find ourselves a church which helps us to grow, but we also need to remind ourselves what it is we come for. It is not a form of religious entertainment, but our coming before God. It is better to go to a church that helps you to grow, even if it is not your own parish.
God has given us free will, and He wants us to use it intelligently. Our future is not already set out for us, we have a major part to play in it. That is why God does not reveal the future to us and that is also why the Scriptures tell us it is wrong to go to fortune tellers and psychics, because it is only for God to know the future and also because they can mislead us and influence us into making decisions for the wrong reasons. God could give us the information we need much more accurately than any fortune teller, but He doesn’t, because we don’t need to know the future and God wants us to be able to make decisions about our life, freely.
The Lord is constantly throwing out seed on the ground. He continually invites us to follow him, no matter what stage of life we’re at and it’s never too late to start again. God will continue to call to us to follow the path of faith, until we die. The invitation remains, but the choice is ours.