Ah, the parable of instant oatmeal. Jesus made it quick, because He knew that everyone has a short attention span.
So he told the parable about how God makes us holy like we make instant oatmeal: Packet, bowl, hot water. Badda bing, badda boom.
Wait. What? The Lord never told a parable of instant oatmeal? The parable concerns seeds and soil and farming?
What does He think? That this is some kind of agrarian society?
Does He honestly believe that we are going to wait patiently through the glacial pace of farming? Wait for seeds to germinate, grow, sprout, and grow some more? Does He think that we will sit still through hundreds of news cycles?
Really. For one seed to produce fruit a hundred- or even thirtyfold—that is going to take a long time. All our computers and smartphones will fall into obsolescence. My facebook status will say, “Waiting on God.” “Waiting on God.” “Waiting on God.” Everyone will de-friend me out of boredom.
Seriously, though. You know what? Let’s stop and thank our lucky stars that this story of the sower is a parable. If it were an account of Almighty God’s skill as a planter…Well, He scattered seed on a path, on rocky ground, around a thornbush…
But, thank God, it is a parable. We need not conclude that God scatters His seed in a scattershot fashion. No. He knows what He does. He scatters the seed of truth far and wide, in every human soul. Then He makes the rain fall on the just and the unjust.
The parables of Christ do not teach double predestination. God wills that every seed would bear fruit. He provides the grace necessary to get everyone to heaven. He shed His blood for all.
No one is predestined to hell. I am free to choose for God or against Him. If I get pecked up by a bird, or scorched from lack of roots, or choked by weeds, I myself will bear the blame. It will be because of my bad choices.
Can we doubt that the parable of the sower teaches patience? What makes the rich soil rich? As opposed to the rocky soil, or the weed-choked soil? The rich soil courses with moisture and nutrients, down deep in its welcoming embrace. The rich soil waits calmly, ready to receive the little seed into itself.
Perhaps most importantly of all, when the rich soil receives the seed, it does not worry about being depleted.
Now, let’s not slip into crass anthropomorphism here. Soil does not possess any mental capacity. Soil cannot attain the virtues of patience or generosity or spiritual foresight. What I am saying is that, for us, being patiently and generously receptive of the truth will pay off in the long run.
The truth can be hard sometimes. Perhaps it stings a little bit going down. Perhaps it costs me something to admit the truth to myself. But if I take the truth in; if I give myself to it; if I go so far as to allow it to begin to deplete me, I can be sure that in the long run I will be rejuvenated.
If “I”—my ego, my voracious appetites, my ridiculous conceits—if all this is depleted by Christ’s truth coming into my soul, like soil depleted by a bumper crop—well, so much the better. Christ will not leave me windswept and desolate; He will not turn our souls into a big Dust Bowl.
To the contrary, for every molecule of my substance that I contribute to the growth of the truth of Christ, one hundred times as many rich, organic molecules will settle back into me eventually.
It is all just a matter of patience. The seed of God’s word fructifies at its own pace. We cannot get on the drive-thru line to get to heaven. We have to find a way to hang tight. We have to live regular, orderly, repetitive lives, like farmers, following our spiritual routines on the bad days and the good.
A good farmer works hard through the livelong day; he relaxes in a good way when the day’s work is done; he sleeps soundly with a clear conscience. Before he knows it, a year goes by, then another, then a week of growing seasons has rolled by, his kids have all gotten old enough to drive the tractor, and his silos are full.
Same with us: For spiritual growth, we need daily prayer, spiritual reading, Mass, frequent Confession. We need to seek always the kinder, gentler, more honest, and more faithful way to behave towards everyone we know.
If we do this for a few short decades…well, we just might wind up halfway ready for heaven.