Beloved in Christ,
It is not easy to grow a garden. Anyone who has tried their hand at gardening knows how many things can go wrong. Plants need just the right amount of sunlight, just the right amount of water, and just the right kind of soil in order to grow. Even when all of these elements are in place and the plant has everything that it needs to flourish, plants take a long time to grow. The number one virtue that a gardener needs is patience.
Today's Gospel reading gives us the image of a man scattering seed throughout the countryside. As this man scatters, the seed falls on different kinds of soil. Jesus tells his Apostles that the seed represents the word of God, and the different kinds of soil represent the different kinds of people who hear the word of God.
Each person hears the word of God differently. Some receive the word of God with a hard heart that has been trampled on by the world, and so the Gospel never takes root in them. Others receive the word of God with a heart that is dried up and lacks the 'moisture' that comes through prayer. Still others receive the word of God with a heart that is preoccupied with the cares of distractions of this life.
You can see how many conditions prevent the seed of God's word from growing into the plant of a faithful Christian life. But even in the best of circumstances, growing in our faith takes time. Just like a growing a plant in a garden, growing in Christ takes daily work. This means that faith also requires patience.
What does it mean to be patient with ourselves? Growing in our faith means that we are willing to put in the effort to pray and to practice the virtues even if we do not see ourselves making progress day to day. A gardener would not do well if they gave up because their plant did not sprout on day one. Our progress in Christ happens not in a day or a week, but over the course of a lifetime.
It takes daily effort to break up the hardness of our hearts, tilling them like soil so that faith can take root in us. It takes daily effort to water and fertilize our hearts with prayer, Scripture, and the Sacraments so that the faith that has sprung up in us can continue to grow. It takes daily effort to weed the gardens of our hearts, removing the distractions and preoccupations that prevent faith from growing in us.
That daily effort finds its reward when we see our growth in Christ beginning to bear fruit. As God is patient with us, let us be patient with ourselves while faith is growing in us. Let us cultivate the soil of our heart, so that we can be like those who "hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience," (Luke 8:15).