07 - The Sower and His Seed, Oct 16, 2011

II Corinthians 9:6-11

Luke 8:5-15

“To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God,” the Savior says to his disciples when they ask Him the meaning of His parable; and so He also is saying to us if we are among His disciples. If, that is to say, we are not like those of old Israel who drew near to God with their lips while their hearts were far from Him. If, that is to say, we have received Christ and so have become children of God and, in obedience to His command, have taken up our cross in repentance that we may draw near to Him in the fear of God, with faith and love, and gain eternal life from our union with Him in the mysteries of His death and Holy Resurrection. But if like those of old Israel, we draw near to God with our lips while our hearts are far from Him, then to us the mysteries of the Kingdom of God are given in parables.

They are given to us. They are not kept from us, for God is gracious and causes His sun to shine on the just and the unjust. But, they are given to us in parables, in veiled form; because, if we draw near to God only with our mouths while our hearts are far from Him, then our hearts are near to something else, and they are closed to Him. There is a stone that we have rolled over the opening of our heart to seal it from the light as though we love the darkness more than the light. In the darkness, we give our hearts to the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. We live for the comfort of our bodies and the vainglory of our ego. In this, we make these things to be our gods. But, these are false gods. They are idols. The Psalmist says: “Idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have eyes but they do not see. They have ears but do not hear” because they are not alive nor do they give life. So also are the idols we worship today: money, vainglory, greed, the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.  They have an energy about them. They appear to have life, but it is a corruptible energy and a corruptible life that comes from the dust of the ground and returns to the dust of the ground. “Those who make these idols are like them,” says the Psalmist. “So are all who trust in them.” They are dead. They are spiritual corpses. Even though they are breathing, walking and talking in the flesh, their eyes see, but they do not see, their ears hear but they do not hear the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, even when they are looking right at them, even when they are standing in the middle of the Church where the mysteries of the Kingdom of God have been made audible and visible in the Holy Incarnation of the Word of God who became flesh and dwelt among us.

There are at least two lessons to be learned in these words of the Lord to His disciples: “The mysteries of the Kingdom of God are given to others so that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.” The first lesson is this: how we receive the teachings of the Savior, Jesus Christ, reveals to us if we are dead or alive in the Spirit. But, the second lesson is this: we make ourselves blind, we make ourselves deaf, we make ourselves like corpses that are dead, indifferent, to the light of the Gospel that is shining in the darkness of our souls by the choices we make, by what we choose to live for. By the choices we make, our soul becomes shallow or rocky or hard or soft. And this lesson teaches us that even though we are spiritually dead, the image of God has not been erased in us. In that image, we have the freedom to repent. If we want to, we can turn our mind and our heart toward the light that is shining in the darkness. Then the stone is rolled away from the opening of our heart. Our heart is transfigured from a tomb into a bridal chamber. As we unite ourselves to Christ in the likeness of His death and put the old man in us to death and bury it in the ground of our soul, we come upon the seed that was sown in our hearts by the Sower in the mysteries of His Incarnation and of His Holy Pascha. And when we choose to keep our mind turned to the light in the ascetic disciplines of repentance, then the ground of our heart, even though it may be stony or shallow or hard, is broken up slowly, bit by bit and is made soft and deep. Through patience and diligence, if we take up the Cross of Christ like a garden hoe to dig out the weeds that have grown up in our soul from our sins and transgressions, the ground of our soul becomes soft. The ascetic disciplines of the Church, fasting, prayer, obedience to Christ’s commandments – these are the Cross that we take up – these have the effect of aerating the ground of our soul. That is to say, they open the soul to the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who softens and warms the heart and breathes life into the corpse of our soul so that it begins to stir and to feel again, to see again, to hear again.

Among the initial indications that the Holy Spirit is raising us from death to life in the glory of Christ’s Holy Resurrection is what the holy fathers call a sweet sorrow, the grief of contrition that gives birth to joy that tinctures the soul like a radiant beam of light. In the joy of this light, the eyes of the heart begin to see how one has wasted one’s life in laziness with regard to spiritual things, and how one has been inexcusably blind and deaf to the mysteries of the Kingdom of God because of misdirected love, because of idolatry, giving one’s energy to things that are perishable and empty, money, vainglory, the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. But in the opening of the eyes that comes through repentance, one sees in the light of Christ’s Holy Resurrection the inexpressible compassion of God; how He has not dealt with us as we have sinned; He has not given us over unto death, but He has waited patiently for our conversion. The vision of God’s infinite compassion, even if it is only a glimpse, is enough to soften the ground of the soul so that it can release holy tears of sorrow and contrition like an underground spring welling up to the surface, bathing the soul in a sacred warmth as though one has stepped out of shadow and into the sun. In the light of that sweet sorrow, one sees that there has been sown beneath the ground of our soul, in the tomb of our heart where we once lay as a corpse with eyes that see not and ears that hear not, there has been sown in the tomb of our heart the Seed of the Word of God Himself, Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen God, the Light that was in the beginning, who called all things out of the darkness of the empty void and into the Light of existence by the Word of His command, the Light who shines in the darkness of the world, even the darkness of our own soul, the Light in whom is the Life that is the Light of men. He became flesh, He became visible so that we could see Him. He became audible so that we could hear Him. He is even now visible and audible in His Holy Church, His crucified and risen body in the holy icons: in the preaching and teaching of the Church, in her creed, in the dogmas of her holy ecumenical councils, in the beauty of her divine liturgical worship. And, from the sanctuary of Christ’s Holy Church as from the tomb of our heart that He has transformed into a bridal chamber, as the Seed of the Father that has been sown by the Spirit in the depths of our soul, Christ is calling out to each one of us to come out of the darkness of our idolatry, to turn away from the idols that are in the world in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, that are empty, that have no life in them, and to take up our Cross in order to follow Him into the tomb of His Holy Pascha, to crucify the old man in us and put our death to death, and to join the joyous procession that follows Him out of the tomb as from a bridal chamber into the Light of His own glory and virtue, and to become partakers, communicants of His own divine nature, so that it is He who abides in us, making our darkness light, so that it is He who lives in us and clothes us in His Robe of Light as sons and daughters of God.

Beloved faithful, we have found the true Faith, we have seen the True Light, we have received the Heavenly Spirit. In the fear of God, with faith and love, let us be resolved to take up our Cross and to follow after Christ, to follow no more after the world, no more after the light of the wisdom of our own opinion. Let us be resolved to do the work of faith, the work of the Cross: to put the old man in us to death. We can begin by putting to death this effort of the old man to make the Church to be but one activity among many others that we do during the week, if it’s convenient and if it doesn’t get in the way of some worldly activity that we’d rather do. Let us rather identify ourselves with the seed of the new man, the seed of the risen body of light that has been sown in us by the Spirit of the Living God, and let us put our trust in the Church, the crucified and risen body of Christ, and make her the anchor, the center of our life. In the fear of God, with faith and love for God, let us work to fold our worldly life into the life of the Church so that the life of Christ’s Holy Resurrection becomes our inner life that we are living in our secret heart every day, every hour and every moment. Amen.