Hear this! A sower went out to sow. –Mark 4:3
We are in the midst of winter and I have recently received my favorite catalog from a rose grower. I love growing roses and have about eight bushes that I tend. I hope to add a couple more this spring. Digging in the dirt, pruning, mulching, feeding are all a part of nurturing a healthy bush. I look forward to the middle or end of February when it is time to prune back the bushes. March and April is time to feed the roses to bring them out of their winter slumber. If I have done those things correctly and the weather cooperates the blooming will begin its cycles. So much of rose gardening depends on these things. And when it all comes together the fruit of my labor are beautiful roses to share with my friends.
The Gospel for today is also about planting, pruning, feeding and nurturing. The parable of the Sower is more than about working the dirt. It is about caring for our soul. How do I nurture my soul? What do I plant? What do I prune away? How do I feed my soul? Just as a rose bush or most plants have cycles of growth, blooming and dormancy so do our souls. Jesus relates the seed the sower sows to the Word of God. The Word the Sacred Scriptures are a great source of food for our souls. In the Benedictine tradition, feeding on the Word of God is called Lectio Divina. This is taking time to read a scripture passage thoughtfully. This can be one from the daily readings or of your choosing. As you read the passage is there a word or phrase that catches your attention? Read it again. What word or phrase catches your attention? Read it a third time and then hold on to one word. Let it soak in like a gentle rain. This is feeding or nurturing your soul. This may also be done with music lyrics or instrumental music. Spiritual reading is another way to feed the soul. It takes me a while to get through a book I choose for spiritual reading because I stop when something catches my attention and I ponder that for a day or two before returning to the book I am reading.
Pruning the soul may not be as pleasant as feeding the soul but just as important. Cutting away or cutting out the dead rotting parts changes us just as it changes the shape of the bush. This soul pruning can be through Reconciliation, prayer, fasting and almsgiving. This also allows us to continue to grow into the person that God has created us to be. Resting is also part of the growing process. Taking time to rest our bodies in quiet or taking in nature in a gentle walk is good for the soul as well.
Jesus is the Master Gardener and taking time with him allows us to grow closer to him. Doing our soul work allows us to prepare ourselves for the Word of God to be planted in our hearts.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on . . . -Mark 4:3
Linda Schork is a theology teacher at Saint Xavier High School in Louisville, Kentucky.