The Twenty-First Sunday After Pentecost

Photo: A.Pospelov/Pravoslavie.ru Photo: A.Pospelov/Pravoslavie.ru
    

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Although it is difficult to be a Christian, it can never be said that it is complicated. If we look at all the philosophies and religions of the world, Christianity is by far the simplest. Even all four records of the words of Christ its Founder can be written down in less than one hundred pages. And the contents of those pages are very simple. Often, for instance, Christ speaks in parables, in very simple words, using images of a shepherd, a king, a fisherman, a poor man, a rich man or a vineyard-owner. Each of these parables expresses in a few lines ideas which it would take whole books to explain in the words of the learned.

Thus today's Gospel is the parable of the sower who went out to sow seed, the Word of God. In it we notice how of the four groups of people who were granted the Word of Life by Christ the sower, only one group actually received it.

The first seed fell by the wayside, it was downtrodden and eaten by 'the fowl of the air'. By 'the fowl of the air' we do not understand the birds, but the demons who inhabit the airs. They are able to 'devour' the Word of God from people's hearts, because their hearts are hard and they tread down the seed of God. The demons can do nothing if we do not first allow them to do what they want.

The second seed fell on rock and failed to germinate and develop roots because there was no moisture. Such seed fails to develop among people whose interest in the things of God is merely superficial, for whom the Faith is just a hobby, a fad. They flare up with emotional excitement but are unable to feed and nourish the Holy Spirit. Their enthusiasm does not turn into faith, because at the first temptation, at the first difficulty, they fall away.

The third seed falls among thorns, Thorns are the weeds of the passions, the cares of this world, with all its riches and pleasures. Those whose souls are choked with such cares can never bring their faith to perfection, it remains undeveloped. Their faith is never a priority and they mix it in with their cares and pleasures.

What are we to do, how are we to avoid falling into one of these three categories of people who never cultivate the seed of God?

The answer is given in today's Gospel in twelve simple words:

First of all, so that the seed of God does not fall by the wayside and may not be downtrodden or devoured by the demons, we must have an 'honest and good heart'. We must not be hard. We must not make dishonest excuses for our failings, we must not do evil, we must be honest and good in our hearts. This is called Christianity.

Secondly, so that we do not fall into careless excitement, we must cultivate the seed of God, giving moisture to it, so that it puts out roots and develops, in other words, we must 'keep the word', by obeying the commandments. This is called Orthodox Christianity.

Finally, so that the seed of God is not choked with the thorns and weeds of our passions, we must 'bring forth fruit with patience'. We cannot expect sudden and astonishing progress, with our many worldly cares. We have to be patient and persevere, making what at first may only be a mere interest into our priority and living it as a way of life. This is called salvation.

Thus today Christ gives us not learned volumes of complicated instructions to live by, but three simple rules for salvation:

Have an 'honest and good heart'.

Keep the word.

Bring forth fruit with patience.

There is no more to say.

Amen.

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