Today, my beloved, we read the gospel parable on the sower and the seeds; on the differing qualities of earth upon which the seeds fell, and on the different fates of the seeds. At the end of the gospel reading the Lord Himself explains it at His disciples’ request (Lk. 8:5–15).
O pitiful man! Poor man! How many obstacles there are in the way of what is most important—the work of the soul’s salvation! Man either himself tramples the saving seed of God’s word that is powerful to make him wise for his salvation—trampling it either intentionally, consciously, mockingly, or out of frivolity, carelessness, and ignorance—or the global evil-doer and destroyer of the human race, the devil, snatches away the saving word. Or his stony and cruel heart does not allow him to be saved; or the thorns, various cares, passions and worldly pleasures, or riches throw up an insurmountable barrier to salvation. Only a few, with kind and good hearts, with true wisdom, can appreciate their own salvation as they should and patiently make use of the means given to them for salvation—and are saved. Many are called, but few are chosen.
A wondrous thing! But what is it in the end? Who is to blame for this absurd situation, for people’s willing self-destruction? Man himself is to blame, for he tramples, even daily tramples upon God’s innumerable gifts. The Lord God, Who created man in His own image and likeness, in righteousness and holiness, gave him every possibility, every means and power for life and piety. Man in his laziness and ignorance, his carelessness and stubbornness, his unreasoning attachment to this life that like a shadow passes quickly by, rushes headlong into his own destruction, pushing away the saving right hand of God. Who is to blame for man’s perishing other than man himself? You will say, “It’s impossible or at least difficult to be saved! But after all, a numberless multitude of people with passions like ours have nevertheless been saved, and are even today being saved—although few. It’s hard to be saved! Well, did you want to receive eternal life in blessed union with God, the Mother of God, the angels and all the saints without work? Can you purify yourself—with the help of grace—without the work of prayer, vigil, almsgiving, without meekness, humility, and temperance? We don’t think it excessive to labor for the acquisition of earthly goods—and so we labor, often with all our strength. But when it comes to acquiring eternal blessedness we just give up. But it’s not as if the work of salvation were extremely difficult: for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light (Mt. 11:30), says the Savior. Yes, with God’s help it little-by-little becomes easy, even though it is hard at first due to the head-on struggle with sin.
St. John of Kronstadt But in fact, isn’t sin something extremely hard given that it is unnatural, and alien to our divine nature? Isn’t sin torturous? If we labor in sinning, then how could we not labor in doing what is right, and saving our souls from sin? The end of the former is death, but the latter is life eternal. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life (Rom. 6:23). The present parable on the sower and the seed was told not just in order to encourage listeners with kind and good hearts to a more zealous fulfillment of God’s word and a greater self-perfection in the virtues, but in order to make the distracted, careless, hard-hearted people overcome by the passions arise and listen attentively to God’s word, and begin to labor with fear for their salvation. God’s grace can change any heart for the better; it can work a miracle of salvation for any person, if only that person would believe, want to be saved, seek salvation, come to recognize the abyss of his sins, and understand what an abyss he himself is willingly digging between himself and God. If only he would submit to God’s grace that saves him and not push away God’s saving right hand. There have been and still are thousands of examples of the salvation of people who were formerly distracted, frivolous, hard-hearted, and affected by all different passions. They heeded God’s word, did not resist it, followed it, and were saved—and now enjoy blessedness in the Kingdom of Heaven.
There is nothing impossible for God. He can save even the most hardened sinner; He can bring him up from the bottom of hell to the heights of His Kingdom and eternal blessedness as He did the good thief and St. Mary of Egypt, who was drowning in the abyss of sin. If only the person himself would desire, ask, and zealously strive for salvation; for the Lord does not want to drag him forcibly to salvation, so that salvation itself would not become distasteful to him because he received it against his will. For we only treasure and find pleasent what we have come to love as something worthy of love, something we acquired through our own efforts, with which we have become close and which has become our own treasure, as if our own nature. And this is just what Christian virtue is, this is the Kingdom of God—it must be known, loved with all our hearts, assimilated here on earth, and rooted in our hearts so thoroughly that it completely penetrates the entire soul and leaves no room in our hearts for all-destroying and all-seducing sin.
Christian! Cast away your ruinous distraction, your unbelief, inattention, carelessness, and laziness in salvation; do not trample the wondrous gifts of grace underfoot; read or listen diligently to the word of God, which opens to you the path of salvation. Fulfill it with the utmost understanding and strength; conquer your hard-heartedness and stoniness; soften your heart like wax with the fire of the grace of the Holy Spirit and tears of repentance; uproot the thorns of sin from your heart, even though this work is sorrowful and painful because they have become your second nature. You can’t do it, you say; but God’s grace is all-powerful—it can easily accomplish the whole work of your salvation.
In speaking of the seeds of God’s word that nourish man’s soul, I also recall the seed that is earthly, corruptible—the seed of wheat, the current bad harvest of wheat, the rising cost of bread, and unprecedented inflation; and the bad harvest happened due to the destruction of wheat seed by pests and worms or from draught. Where do these catastrophes come from? From our sins. We do not bring to the Lord God our fruits of repentance and correction of our wicked life. The Lord is taking away from us the fruits of the earth, for which we did not know how and did not want to thank Him; we did not want to fulfill His will and have become evil, deceitful, proud, false, intemperate, given to idle talk and cursing, self-interested, cruel, greedy, unmerciful, and filthy. It is obvious that the rod of paternal justice is hanging over us. God punishes us with bad harvests, fires, floods, exhausting wars, epidemics, and sicknesses. But do we come to reason, do we repent, do we correct ourselves? Haven’t our hearts become even harder, almost entirely hardened? O God, deliver us! Where can there possibly be the Kingdom of God on earth if it is not in Christians who call themselves Orthodox, on Orthodox lands, where there are so many guarantees of Orthodox sanctity so precious to God; so many relics of holy God-pleasers; so many miracle-working icons, and beautiful churches; where there are such heavenly services on earth? Or will the Kingdom of God be taken away from us and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof (cf. Matt. 21:43)? O, may we not be forever put to shame; may the Lord correct us with His rod of punishment, and may He not deprive us of His mercy and His Kingdom. Amen.