The Fourth Sunday According to St Luke (8:5-15)
A Sower went forth to sow.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Not an angel or an ambassador, but the Lord of Glory Himself came to redeem us.
A Sower went forth to sow.
The Timeless One clothed Himself in humility, and took the form of a servant, and entered time for us the lowly. He trod upon the pathways of men that He might draw nigh to us and save us.
A Sower went forth to sow, but He constrains no one. We of our own free will can receive the seed of the message of salvation, or we of our own free will can reject this seed and not bring forth fruit unto salvation.
A Sower went forth to sow, and the seed fell in to a variety of types of earth. This earth and the locations described in today’s parable signifies our hearts and the condition or state we are in and our attitude towards the Sower.
As it is written, “And when He was asked by the Pharisees, when the Kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said, The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)
Parables have a twofold purpose. To the stiff-necked the message is kept in a shadowy form, yet for the believer great mysteries are portrayed in a few words. There are many facets to a parable. One word can signify many things.
“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” (Luke 8:11-12)
What is this wayside? It is the realm of heresy, the realm of false notions that have nothing to do with the “Faith once delivered to the saints” that the Apostle Jude proclaims in his epistle. These are the teachings concerning faith and morality that are outside the boundaries of the Fathers of the Church and Holy Tradition. —Through deceit and false notions demons and their helpers take away the word of salvation. In this realm the heart is trodden down and compacted, made hard and the word of Truth Incarnate does not penetrate.
Many call themselves Christian and trample down the teaching of our Savior. Alas, they do not understand that this trampling is what destroys their capacity to understand and be illumined and saved.
One can safely say that Ecumenism is the wayside, the heresy that justifies all heresy and claims that the truth and the true Church has not yet been found. Whether wittingly or unwittingly, we make the choice daily either for the wayside or the Way of Truth. Do we familiarize ourselves with the teachings of the Holy Fathers and try to gain an understanding of the mind of the Church, or do we choose to read only secular or questionable material? When we read the things of God, we partake of a transforming grace. Let us seek our own profit and the grace of salvation.
“They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a time believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” (Luke 8:13)
How can we prepare ourselves in order to avoid falling away? The soil is conditioned by our will. Broken up through patient endurance of the various hardships that inevitably come. It remains as rock when we avoid the effort and struggle that is essential to the spiritual life.
“…We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
“It is not possible with out temptations for a man to grow wise in spiritual warfare, to know his Provider and perceive his God, and to be secretly confirmed in his faith, save by virtue of the experience he has gained.” (P. 355 Saint Isaac the Syrian)
Without prayerful struggle there is no experience gained in spiritual perception and in time of tribulation one is only scandalized or confused and falls away.
The Ascetics of old had the saying, “Give blood and receive Spirit.” This is similar to Saint James the Brother of the Lord’s saying, “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) Christianity is not an abstract philosophy, it is a way of life.
As Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky once wrote, “the essence of Christianity id the renunciation of life’s pleasures; it is to be found in striving for purity; in the readiness to suffer for the Truth; in the acquisition of the feeling of constant love for God and men, and in the forgiveness of the offences of enemies.”
How can we prepare for the tribulation of the last days? Only by living the Christian life. Only by striving to become partakers of the grace of the Holy Spirit through keeping the commandments and through patience in the tribulations of day to day living.
“And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” (Luke 8:14)
The thorns choke! This is about time and what occupies our time. Our time is choked with cares, choked with acquiring riches, choked with self indulgence with the pleasures of this life. And finally there is no time left and we have not brought forth any fruit and are bound hand and foot and cast into outer darkness. The seed of the Word of God, the call to the wedding banquet of the Son of The King, has been choked, that is crowded out. –I had other things to do! What a tragedy!
The greatest temptation of our age, the age of information—is that much of it is misinformation and distraction. We all want to manage our money well, but we don’t seem to understand that for the sake of our eternal well being we have to intelligently manage our time and energy. The Elder Ieronymous used to say, “the day you don’t find the Savior in prayer, that day is lost unto eternity.” We have only so much time to spend. Daily let us ask ourselves am I investing my time wisely?
“But that on the good ground are they, which in a good and upright heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. And when He had said these things, He cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 8:15)
Our Savior constrains no one, He spake to the multitude, “he that has ears, let him hear.” In other words, ‘Let him respond to My call.’ Do we take this seed up into our hearts and carefully preserve it? Do we bring to mind the significance of the message of the word? That we are called to be sons and daughters of the Most High in a completely extraordinary way. That through our membership in the Body of Christ we are participants in the life of the incomprehensible Trinity.
In order to nurture this seed that it bring forth fruit, we must walk with great sobriety. These are the days of the spirit of Anti-Christ wherein error and confusion abounds. We see that over the last fifty years, heresy and false understandings of ecclesiology have made inroads even into Orthodox Churches to an alarming degree. One must remember that Judas was one of the twelve disciples and Nicholas, one of the original seven deacons became a leader of a heretical sect. We are the rational flock of Christ and not an irrational herd. Each and every one of us is responsible for soberly discerning error and guarding the word of truth and ordering our life aright.
As Saint Paul, the Apostle to the nations wrote to the Ephesians:
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ… And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ. Eph 4:1-7,11-15
Let us hearken to the words of Saint Paul and reject the various forms of error and preserve the word of Truth. Amen.