"You will listen and listen again, but not understand,
see and see again, but not perceive.
For the heart of this nation has grown coarse,
their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes,
for fear they should see with their eyes,
hear with their ears, understand with their heart,
and be converted and be healed by me."
It is easy for a preacher to forget these verses from Isiah that Our Lord quotes, and to concentrate on sowers and seeds but before we get there we have remember the effort a first century farmer would have to put into the land before it could be cultivated.
Even if his forefathers had cleared the land of vegetation it was an annual struggle to clear it of weeds, to dig out the rocks and stones that just keep coming up, to ensure the irrigation ditches are clear, to repair the fences to keep out his or his neighbour's livestock.
Before tractors it was not too difficult if you were rich and had an ox or donkey but if you had to rely on your wife and children to pull the plough or simply had to dig it yourself it was back-breaking work. Seed too was expensive, what you sowed you didn't eat, at least not until the new harvest, and you sowed in the hungry times when what you stored for the winter was coming to an end - you didn't want to waste it - it was seed taken from your children's mouths.
Therefore before we consider anything else let us consider the soil - soil of the soul.
How can we listen and understand?
See and perceive?
How do we stop our hearts growing course?
Make our hearing less dull, open our eyes?
Indeed, how do we hear with our ears, understand with our hearts so that we are converted and healed by him?
We are supposed take as much care over the care of our souls as a farmer of Jesus' time took over the care of his soil.
First we need to stay close to Jesus, to irrigate our souls with the Sacraments and the Word of God, to stay close to the Church's constant teaching.
We need to get rid of the rocks, those hard places in our lives where the Gospel can't grow, the deep seated, heavy sins - that really can be backbreaking work.
We need to uproot the weeds, the evils in lives, the gossip, the hatred, the keeping silent in the face of evils done to others.
We need to fertilize the soil with good works, yes prayer again, frequent confession, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, acts of charity and generosity.
We are not doing this work alone, God is with us in this strenuous work, so is the great Mother of God, as too the angels and saints -read the lives of the saints- they prepared the soil in their own fields, they were experts in clearing the soil of the soul.
God wants us to be successful. He is the sower scattering the precious seed of his grace into our hearts, he wants it to grow producing a rich harvest in our lives.