This Sunday’s gospel for the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time begins a series that recounts Jesus’ teachings about the word of God and the kingdom of heaven. The first parable in the series, which we read today, is a familiar one. In it, Jesus describes a sower who went out to sow seed, which Jesus uniquely refers to here as the “word of the kingdom.” The sower tosses out the seed and it falls on different types of soil: the path, the rocky soil, among weeds and finally on good soil. Jesus Himself is the sower, and the seed is the word of His teaching. The different types of soil and the seeds’ corresponding fruitfulness describe what happens in us when we hear God’s word. The seed on the path gets eaten up immediately — plucked out of the heart by Satan. The seed on rocky soil springs up enthusiastically but does not plunge its roots down because the soil is rocky, so it withers in the sun. The seed sown among weeds seems good at first, but the weeds in the soil — the anxiety of riches and cares of this world — grow up with the seed and choke it. The seed that falls on the good soil bears abundant fruit.

Three out of four times, therefore, the word is ineffective. That should make us pause and wonder what happens in us when we hear God’s word. Am I part of the minority that actually receives the word and bears fruit? Or does it bounce off me like the seed on the path? Does it spring up quickly and die just as fast because of my inconstancy, like the seed on the rocky soil? Does it get choked by anxiety or stifled by the pursuit of riches and other pleasures, like the seed among thorns? At different times in our lives, many of us resemble the unfruitful soil in any of these ways.

If my heart is not good soil, the obvious question is how to become so and allow the seed to grow and bear fruit? There must be a transformation of the heart. That transformation begins with desire. In today’s second reading, Saint Paul writes in the letter to the Romans about the creation waiting with “eager longer” for the revealing of the sons of God. One way of understanding this image is that we ourselves are part of the creation that longs for transformation or “revealing” — we are not outside of creation. As such, we can ask Our Lord to give us greater desire to be transformed, to become good soil. This may mean that we need deeper conversion and great love for God. If that sounds too intimidating, one can always simply pray for a greater desire to change and convert: “Lord Jesus, I know I do not love you with my whole heart. Give me the desire to love you more.”

As our desire increases, our hearts become more receptive to God’s word, and the teachings of Jesus begin to take root and bear fruit.  In this light, the words from today’s first reading (Is 55:10-11) take on a personal meaning: “(M)y word … shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I intend, and prosper in the thing for which I send it.” First, we must understand that the Word that comes from the mouth of God is divine Wisdom and the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, the Word who became man, Jesus. In His incarnation, from Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem to His death on the cross, He accomplished all that the Father intended.

Jesus Himself also sends forth a word, the seed that He sows in our hearts. To the extent that we cooperate and desire His life within us, we become more like Jesus, and His word bears more and more fruit.