Fr. Paul Clark
“What part of the rectory is good for keeping houseplants alive?” This is a question I have had to ask every place I’ve lived – I love plants, but honestly, they can take a lot of work. So, when Jesus uses analogies about vines, seeds or soil (such as this weekend’s Gospel), he definitely has my attention. I have always loved the natural world and what it can teach us about growth, balance and life.
I grew up in Edina, MO and although my family did not grow up on our family farm, rural life set the pace for all of us in the community. I grew up with a love for the outdoors and in addition to singing and dancing, I still put camping, hiking, biking and kayaking at the top of my list of hobbies. Anything that gives me an opportunity to learn more about the identity of The Creator, I’m there…and naturally, a creature reveals a lot about their creator.
I think this is why I love engaging in authentic relationships so much: the human person reveals so much to us about who our God is and how we relate to Him. As life is revealed to us through our relationships, we can start to understand the importance of “good soil” in which authentic relationships can be built. We learn about receiving and giving, being fed and bearing fruit, knowing and being known. Growing up with 5 siblings, I feel like there was almost too much “knowing and being known” in our family…but the openness in our house truly led to some great conversations and learning. My parents and siblings had a great impact on how I encounter others, including our Lord, and I know that had a huge impact on my journey to the priesthood. It is my desire to continue growing in how I give and receive in relation to others until we are all united perfectly in the Heavenly Kingdom!
As we see the imagery this weekend of seeds being sown and the importance of the soil in which these seeds are received, it becomes a reminder for us that increasing our receptivity is not only encouraged, but actually necessary to our lives. It is also a reminder to us that this takes work. Christ is not telling us that some people are good soil while others are rocky or thorny, but that we should all strive to be good soil. In the same way that I have to move my plants to the correct area of the rectory to keep them alive – ensuring that they get proper sunlight – I need to make sure that I am putting myself in environments that lend to healthy growth. In the same way that I have to water and make sure my plants have the proper nutrients in the soil, I need to make sure I am seeking out ways to nurture and feed my relationships and spiritual life. In the same way that I pull out weeds and prune my plants, I need to evaluate the things in my life or relationships that are getting in the way of me truly giving of my self and receiving…and strive to remove those obstacles.
When I see plants with flowers or fruit, I am reminded of the beautiful fruits of a relationship planted in good soil – whether with our Lord or others. I am so excited to be part of the faith family here at St. Thomas More Newman Center and look forward to growing together for the glory of God! Let’s be good soil!