Growing Harvestable Crops is a Dirty Job, but SOMEBODY has to do it.

(For the audio version of this blog, please visit:

Usually when someone from the government says they’re here to help you, instinct says “run for the hills!” Unless, that is, those hills are infertile and need aeration. Then Uncle Sam might be able to offer some wisdom to help you understand gospel truths about such rocky ground. According to Agrilinks, a project that’s part of the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, soil aeration is the process of “puncturing holes in the ground so air, water and nutrients can get in more easily.”

They add a truth that even Jesus deemed important: “If the soil is compacted, your plants’ roots might not receive adequate nutrition and they can weaken or die.”

In Sunday’s gospel reading (Mt 13:1-23), Jesus sounds like one of the sources that government site might have footnoted if he hadn’t also been telling us how to ignore both our own fruitless priorities and the worldly anxieties governments inspire.

“The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy,” Jesus adds, but it “has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.”

Or runs for the hills.

That’s what many did in the prophet Isaiah’s time when hearing him spread God’s word. Jesus knew Isaiah’s frustration when, after having volunteered in God’s army with the words “Here I am; send me,” Isaiah realizes:

Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them.

But that was exactly Isaiah’s impossible mission—to persistently pulverize those gross hearts so they would eventually absorb God’s wisdom as filtered through him:

“Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth … my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it,” Isaiah quotes the Almighty (Is 55:10-11).

Giving birth to such life is as painful a process for this world as it is for any mother in labor. But those long-suffering gardeners among us would be wise to adopt Paul’s tough exterior, as he considered his suffering “as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God.” (Rom 8:18-23)

Our spiritual aeration has similar benefits to the soil aeration recommended by the government’s hunger initiative:

“Aerating the earth allows grass and crops to develop stronger roots and become healthier overall, leading to lush, thick growth,” they advise.

Our earth’s health is one thing. This world’s health is quite another, and that depends on all of us getting a little dirty as we start tilling the soil in our own backyards.

–Tom Andel

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