Working our souls to bear fruit for God

When it comes to hearing the Word of God, everyone has an equal chance to hear and receive the Gospel. Each of us, depending upon the condition of our heart and soul will hear the Word of God, and either produce fruit or not produce fruit for the glory of God. Year after year the Church proclaims the same Gospel story so that as our heart and grow closer to God we are able to produce fruit, but it requires work to prepare our soul. Through prayer, fasting, taking care of the poor, going for Holy Confession and the other Holy Sacraments, our soul will be made fertile to hear the Word of God and produce a hundredfold. Today is our chance to begin working our souls to bear fruit for God.

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Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Be Transfigured where we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We pray that this episode is a blessing to you and will inspire you to rededicate your life to Jesus Christ. We invite you to join us for worship or study at the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where visitors are always welcome. We'll be back in a few moments to share some more information about our ministry.

My brothers and sisters, if you're paying attention, which I hope you are, every year we hear the same gospel readings. Today happens to be the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, always the second Sunday in October, and we always on this particular Sunday we hear this exact gospel lesson about the sower of the seeds. And you might be wondering why in the world does the church say the same reading over and over again? Don't you think it might get boring sometimes?

I hope not, but the church gives us this reading every year because this year we're not the same as we were last year and we're not going to be the same people next year when we hear it again or when we were five or when we were 15. We, our hearts, grow. Our hearts are different. Our hearts do not remain the same year after year, and so the church gives us this gospel lesson to remind us that we have work to do. The church gives us this gospel lesson, my brothers and sisters, to remind us that our hearts require preparation to hear the word of God.

Christ opens this parable. He says, "A sower went out to sow his seed, and as he sowed, some fell along by the wayside and were trampled down, and the birds took it up and devoured it. Some fell on the rock and some fell among the thorns, but others," Christ said, "fell on good ground, sprang up and yielded a crop a hundred fold."

Imagine being a gardener or being a farmer and have acres and acres and acres of land, and imagine reaching into your bushel of seeds and just throwing them. This is what the farmer did. He took the seeds and he just threw them out, and some fell on the land, some fell on the ground, on the rocks, the road, et cetera, but everything had an equal opportunity to receive the seed. The farmer did not mind where he threw the seed. He just threw it out there. The same is true for the gospel. The church sends out the word of God, proclaims the gospel. Doesn't matter that one person hears it and another person hears it. One person may not be ready to hear the word of God, like the road. Another person may hear the Word of God as Christ says and very excited begin living a life. But because that particular seed fell in the rocks, there was not enough roots, there was not enough strength, and so when life got difficult, the faith faded away.

Other times we might be living among many temptations in our life, and so just as Christ said, sometimes the seed falls in the weeds. But as the weeds grow up next to the good crops, the weeds strangle them. The temptations of life, especially here in the first world country of America, we have many temptations. All of these things. Houses. Boats. You name it, we've got it in America, and all of these temptations coexist with the gospel. And sometimes the temptations strangle us and we lose our faith, and sometimes by God's grace our heart is prepared to hear the word of God, and we hear the gospel and we are moved. And because of the work that we've done in our spiritual life, it goes deep down inside of us and bears a great deal of fruit.

And so this morning, my brothers and sisters, I want to inspire us by God's grace to take the soil of our heart and work it with the tools of the church. Our heart might be as hard as the pavement. It might be filled with temptations. It might be filled with difficulties as in the rocks, but with the proper work, any gardener, any farmer can take the soil and make it more fertile by doing work, tilling the ground, adding things into the ground like good nutrients. The same thing is true for our soul. When we pray, when we fast, when we take care of the poor, when we go to holy confession, when we prepare ourselves to receive holy communion, all of these things that we do in the church, the work of the church, are meant to prepare our hearts to hear the word of God, to prepare our soul to accept the seed of God so our roots go deep. And so with the strength of the Holy Spirit and our effort working together with God, we can bear much fruit.

Saint John Chrysostom says, "When we are expressing our thanks to God, not to let it stay just at words, but works and deeds." If we hear the word of God, my brothers and sisters, and we are thankful for what God has given us, it requires work in our soul to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit. God is going to throw the word out. God is going to throw the seeds out to our lives. It's up to us to work our soul to receive that seed. And thank God we have another day to live. Thank God we have today and we might have tomorrow, but today is our chance. Today is the chance, my brothers and sisters, to begin working our souls so that we can bear fruit for God.

Don't leave it for tomorrow. Don't leave it for next year. When a farmer ignores his land, it stops producing. When a farmer just leaves the ground to be, it becomes hard as rock and he has to start all over again preparing the soil. Don't let your heart grow cold and hard like the rocks. Don't allow your soil to go unattended. Otherwise, the seed will not be able to take root and we will not be able to bear fruit.

Christ finishes the gospel, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." The message, my brothers and sisters, is one of grace, one of freedom, and one of love from God. Never does God force us to do anything in our lives, but He invites us and He gives us that chance every day, every month, every year. And today we are thankful as specifically for the fathers of the councils who protected the faith for us, who worked their souls so we could have the church today. Let's honor their memory by taking over where they left off, by embracing the tools of the church. Prayer, fasting, taking care of the poor, holy confession, the sacraments of the church. These things, my brothers and sisters, will work our soul to prepare our soul to hear and to prepare and to bring forth fruit for God. Today's our chance to tend our garden so the harvest will be bountiful. Glory to God for all things.

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