St Philaret the Confessor. Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
Words of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon
One of the best known parables of the Gospel we heard today during the Divine Liturgy. It was not necessary to repeat this parable in better days of yesteryear when everybody knew it, having learned it in classes of God's Law (catechism-trans). Today, brethren, the times are different and I will summarize its meaning for you. The Lord said: a sower went out to sow. Keep in mind that the Lord taught out in the open and it is possible that, as he was saying these words, He pointed out a sower who in reality was passing nearby at the moment and doing his job of sowing seeds.
And so the Lord says: a sower went out to sow and, when he sowed, the seeds fell in different places. Some fell on the road and birds flew down and quickly picked at them and nothing was left. Another group of seeds fell where it appeared the earth was good but its shoots were thin. When the sun came out, the apparent shoots withered since they could not send out deep roots. The third group of seeds also fell unfavorably. They fell among the weeds which overcame them. And only the fourth group fell on beneficial soil and gave results. When the Lord mentioned these four cases where the seeds fell He then, later, explained to his apostles the meaning of this parable. "The Sower, ”He said, "sowing the good seeds is the Son of Man.” Whether He is sowing it Himself or through those who serve Him, He is the Sower.
The good seed that He is sowing is the word of God. The seed that fell on the road and was eaten points to people of whom is said, as in a Russian saying: it went in one ear and out the other and nothing was left. Frivolous people, who take everything superficially, in whom the word of God touched only the surface of their consciousness and no trace was left. The evil one does his work and attempts to delete from people their knowledge of God's word. And often the word falls as though on fertile soil but apparently it falls on rocky ground. There are people who, in peaceful times when life is progressing normally, appear to be faithful, consider themselves believers, but as soon as sorrow and persecution befalls them, perhaps due to their faith, they fall away and do not give fruit. And the seed that fell among the weeds points to people who are so involved in the hustle and cares of this world that the seed, which it appears was ready to rise and grow, was overcome. It is muffled in those people of what remains from hearing God's word; it is muffled by the noise of the worldly hustle and they also forget what they had heard, being weighed down by this hustle and only busy in that respect and do not bring fruit.
And, finally, as the Lord said that only the fourth, those with a kind and well-meaning heart and with a patience that accept this seed, give fruit. In order to give fruit, in order to go through life on a path that is kind and Christian one needs patience, labor and spiritual struggle (Russian podvig-trans). Life was always like this in that it was not always easy to fulfill the Gospel teachings of Christ. But in speaking of our times and of ourselves, it seems that we are rarely a part of this fourth seed that brings forth good fruit. We are sometimes either one or the other or the third: either we don't care or are indifferent and disregard and do not accept what the Church says and what it is calling us to do. It is as though it will enter our soul and a desire will burn in us, a striving, even a decision to live well but as soon as a period of emotional setbacks comes-where is his faith!? It is gone. The worldly environment truly is absorbing us. We are so deeply involved in it that, without God's assistance, an individual can not escape this hustle, free his soul, his mind and his heart. In our sorrowful times I am reminded of another parable, about the tares. In today's parable we see what happens to the good seed and here there is another danger. The enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, i.e. useless weeds.
Here I am reminded the eternal words of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon. When he was living his last moments, he said: "Night will come now. I will fall asleep but the night will be long, long...". We are now living through this frightful night when the light of God's word glimmers faintly in the world. Often another thought comes to mind, words of the great Saint Theophan the Recluse, who with his foresight seeing the future said that the time will come when everything will be superficial, everything within the Church, all officials, all order, all that is external will be there but internally, said the great hierarch, will be a complete betrayal to the spirit of Christ. These are spiritual tares. So, now everywhere we see that the human soul is lost among them, with difficulty it searches and sometimes can not find the good seed for a long time but keeps finding tares. Beware, Christian soul, and give thanks that you are a son or daughter of the Orthodox Church which preserves the apostolic teaching, the words of the Holy Fathers and the tradition and thank God for this and guard your faith. Remember that many, many are mired within the tares and these tares often have a benign outward appearance.
It is well known that, truly, the seeds of the real wheat and the real tares that grow in the Holy Land where the Lord uttered his teachings, there the tares are temporarily green and almost can not be differentiated from the green wheat. When everything matures then it is obvious where is the wheat and where are the tares and until the harvest the tares and the wheat are very similar and they can be easily mixed up. I repeat that many are fooled by this. Therefore, guard your soul, your faith and guard your belonging to the Orthodox Church because there are now groups of people, each of which shouts that it is the true church but have never been in contact with the truth! Amen