St. Luke 8:4-15
February 24, 2019 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Word of God in the hearts of believers, which is another way of speaking of faith, must be guarded from the devil and his demons. They are pictured in this parable as the birds of the air. The Word and faith must also be guarded from temptation. Here pleasure is broadly conceived of us as rocks that lack moisture. It is a picture of giving your heart to the wrong thing. Worries and anxiety are conceived of as thorns. They choke faith to death. If the Word and faith are not guarded, if orthodoxy is not striven for, the result is worse than simply lacking fruit. If it is not fought for, the Word will be snatched away and faith will die.
We should understand, in the first place, that the Sower is Christ Himself. To Him belongs the Word of God by Divine Right. For mercy’s sake He bestows it upon unworthy men, in rocky, thorn infested ground. It transforms them and they themselves bear the Word. He lives in the them and causes them to bring forth fruit. This is the sublime goodness of God. He who called us forth to be in His image by speaking calls us again by His Word back to His image and life. He did not come simply to make atonement and then leave us on our own. He comes forth to sow.
The means of creation, His Word and speaking, are also His means of recreation and redemption and sanctification. He who has hear to hear, let him hear. The Sower sows to give a harvest where the devil salted the earth. He fertilizes the ground with His Blood. That which was His by right, He reclaims by grace. It is not the wild imagination of Mary that mistakes Him for a gardener, but the spark of faith. He comes to transform the world, in selfless love for the unlovable. He has no obligation to sow, but He sows. He speaks us righteous. He tends us with pruning and fertilizer and even conversation.
Nonetheless, the Word He sows, the faith He gives, is under constant attack. This garden is behind enemy lines. That is the main point of the parable. It is a warning. We are under attack. We are ever tempted to neglect the Word of God, to abuse it or neglect it, to twist it or to forget it. The devil makes a multi-pronged, sophisticated attack. In an evil parody of God’s Word, of Law and Gospel, he snatches at us with both false threats and false promises.
Faith takes the devil and our sanctification seriously because it takes God’s Word seriously. The devil hates us. He desires to poison us. St. John reports in his revelation that the “old serpent called the devil, and Satan, (is the) deceiver of the whole world” (Rev. 12:9). St. Peter tells us what he is doing. He is actively “seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). He seeks to accuse us as though we were not loved by God, as though Christ had not been sacrificed for us or was still dead. He will hold his accusations for a while if he must. He is, after all, the man of lawlessness, but he is headed to accusation. He wants to condemn us for his own use. St. John prophesied that he will be cast down from this. He will lose the lie that God does not love us and his accusations (Rev. 12:10) since, in fact, Christ has redeemed us was raised for our justification. Above all the devil is a thief and a murderer. He stole us away from God by forbidden fruit. He now seeks to steal the Word of joy, which Christ has bestowed upon us in Holy Baptism, from our hearts. He does not want us to receive the Sacrament but to eat his dainties. Thus Our Lord: “The devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved (Luke 8:12).
He who gives place to the devil, who cooperates with him and indulges his sinful desires, who does not resist the flesh or repent with his whole heart, he will share a place with the devil in Hell: “Depart from me, you cursed,” says the Lord on the Last Day, “[Go] into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:44).
Do not give place to the devil or to his lies of pleasure or expediency. Repent and listen to the Word. Hear God’s Law and His Gospel. Rejoice in His goodness, patience, and mercy. Embrace His order, statutes, and testimonies. Cling to Christ. You cling to Christ by clinging to His Word. For in the beginning the Word was with God and the Word was God and the Word became Flesh to give Himself to us, that He might have not only something to say but a mouth with which to say it. The Sower sows. He bestows Himself upon the believing by preaching. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Christ’s Word causes His Spirit to shine in the hearts of those who hear. The darkness cannot comprehend it. He does not leaves us alone. He comes to sow, to preach, and to speak. He comes to cleanse, to forgive, and to feed. The devil’s desire is precisely the opposite of God’s. He wants to take the Word out of our hearts and steal us once again. God desires to give us Himself in His Word.
The Psalmist describes our faith as repentance that bears fruit. We go forth with weeping, bearing precious seed, but we will come home to the place, prepared not for demons but for us, with rejoicing, bearing sheaves. (Ps. 126:6). The devil does not want us to repent. He does not want us to weep. He wants us to defend our sins. He tells us that our sins are just, that we had no choice so it is not our fault. Or else he tells us that pleasures are owed to us, that God wants us to be happy. He says that our sins are no big deal to God since they are forgiven. He tells us that the worst of all worlds is that we would be legalists and has taught us to see Pharisees behind the Law instead of the Holy Spirit. He tells us that if we strive against sin we insult the God and are trying to justify ourselves. He tells us that God can’t be wrathful since He is love. Or, if we seem particularly weak, he simply tells us that they our sins aren’t as bad as others. In all this, he has found our ears itchy and eager. Repent. The devil blinds the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
The Word of God must be guarded from the “birds of the air,” that is from the devil and his demons, and also from other temptations, that it may bring forth fruit a hundredfold. It is guarded by remaining in the Word, living from Sunday to Sunday, from Eucharist to Eucharist, in prayer and study, in repentance and faith. It wields the Word as a sword even as Christ did in His temptation but also uses the Word to cut bread. It submits to Christ in love as a wife to her husband, forgiven and restored by His sacrifice and gift. It wants to remain in the garden and be tended by God. Thus does it wait on His Word and Promise. It knows that the hundredfold fruit of the Spirit can’t always be gathered up in the baskets of men but that the day is coming when it will be known and shown. It knows that the Seed is good and powerful and the So is the Sower.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
.(Some ideas and passages gleaned from Thomas: John M. Ashley, “Homily XXXVII: Resisting the Devil: Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity.—(From the Epistle),” in Ninety-Nine Homilies of S. Thomas Aquinas upon the Epistles and Gospels for Forty-Nine Sundays of the Christian Year, trans. John M. Ashley, vol. 4 (London: Church Press Company, 1866), 67–68.)