Writing about the incipient stages of the spiritual life, William Ellery Channing wrote that the aim of the religious teachers is, 'not to impose religion in the form of arbitrary rules, but to awaken the conscience, the moral discernment'. "In a word", he said, "The great end is to awaken the soul, to excite and cherish spiritual life."
The Parable of the Sower, as told by Jesus reveals that the seeds of faith can only take root and survive in good hospitable soil. This parable of sower, seed and soil is not about the perfection or completion of the spiritual life but rather only its beginning, and begins only when the conditions are right, only when we are ready.
When we consider our own spiritual development it may be helpful to consider the words of Lao-tzu who said that, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." The true religious quest is really a journey of faith because when we set out on a journey, any journey in fact, there is no guarantee that we will arrive. Again, the crucial thing is always to have faith.
In a parable similar to the Parable of the Sower: the Parable of the Growing Seed, Jesus reminds us that once the seed is in the field there is little else the farmer can do. The transformation from seed to a grain-bearing yield is dependant on so many variables. Ultimately, the creation of life is a mystery. The seed springs forth and goes from darkness into light. To 'awaken the soul' we must take the same journey and trust that God will do the rest.
As we begin a new year continuing our journey of faith in the power of love you may be inspired by the opening words of this poem by Minnie Louise Haskins:
The Gate of the Year
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: "Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown."
And he replied:
"Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way".
My best wishes as always,