Following Jesus requires patience and discipline
The disciple’s lifelong process of learning a new way of life from Jesus can
sometimes seem like the experience of taking two steps forward and one step
backwards. The life of discipleship requires patience and discipline – from God,
Christ, and within ourselves.
And Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you
understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones beside the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:13-19).
No doubt, most, if not all of us have been, metaphorically speaking, every type of
“soil” mentioned in the parable at one time or another. Fortunately, God and Christ
are patient with us when our growth into the image of Christ stalls or even when we
backslide. Just as we can be alternately good soil, then bad, then good again – taking
two steps forward and one step back – God and Christ continue to endure patiently,
as the following parable suggests.
Then Jesus told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came
looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three
years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down!
Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I
dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not,
you can cut it down’” (Luke 13:6-9).
At one time or another, each of us goes through periods in our lives when we bear
little or no fruit.
• The parable reminds us that God (the owner of the fig tree) is looking for us to
bear fruit for the good of the world.
• Nevertheless, with the intervention of Christ (the gardener), God will abide our
times of unfruitfulness, remaining patient during such fallow times.
• Similarly, Christ, our gardener, is also patient with us. He is there all along,
actively seeking to work our “soil” as a gardener, nurturing us over time until we
are able once again to hear his words and act on them so we bear more fruit for
• The parable highlights the need to partner with Christ, the gardener, as we seek
to be prepared and properly nourished, both physically and spiritually, in
anticipation of bearing more fruit for God.
Questions for reflection
• What kind of fruit does God look to you to bear? What are some of the times that
the word of God has fallen in “good soil” in you and borne fruit for God?
• What actions/commitments might you make to ensure that your “soil” stays
• In what ways do you partner with Christ to nourish yourself, both physically
and spiritually, in order to bear fruit for God?
God of patience and endurance, who never forsakes the covenant with your people:
strengthen me to partner always with Christ, my patient and faithful gardener, that I
may be nourished by your word and sacraments to bear fruit for the welfare of your
people and the world. Amen.