God has established a certain order not only in creation, but also in salvation. He chose and prepared individuals by forming them into a people. This is a very interesting dynamic to consider, because salvation is offered both collectively and individually. A person is saved because they are part of a chosen people and because they themselves want to be saved. We cannot say that one is ultimately more important than the other, but at different moments in our lives the personal and communal dimensions of our faith can play a more prominent role.
The prophet Jeremiah offers us a powerful message about how close God is to us. He wants us to cling to him like clothing – not just any clothing, but like an undergarment. Even though we may be as close to him as clothing, we have to be aware of when we become too soiled to be worn. It is completely normal for clothes to be washed and worn again when they are clean – as long as clothes are dirty they are not fit to be worn. If an item of clothing goes too long without being washed, it may indeed rot – then it can no longer be cleaned and it is “good for nothing.” What is the water in which we must be cleansed as the garment of the Lord? This water is certainly grace, and it is the Word of God. To wash in the Word is to listen to the Word and obey it. Jesus tells Peter, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me” and “You are clean because of the Word I spoke to you.”(cf. Jn 13-15) We cannot be clean without listening and following God’s Word daily – even if we try to do well on our own, we will always end up getting soiled.
What does it mean to be pastors after the heart of God? We can see how God distributes His Word in today’s Gospel. He continues sowing the seed no matter what the condition of the soil is. It can be very tempting to stop sowing the seed of the Word of God if we look at what has come of our sowing. We see people fall away, we see people sleeping during Mass, we hear people completely misunderstand and misinterpret the Scriptures. Among all of this we also encounter the good soil that, by the fruit they bear, put us to shame. To be a pastor after the heart of God, it would seem that we must continue sowing no matter what. We could find different seeds that would grow better in bad soil, we could simply avoid scattering the seed where we think (or even know) that it will not stand a chance to grow or bear fruit. We know, if we are according to the heart of God, that His Word is truth and life and power. We know that even when it appears to have failed, it is never the fault of the Word itself. Let us continue sowing the True Word without relying upon the results for our motivation.