Two days ago we heard Jesus explaining the parable of the sower to the disciples (Mt 13:18-23). The seed on the path is the word received without understanding that is easily stolen away. The seed on rocky ground has no root and is rejected as soon as trouble comes. The seed sown in thorns is the word heard but soon choked off by worldly concerns. What happens in rich soil is relayed at top; it bears much fruit. We must consider how our hearts can become fertile soil for the Word. But before we go there, we must have some soil to begin with. Those who have no understanding have no soil. The Church has this soil in abundance. We gain understanding through prayer, the sacramental life, spiritual direction (if possible), and reading and studying Scripture, the Catechism, and solid books on theology and spirituality. It is also vital to give of ourselves to others so as to appreciate in an intimate way the full meaning of Jesus call to love our neighbor. We dispose ourselves to the graces of the Holy Spirit (one of whose gifts is understanding) by doing all these things while working to eliminate sin and vice from our lives (certain barriers to a full openness to revealed truth). With these underpinnings we then are better able to stand firm when trials and tribulations or worldly concerns and anxieties threaten to derail us on our spiritual journey.