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The Parable of the Sower - Fr. Samuel Habib

In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the departure of Fr. Samuel Habib, hegumen of Amir Tadros el-Shotby Coptic Orthodox Church, Minya, Egypt, the following is a translation of a homily delivered on November 17, 1991 at St. George Coptic Orthodox Church, Minya, Egypt by hegumen Fr. Samuel Habib. May his prayers be with us.


In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — One God. Amen. May His grace and blessing be with us all. Amen.


On this blessed morning, the Word of God speaks to us about the Sower, because the month of Hatour is the month of planting: “If you miss the planting of Hatour, you must wait until the year comes round.” See, when someone leaves or forgets something, when one forgets to pray, they lose the blessing of prayer. When one forgets to go to Church and attend the Liturgy, they lose the blessing of the Liturgy. This is why we should not delay in making our requests to God and standing before Him in prayer. We should not delay in performing good deeds.


Our Lord Jesus Christ speaks to us about His being the Sower; when He went out to sow, He threw the seeds on the soil, and thorns grew with the plants. The soil was not good, mingled with things unpleasant for tilling — rocks, stones, and things of that sort. Of course, if it were good soil, there would be no thorns growing in it. Often, thorns grow on cliffs. When one walks, they find thorns on the edge of the road, before you reach the good soil, because this part of the land is not suitable for planting — it must have something that prevents the plants from growing. These thorns are very difficult.


The thorns are the worries of this world and its distractions. The thorns are the sins which occupy one’s life. Maybe there are thorns in one’s eyes which prevent him from seeing clearly, so that he cannot see the road well. Maybe there are thorns in one’s tongue, so that his words are not “seasoned with salt” (See Mark 9:49) but rather full of stumbling, cursing, and unpleasant language. Maybe there are thorns in one’s heart, preventing the Lord from dwelling within. The Lord loves His dwelling place, as it is written about Him: “If He charges His angels with error” (Job 4:18); and “the heavens are not pure in His sight” (Job 15:15); and “what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). So, the throne of God and the dwelling place of God must be holy and suitable. Why else do we say “Holy” (Isaiah 6:3) and “Holiness adorns Your house, O Lord, forever” (Psalm 93:5)? Each of us are a dwelling place for our Lord: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).


There are thorns which enter and choke the inner dwelling place, preventing the Lord from residing within us. There are thorns surrounding our bodies which prevent us from performing the good deeds we desire to do: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24); “Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good” (Romans 7:20-21). You may find that you cannot even extend your hand to perform good deeds, to serve the weak, the widow, and those in need. There are thorns which surround our feet, preventing us from going and serving one another. There are many people who are in need of our condolences and visitation to them to offer our consolation. There are many people who are in need of cheerful words or congratulations — this small word carries a large meaning. The small act of offering condolences with few words carries a significant meaning. This is why we must be sure that our feet walk in the way of charity: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). There are many thorns which plague your legs, so that you are prevented from coming to Church, and you forget to say: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1).


These are the same thorns that hurt the feet of the Prodigal Son when he left his father’s house and went afar — thorns of pleasures, thorns of desires, thorns of arrogance, thorns of pride, thorns of conceit, thorns of sinful deeds — all of these choked him. He squandered his money, his honor was lost, even his clothes were torn and dirtied, his feet bled, and his life became miserable and bitter. He was in need, whereas before he lived in luxury. He lost his dignity and thought: “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” (Luke 15:17). He thought: “The servants in my father’s house are many, and they lived in luxury, eating, drinking, and enjoying many blessings, while I, the son of luxury, lost this luxury! The son of honor, I lost my honor. The son of glory, I have become shameful. The son of the rich, I became poor.” All of this because he strayed away from his father’s house, and the thorns suffocated him and did not allow him to experience the true beauty of life, for “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).


There are thorns that grow, and because we have strayed from our Lord and do not repent, and do not have pure hearts, “you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5). Remove the thorns immediately, so that the soil is good. If there is a thorn in your eye, pluck it, lest it grow and bring more with it, and instead of being a speck, it becomes a plank. When it becomes a plank, you will be prevented from seeing clearly: “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). There are planks, my beloved, that are of discontentment and are caused by the growing thorns when a person is not satisfied with what he has, and does not say: “We thank You for every condition, concerning every condition, and in every condition,” (See the Thanksgiving Prayer) or “We thank You for the clothes which I wear and the food that nourishes me, which others do not possess. I thank You for my health, which others long to find.” Oh, how many people have this plank of discontentment! They come to church and see those who are dressed better than them, and become angered or want to imitate them. There is no contentment within them, and they have lost the spirit of thankfulness.


There is also the thorn of impurity which enters an eye, so that instead of preserving the eye’s purity, knowing that “the lamp of the body is the eye” (Matthew 6:22), a person neglects to remove this thorn before it corrupts the body. Time after time the person finds that he no longer merely desires, but also acts upon his desires as well, and falls into acts of greed, revenge, lying, and even murder, amongst many other sins. There are many thorns — we must pluck them right away, lest they destroy our lives and we struggle.


“The Word of God is living and powerful” (Hebrews 4:12). You were created after the Image and Likeness of God, and God gave you beauty, “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel” (Isaiah 11:2), and innumerable blessings. What causes you to lose these blessings and gifts? The thorns of the world, the thorns of vanity, the thorns of conceit, the thorns of unthankfulness, the thorns of discontentment, the thorns of anger, pride, and hatred, and the thorns of revenge.


St. Moses the Strong had these thorns controlling his life, so much so that he put every effort into killing those who opposed him, even going out of his way for the sake of revenge. He subjected his body to lust, and committed sins as if he were drinking water. How would the Word of God grow and produce fruit in this person? He would not find improvement unless he removed the thorns and emptied his life of all these evils.


The people surrounding you, if they are bad influences, are thorns which choke your life: “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Remove these thorns which corrupt good behavior. When we remove these thorns, we become pure, for “every word of God is pure” (Proverbs 30:5), and we suffocate it and cause it to lose its sweetness and splendor. What changed your beauty into ugliness? What changed your sweetness into bitterness? What changed your virtues into shameful deeds and actions? All of this is because of the thorns. For this reason our Lord Jesus Christ accepted to have a crown of thorns placed upon His head, to remind you of all of the sins which come from the thorns which trouble you. He comes and accepts shame for you, “having become a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13), and He hung on the Cross, as the Bible says: “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (Galatians 3:13; c.f. Deuteronomy 21:23). He wears the crown of thorns in order to crown us with the crown of honor, so that you might remove every thorn from your life and give yourself wholly to our Lord and ask Him to adorn you with the crown of glory, holiness, righteousness, and struggle, as He crowned the saints — such as St. Paul the Apostle, St. George, and all the saints — so that you may proclaim with them: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).


My beloved, our Lord warns you: “Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Revelation 3:11). You remove the crown of thorns so that He may adorn you with the crown of glory. Struggle, even so far as to resist “to bloodshed, striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:4), so that the Lord will remove these thorns from you and carry them on your behalf: “And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). He will carry them in order to adorn you with the crown of glory and dress you with white garments (See Revelation 3:5), so that you may be with Him in His glory, and He tells you “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21).


May God grant us grace, my beloved, and let us ask Him for help in removing the thorns from our lives. Alone, we are unable to remove these thorns, but He is the one who is able to help us remove them from our lives. Assist me, Lord, to please you with every good deed.


To God is due all glory and honor — now, forever, and unto the ages of all ages. Amen.

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