On this fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time let’s reflect on what it means to “hear” the Word of God.
In today’s Gospel passage, the key word today is ‘hear’. It is a very scriptural word and contains essentially four elements: 1) to listen with a totally open and unconditional mind, 2) to want to understand what one hears, 3) to accept and appropriate fully what one understands, and 4) this acceptance flows out into our behavior.
One can listen but not want to understand, and one can understand without accepting, and one can accept without putting what one understands into practice. All four are necessary for conversion and healing. All four are necessary for one to say they are “hearing the Word of God” in such a way as to produce the beneficial effects Jesus describes.
Now let’s briefly apply what Jesus said to the parable on the level of different kinds of hearing [which kind of soil are we?]
Some seed falls on the path. There is no soil here. There is no prospect of the seed taking root. Ears and eyes are closed and unreceptive to the Word of God.
The seed falls on rocky ground in the field where there is a thin layer of soil. The seed takes root, begins to grow but soon gets burnt up by lack of water and the heat of the sun. It is like those Christians who, after baptism or after a retreat or some spiritual experience, have a great rush of enthusiasm for God but, under the slightest pressure, soon run out of steam and fall away. Probably there was no real hearing, no real understanding and hence no real commitment.
The seed falls on soil where there are many weeds and thorns. It gets smothered by the competing plants. It’s like thinking: “I do want to be a good Christian but I also want to have all the things that the world around me thinks important, even if they are in conflict with the Gospel vision.” It won’t work. We cannot at the same time totally serve God and be a part of the materialistic, consumerist, “success”-hungry world. This is probably the reason why we might notice we can’t seem to change, and all stays same in our lives.
Finally, some of the seed falls in rich, nutritious soil. This soil is like the “man who hears the Word of God and understands it and puts it into practice.”
In the long run, the work of God cannot be frustrated. But what matters for each one of us as we hear this Word of God this weekend is to be aware that each of us can refuse to provide the fertile patch of soil for God’s Word to take deep root. God’s plan as a whole will succeed but it is up to each of us to be part of that plan. A person can say No or Not yet or Yes, but… In other words, each of us can, like many of the people that Jesus knew, resist the radical change of view that conversion entails.
As we continue to reflect on this weekend’s readings, let us ask Our Blessed Lord now, and often this week: “Lord, improve the disposition of my heart so that the word of God can bear fruit in my life, and bear fruit more abundantly. Amen.