THE HOPE OF BEING FREED: The Seed That Falls On Rich Soil

Listening to – or reading - the Word of God, it is good to ask the Holy Spirit to help us hear one word or phrase that strikes a chord, a word that finds resonance within. And having found that word to sit with it in silent prayer and allow it to address the reality of our lives as they are.

When I sat with the readings in preparation for this Sunday the one phrase that resonated with me was from the second reading from Romans 8:18-23, “...the hope of being freed...” I will sit with this word and let it do what God has sent it to do in my life trusting what is written in Isaiah 55:10-11,  ‘As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.’

Charismatic renewal in the 1970’s was one of the greatest events in the modern Church for many reasons but particularly for the way in which it opened up people’s lives to the power, the beauty and grace of the Word of God in the Bible. The best gift given me by my novice master was that of meditating on the Word of God, particularly in the Gosepls.

Many years ago now I met a Religious Sister whose great love in life was the reading of the Bible where she found the spiritual nourishment she needed for every day. Then in her old age she went blind but, instead of complaining or lamenting the loss of her great love, she asked God to give her one word or phrase every time she listened to the readings at Mass. And that is what happened! Every time she listened, even to the most difficult and hard to understand passages of the Old Testament, she always received something to keep her going, something that impacted on her daily life.

It happened because she offered to God the rich soil of her heart and He planted there the seed of the Word, a seed of hope.

It happens often that we marginalize the Word by our inattentiveness to it; or we offer it a heart that is dry, shallow or hard; a heart that is smothered by the distractions and cares of life.

But we can choose to offer an open, fertile and listening heart; a heart that is developed by prayer and suffering. As a seed in the soil of our garden only breaks open, germinates and grows in the darkness, and from the darkness is drawn upwards by the light, so with the seed of the word in the soil of our hearts. It needs the experience of darkness as well as the experience of light; it comes to birth and freedom by the process of a groaning that is sometimes very intense.

I’ve had many experiences of the saving, transforming power of the Word and the one that comes to mind now is from a period of great turmoil when my whole being was distressed, without peace or rest. I asked God for a word to address the turmoil and what came to me was the calming of the storm in Mark 4, especially the Word spoken by Jesus “Quiet now! Be calm!” In the quiet of prayer I allowed Jesus to speak these words to the storm that was raging within me. And the Word was effective.

In our time of need we can confidently go to Jesus to ask him for the Word we need, ask the Holy Spirit to inspire us with the Word and having found it allow it to do its work. Sometimes the Word we receive can be challenging in order to bring about our conversion or it can be consoling in order to heal. It will always be life-giving, as Jesus says, "The Words that I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life." (John 6:63)

"...the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty." (Matthew 13:23)

Postscript: As I listened to the gospel being read during Mass I was struck by two things: firstly this paragraph in which Jesus says, "‘But happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! I tell you solemnly, many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it." These words were in the last gospel that I read to my mother during Mass just minutes before she died. 

And the second thing is the date - July 16th, feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. On this very date 9 years ago we were told that Mam had terminal cancer and that she had about three months left to live. She died ten days later! May she rest in peace.

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