JULY 28, 2006 - Jeremiah 3:14-17; Matthew 13:18-23

THE SEED SOWN ON GOOD SOIL IS THE PERSON WHO HEARS THE MESSAGE AND TAKES IT IN. The meaning of this parable was not evident to everyone when Jesus spoke it. A generation later, it seemed important to St. Matthew for the Church of his time, that our Lordís thought in this saying be made explicit. And so later in this same chapter, he presents Jesus as explaining the various points he makes in this teaching so as to avoid any mistaken reading. The seed that is sown, he explains, is the word. This is a striking image that merits our attention. For one thing it tells us something important concerning our Lordís way of conceiving his own preaching. He thought of his message as something organic, that is to say, having properties characteristic of a living organism. Actually, there is a double image here. When Jesus indicates that his word is a seed, he uses "word" itself as a code expression for the whole of his teaching.

There is a good deal of truth in the observation that in a certain manner the whole of revelation is contained in each of our Lordís sayings if it is understood in the fullness of its import. In any case, it is clear that Jesus thought of his own words as containing a potential for growth, for creating new forms of life provided it take root in good soil. And in fact, our Lord stated expressly: "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life." (John 6:63) He also gave warm approval to St. Peter when he declared to Jesus that "you have the words of everlasting life." (John 6:68) Words, then, contain in themselves a hidden power, a capacity for growth; there is within them, an energy that is identified with that mysterious reality which we call life.

That this is certainly true of our Lordís words no one having faith in him as the Word Incarnate doubts. He so communicates his message that his words contain an offer of communion with his person and so are a way that lead to everlasting life. He tells us as much in the Last Discourse: "I am the way, the truth and the life." Is there some way in which our own words participate in this seed-like character of the word of the Lord? After all, if the seed of his word falls on the good ground of a faithful, trusting heart it springs up within us to eternal life. This life becomes active in us once we accept and assimilate our Lordís words It acts as a transforming energy, operative in the substance of our most personal self so that we already participate in the measure of our love and faith in the living Spirit of God. Is it not a fruit of this living word within us that those words that are most personal to us, that arise from the depth of our heart share in the life-giving powers of the Word given us by our Savior? One of the major challenges of our faith then is to cultivate this gift of the life-giving word so as to sow it in the soul of others, having clarified its meaning first for our self, and after assimilating the spiritual strength it contains..

This task entails our giving attention to words, both those we ourselves speak and write and those we read. St. Benedict was keenly aware of the importance of our use of words and made it a point to legislate in some detail concerning speech, silence and reading. For words enter into and form largely our interior life. As one writer notes: "Human speech and human though are everywhere coincident.... The development of human consciousness includes in itself the development of modes of expression. Language is an essential element of the function of thinking." (Wundt, in Owen Barfield, "History in English Words", 86) Words then, have a special role in our relationship to the world around us and the persons and things we encounter; they also relate us to the inner meanings of things and of our own self. Without the language we have inherited from ancient Greece and the Bible, language that gave expression to the inner workings of consciousness, "the thoughts and feelings and impulses which it expresses could have no being" (Barfield, 40).

The word has many functions, as Karl Rahner indicates: "it expresses, designates and distinguishes, demarcates, defines, compares, determines and arranges. But as it does this, he who has ears, he who can see (here all the senses of the spirit are at one) experiences something totally different: the silent, mystic presence of the nameless. For that which is named is conjured up by the word." However, it is commonly the case, that we overlook the fact that the word which functions in this manner arises from a source that remains silent even as it blends with the things defined and settled in an order that itself reflects an antecedent reality, prior to all ordering. Through fixing attention too exclusively on the individual things heard, we can fail to notice the silent encompassing whole out of which the words proceed, and in which things remain embedded. This hidden, deeper reality is the reflection of the active presence of God Himself.

By taking the words of the Lord into our heart and assimilating them by meditation and by putting them into practice, we grow and bear fruit for the kingdom of God. By living in that place in the heart formed by the divine word of our Savior, we too, by Godís grace, can sow in others a seed that carries the hidden life and energy of the Spirit.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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