By Sarah Christmyer
“Whoever has ears ought to hear.” ~ Matthew 13:9
The kids gave me a potted hydrangea full of gorgeous blooms. “Just the thing for my new garden,” I thought and put it in the ground.
I composted, watered, mulched—and still it died. Who knew there are “hothouse” and “garden” hydrangeas, and only one can make it on its own? My hothouse plant had been supercharged for one spectacular show but didn’t have the roots to carry on.
That poor hydrangea came to mind as I read the parable of the sower and the rocky soil that receives the seed of God’s Word with joy. It bursts into life and “lasts only for a time.” Exposed to the elements, it dies for lack of roots.
Do you really hear God’s Word?
How many of us have had that happen spiritually? We go to a catholic conference and get excited by a talk. Maybe at bible study, our heart is touched. Or a phrase catches our ear at Mass. We will never be the same—or so we think. The bloom wears off, and we feel the heat of the “sun.” Our troubles come back with a vengeance. It’s as though we never heard that Word at all.
Three kinds of not-hearing
“Whoever has ears ought to hear,” Jesus warns in the parable (Mt 13:9). He describes three kinds of not-hearing.
- There’s the one I just described, where someone hears the Word and responds but doesn’t root itself further spiritually.
- For others, the word bounces off like a dropped seed on asphalt. Maybe this person doesn’t want to hear or doesn’t understand. She’s closed to hearing at all.
- Still others are either so focused on getting rich or popular or so anxious that there’s no room left for God’s word.
“Whoever has ears ought to hear,” Jesus warns. Don’t let the word of God wash over you to no effect. Pay attention! Be like rich, receptive soil, and the Word will flourish in you.
Three steps to fruitful hearing
How can we do that? Here are some ways:
- Prepare the soil of your heart: get rid of sin and pride, the “rocks” that impede spiritual root growth. James 1:21 says to “put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” Take advantage of the Sacrament of Confession. It’s there to help you grow!
- Plunge roots into the source of life. “Abide (remain; stay; live) in me,” as Jesus says in John 15. Psalm 1 compares a deeply rooted, flourishing tree to someone who meditates “day and night” on God’s word. Nourish a daily habit of Bible and prayer.
- Tend the plant and harvest the seed. Use it or lose it! As James says in 1:22, “be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” “Doing the word” completes the growth cycle. It leads to flowers that attract others, produces fruit for our and their benefit, and cultivates more seed to scatter.
Lord, open my ears so that I might hear your word with a receptive heart and flourish with your life, bearing fruit for others.
Call to Action
Consider the seed of the Word that is tossed your way at Mass. What can you do to prepare the soil of your heart so that next Sunday, it is planted – and nourished – and becomes fruitful within you? How can you tend to the new life that results?
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