Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.
“Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
Nurturing Spiritual Intelligence
I am interested to know what you have learned over the last few months. What have you learned about yourself? What have your learned about the world we live in? What have you learned about God? How has this effected your life and the way you now live?
The disciples asked Jesus to explain another parable to them. By now we know that the parables are not to be interpreted literally. Biblical experts tell us that Matthew may be tailoring his Gospel for his readers and the contexts in which they are living. Matthew Gospel is said to be written for Christians from a Jewish background. Perhaps they were confused about the other Christians, those from Gentile backgrounds. Perhaps they were uncertain about who was and who was not a Christian. Perhaps they suspected the beliefs, practices and freedoms of these Gentile Christians. Were they really Christians? How could they tell? So, a parable about wheat and weeds and the eventual harvest is something to ponder upon. In Matthew 7:15,16a Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits…”
Whether in parables or explanations or other teaching, Jesus is moving us beyond an understanding of things with our mind to an understanding of the heart. Christianity is foremost a religion of the heart. By that I don’t mean that it is just an emotional religion but rather the ways of the kingdom of God are not always understood with the mind instead they
are cherished and nurtured in the heart.
There is an awakening of the heart, an awakening to the Spirit. Paul in Romans 8:12-25 reminds his readers that life is to be lived in the Spirit and not according to the flesh. The Spirit sets us free from slavery and the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. What does this all mean? How does one live in the Spirit rather than in the flesh? How does one live in the heart as well as in the mind? For those born of the Spirit how do we achieve spiritual transformation or how do we move from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity?
Today, we hear a lot about artificial intelligence and its use in the world. For example, thousands of people have been effected by what is known as Robodebt. Centrelink used a computer system to calculate how much individuals had been overpaid over a period of seven years. But with some missing information or incorrectly programmed into the system thousands of people were forced to pay back money leaving many in severe poverty and very distressed. The Commonwealth of Australia is now facing a class action claiming that unlawful debts were raised against hundreds of thousands of people. Machines are only as good as the intelligence they are programmed with by humans.
There are many types of intelligence in the world. For success in life and business we are told we need both intellectual intelligence and emotional intelligence. For Christians surely the most important kind of intelligence to seek is spiritual intelligence. We need to do all we can to nurture our spiritual intelligence for the sake of our own spiritual transformation and for the transformation of the world.
As the children of God, as seeds of the kingdom of God sown into this world, we need all the wisdom, all the spiritual intelligence we can find so that we may influence this world for good; that we may live lives of kindness and compassion,
of love and mercy and grace and justice and produce a rich harvest of life well
lived for all creation.
How have you been nurturing your spiritual intelligence? Spend some time slowly pondering a couple of verses in today's reading, allowing the Spirit to speak deeply to your heart.
For the wisdom that fashioned the universe
and can be read in the earth’s dark depths
and in heaven’s infinity of lights
thanks be to you, O God.
for the wisdom of teachers before me
and their words and imaginative seeing,
for the wisdom of those I have known
and their silence and humility of speech,
and for wisdom’s wellspring in my own soul
and in the soul of every human being
from which ancient truths and new realisations
thanks be to you.
Let wisdom unfold in my own heart and mind
and in the men and women of every nation.
Let us see the foundations for a new harmony
within us and between us,
the foundations for a recovered unity
with the earth and all its creatures,
for the ground of life is in you, O God,
the ground of all life is in you.
-from Sounds of the Eternal by John Philip Newell
Photo: Bandon River, Co. Cork, Republic of Ireland
Hearing and receiving the word of the kingdom in our heart
In life many of us want to live with certainty and security. This is often what drives and motivates us. But in the spiritual life certainty and security are never promised. Today we look at one of the parables of Jesus to hear what Jesus offers those who seek to follow him.
Have you noticed that there is quite a difference between the letters of Paul and the teaching of Jesus? Paul says it as he understands the truth to be; whereas with Jesus we are often left guessing and wondering and asking, “What is he really saying?” Those of us who approach Christianity as a religion seeking certainty tend to gravitate towards Paul and many church leaders point seekers towards Paul’s letters so that they can find the ‘truth’ for themselves. But why does Jesus not give us the facts so that we can see them clearly and speak the word so that we can understand the truth more easily? This is one of the mysteries of Christianity. I remember from my Bible College days in England in the 1980s the Principal of Cliff College always stressing that faith is caught not taught. Jesus’ parables invite us to step into another life, the kingdom of heaven, to open our hearts as well as our minds, to be blown by the wind of the Spirit, to let go and be carried along by the waters of the river of life.
Crowds of people were coming to hear what Jesus had to say. So many were coming that he had to get into a boat while they sat on the beach listening. But not everyone who heard his words understood what they meant, nor did they allow them to take root in their hearts.
Jesus begins the Parable of the Sower by saying, “Listen!” And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow (Matthew 13:3). At the end of the parable Jesus concludes, “Let anyone with ears listen!" Later, Jesus explains the parable to his disciples and again Jesus begins by saying, "Hear then the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:18).” And in verse 19 and 20, Jesus tells the disciples what it is all about. It is about hearing the word of the kingdom and receiving it in our heart.
We may come to understand that in our minds but receiving the word of the kingdom in our hearts means opening our hearts and allowing the seeds to settle within them and to extend their roots deep within them. This is a process that we need to nurture through meditation, contemplation and prayer. For some who hear the word of the kingdom the evil one snatches the word away; for some the word does not develop roots deep into the heart and when trouble comes what is sown dies; for others the cares of the world and the lure of wealth take over and the word is rendered powerless, it chokes and dies. But the word of the kingdom sown in good soil (in the heart of one who hears and understands it) bears much fruit in the form of a well lived life.
The heart is not the place where we feel things, our emotional centre. Cynthia Bourgeault says the heart is ‘… an organ for the perception of divine purpose and beauty.’ Thomas Moore says, ‘... the heart is the ground of wisdom and the anchor of a spiritual existence.’ (cited from the foreword to ‘The Wisdom Way of Knowing’ by Cynthia Bourgeault).
Hearing and understanding the word of the kingdom in the heart is different to hearing and understanding it with the head. A religion of the head tends to see things as right and wrong, true and false, orthodox and unorthodox, truth or heresy, Christian or non-Christian, but a spirituality of the heart that is sown with the word of the kingdom is sown with seeds of grace and love, mercy and kindness, compassion and understanding and this heart is nurtured by the water of life, the wind of the Spirit and the light of the eternal kingdom of God and blossoms into a life that is lived to the full.
Eternal Light, shine into our hearts,
Eternal Goodness, deliver us from evil,
Eternal Power, be our support,
Eternal Wisdom, scatter the darkness of our ignorance,
Eternal Pity, have mercy upon us;
that with all our heart and mind and soul and strength
we may seek your face and be brought by your infinite mercy
to your holy presence; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(A prayer by Saint Alcuin of York -730-804)
Photo: Dock Leaf - Ireland (Flower or Weed or both?)