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?)