Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday in the 7th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Soil and Sower

Readings: James 3:13-18; Psalms 19:8, 9, 10, 15; Mark 9:14-29
Picture: CC ICCI images

This is the kind that can only be driven out by prayer…

I believe that many of us who come to daily Mass will probably have some kind of regular commitment to prayer. Of course, different people will prefer to pray in different ways, at different times and in different places. But what actually happens when we pray? Or what can we expect to happen in our prayer? Our readings today offer us one perspective on the process. A useful image that they evoke is one from a well-known parable of Jesus’, the parable of the sower going out to sow.

For at least one important thing that we can expect to happen when we settle into prayer is to have a precious seed sown into the soil of our hearts. This is the seed of God’s Word, the seed that the first reading describes as the wisdom that comes down from heaven. As we allow ourselves to become conscious of our immediate concerns and emotions, and as we humbly present these before God, we gradually become more receptive to what God has to say. We begin to see the connections between our prayer and the concrete situations – perhaps even difficult situations – of our lives. We begin to recognize God’s guiding hand. We begin to yield to God’s healing touch. What this can look like is very strikingly illustrated in the gospel.

Here, Jesus, the Wisdom of God, descends from the heights of Mount Tabor, and enters a chaotic situation. A noisy crowd is gathered, a teeming mass of bodies jostling one another, curious to see what’s going on. Everyone is speaking at once, but nobody is saying anything really helpful. And, at the center of the commotion, are the distraught father and his possessed son. I do have faith. Help the little faith I have!

Probably none of us here is possessed, at least not in the strict sense of the word, least of all by a spirit of dumbness. It’s quite undeniable that, for all its shortcomings, our society never runs short of words. Whether it is on the computer or on TV, through the cellphone or Ipod, at home or even on the bus, in print, speech or song, we are constantly being bombarded by words of some sort. But might we not wonder how many of these words really help? How much of what is spoken truly expresses the wisdom that comes from above? Or is it not the case that the noisy sea of our useless words often only serves to drown out the quiet promptings of Wisdom? Even if we may not be possessed, aren’t we sometimes held captive by unclean spirits of some sort, spirits that render us capable only of engaging in idle chatter instead of uttering words of wisdom? Two of these spirits are named in the first reading: jealousy and self-seeking ambition. We can probably think of others. Not only do these spirits render us dumb, but they also make us do things that bring harm to others and to ourselves. It has often thrown him into the fire and into the water.

One of the crucial things that should happen in our prayer, then, is the sowing of the seed of God’s Wisdom into the chaotic soil of our hearts. And the power of God’s wisdom rebukes and expels the unclean spirits. The seeds of God’s word gladden the heart by restoring to it the peace that God alone can give. These seeds germinate and grow, yielding a harvest of wisdom that can then be shared with others. Those who, through prayer, have received God’s word into the soil of their hearts, are then called to be sowers themselves. Peacemakers, when they work for peace, sow the seeds which will bear fruit in holiness.

How are we being invited to be both soil and sower in the world today?


  1. Most of us may have gone beyond with the Thomasine “Help me in my unbelief.” Are we really? If only we have the faith of a mustard seed, can we really move mountains? These are questions I grapple with the realities being confronted daily.
    You are so right that there are so much Babel today, it harkens me back to the Tower where each of us clamor to be seen and heard. This saying that great minds discuss ideas, average minds speak of events and small minds speak of people, ring so true.
    Driven by the need to impress, have you noticed how some people buy things they don’t need, with money they do not have (on credit), to impress people they don’t even know. Isn’t this the sign of the times? We are all so caught up.
    We reap wisdom when we humbly acknowledge that everything that we do is empowered by the Holy Spirit, recognizing our human limitations and act in obedience to God’s will. His ways are certainly not our ways.
    You have blessed me beyond expectations.

  2. The power of words (video) for the better or the worse is much stronger than what we think most of the time.

    Words can hurt people.
    Words can heal people.

    May we always remember to receive God's Word humbly and lovingly in our hearts' soil before attempting to sow our words on others!

  3. I deal with plenty of people in the course of an ordinary work day. And, as Fr Chris pointed out, the cacophony of words (noise really) is unbelievable. Very, very rarely, do I encounter true wisdom.

    Now, for my 2 cents' worth:

    What actually happens when I pray? Basically nothing. I never levitate. What I do know is the communication line to God is open, and my heart is attentive, waiting for God's wisdom to be sown in my restless, confused heart.

    What can I expect to happen in my prayer?
    Nothing. I don't hear voices or see flashes of light. But what I have experienced is a drawing towards a stronger union, like iron filings to a magnet. Divine grace in action. And before I know it, it is the Spirit praying in me, leading me.

    Fr Chris, through your blog, you have become a sower of God's seed of Wisdom which had flourished in the fertile soil of your heart. Deo gracias.


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