In my previous post, we saw that while God’s Word gives life and is powerful, it is not a magic wand. Our cooperation and “good soil” in our hearts are crucial for fruit and strength. How do we cultivate the right conditions for growth?
We can learn a lot from the wisdom of James, who explains how to receive the Word of God by clearing the ground and preparing the soil of our souls:
Put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1: 21-22)
STEP 1: “Put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness.”
Remember the seed in Jesus’ parable that fell among the thorns and stones? As any gardener knows, before you plant, you must prepare the soil and take out everything that will keep the plants from taking root: trash as well as rocks, clay, weeds and other things you don’t want growing. It’s best to be ruthless and do a complete job of it.
All of us struggle with sin. Do you have a pet vice, something you give room to or nurture in secret? When we harbor sin in our lives, it becomes the “rank growth” James speaks of. It festers and spreads. It can take over, like invasive plants in a garden. It clouds our judgment and chokes out purer, better things. Take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation to help you root it out.
STEP 2. “Receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls”
First, receive the Word.
When we hear or read the Word, take care to receive it – not simply let it wash over us, or go in one ear and out the other. You’ve prepared the soil of your heart. Now let God plant it within you. Pay attention; focus; meditate so it stays with you.
Now receive the Word with meekness.
Meekness is not weakness; it’s strength that is quiet and controlled. It’s the “yes” with which Mary received God’s Word at the Annunciation. What you read may not even make sense right away – but meekness recognizes that it doesn’t know everything. To be meek is to have a teachable spirit. Meekness steps back and ponders, like Mary did. It receives the Word and allows it to work.
STEP 3. “But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
Next? Just do it!
Don’t stop at receiving the Word. Let it take root and grow and bear fruit in action. Otherwise, James says, we deceive ourselves into thinking we’re fine just because we went through the motions. But we will not be transformed.
“The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the Word? What use has he made of the talents he has received?” … “Words are not enough, deeds are required.” (Catechism No. 546)
Again, the seeds of God’s Word are not magic. We must cooperate with the wonderful gift of life God has given us.
Spend some time prayerfully meditating on James 1:21-22. Ask God to help you clear your heart of sin and receive his Word. Decide on one thing you can do this week, to make progress in the area he brings to mind. Then do it!
(If you’re interested in some practical advice for “receiving” the Word — check out the Superbowl post I wrote for BibleStudyforCatholics.com)
Coming next: Flourishing in Drought, Part 4: Soaking in the Word
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This is part of a 4-part series that includes: