Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Richness Through Reciprocity

Today's Gospel for Daily Mass (Mark 4:1-20) is the Parable of the Sower and the Seed. The parable describes how a farmer spread seeds throughout his field and than what happened to the seeds. Some seeds failed to take root (the seeds that fell along the path), some seeds took root but didn't last long (the seeds that feel on rocky ground), other seeds took root but than were choked by thorns, and, finally, the last batch of seeds found fertile soil, struck deep root, and produced a harvest 30, 60, and 100 times what was sewn (truly an astronomical amount of yield for the people of Jesus' time). Jesus than goes on to describe to his disciples that the seed represents God's word, and the different soil represents different types of receptiveness to the word.

The typical approach to interpreting this parable and it's implications for Christian life is to either focus on the seed or the soil. While each of these approaches is perfectly valid and yields (no pun intended) food for thought, another approach is to consider the relationship between the seed and the soil. To begin with, the seed, as rich and potent as it is, can accomplish little or nothing without finding rich and fertile soil. Only then does it strike root, grow to maturity, and bear fruit. If we think about it for a moment, this is quite astounding given the fact that we are talking about God's word! Why can't God's word bear fruit regardless of the environment that it settles in? Well, to put it quite simply, it's because God's word doesn't work that way (and neither does God). The manner in which the word operates in our lives and our world is reflective of the divine life. The Word which has been spoken by God from all eternity is so rich and "thick" with existence that it is simultaneously God's very self and also constituted as an "other" within God. As an other within God, this Word, or, God's Son (Jesus) also reciprocates the self-same love extended to him by the Father. This rich, "reciprocal dance" of seamless giving and receiving of love is what we refer to as the Holy Spirit (also so rich and thickly expressed that it is likewise constituted a person).

What this means for human and Christian life is that when God speaks, the richness and potency of God's word is only half of the equation. In order for that word to take root and bring about a harvest of transformation in our lives and world 30, 60, or even 100 fold requires an equally rich reception of the word. It requires openness and vulnerability. St. Francis of Assisi perhaps said it best when he told his followers, "let us always make a home within ourselves for God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." The richness of divine life that God has to offer is not something that is ever imposed or forced upon us. Not only is this reflective of the dynamics of divine life, but it is also the case with human life. In order for authentically human words expressive of truth, honesty, integrity, vulnerability, and love to take deep root within the human heart and to transform our lives, they must be welcomed, received, and, ultimately, returned. In both divine and human life, it would seem, richness comes through reciprocity. Pat, TOR