The Seed is the Word of God
Sermon Preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, October 14, 2007
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ!
Today's Gospel reading is St. Luke's account of the Parable of the Sower. Interpreting the parable to his disciples Jesus told them that the seed represents the Word of God. I want to expand our understanding of what the word of God is and then say a few words about what we need to do to be able to receive it.
Often we limit our definition of "the word of God" to the Holy Scriptures and while that is true it is not the whole picture. The words in Holy Scripture point beyond themselves to truths that can never be expressed in human language. They point to the origin of the words, to the inspiration behind them, to the One who is their essence, to the Word of God himself.
In another sense the Word of God is how God expresses himself to us whether through Scripture, Church, intuition, another person, creation or miracle. Thomas Merton writes that every expression of the will of God to us is a word of God. The Orthodox Church agrees with this. I think our faith in Holy Tradition as a vehicle of God's word and will is a good example. St. Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians called upon them to hold tightly to what had been written and what had been passed by word of mouth using the Greek word for "tradition" (paradidomi). It has been rightly said that we view tradition as "the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church." The word of God comes in many forms.
The truth is that the divine seeds of the word of God come to us continuously. Every moment is filled with divine potential. If we really believe the prayer we pray that the Holy Spirit is "in all places filling all things," then we are left with this conclusion: there are no ordinary moments!
Let me save time here and simply read you a quote from Thomas Merton's wonderful book THE NEW SEEDS OF CONTEMPLATION.
"Every moment and every event of every man's life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so every moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men. Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, because men are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds cannot spring up except in the good soil of freedom, spontaneity and love."
"Freedom, spontaneity and love!" How wonderful those words sound and how very little they reflect the reality of our lives. We cannot recognize and embrace the words of God, the seeds, as they come to us moment by moment because the soil in our hearts and minds is rocky and full of weeds. In other words, we are so preoccupied with the past, the future, or our selfish, egotistical concerns that the divine seeds do not stand a ghost of a chance of finding a spot of good soil in which to grow. If we reflect a little on the truth that "there are no ordinary moments", that each one is new, fresh and unadulterated, then perhaps we can begin to change how we live. Perhaps we can learn to be more open, less fearful, more spontaneous, and truly alive and the divine seed will take root in us and grow into something miraculous.
One antidote is the simple practice of living every moment to its fullest. I have spoken about this often, but the concept is so important that it bears repeating. The Holy Fathers call it watchfulness or wakefulness. Another word is mindfulness. Some call it "practicing the presence of God" which is also the title of a lovely little book by a man known as "Brother Andrew". We cannot touch the divine potential in each and every moment unless we are busy practicing being fully engaged in them one by one. This takes practice not only when it comes to prayer, but in every aspect of daily life. In fact, if we don't practice mindfulness in our daily lives we should not expect to be able to turn it on when we start to pray. We are conditioned to being unmindful. We must recondition ourselves to be watchful.
When we eat we need to pay attention to the experience of eating. How much we miss when we eat on the run, in our cars or so quickly that we barely taste the food in our mouths ! Slow down. Savor each bite. Let your mind become fully attentive to the fact that you are eating. When we drive we need to keep our minds on the experience of driving. When we walk we need to reflect on the joys of walking. When we are conversing we need to keep our attention focused on what the other is saying. Whatever we are doing we need to be completely aware that we are doing it. If we do this in these "little things" when we turn to the "big thing" of prayer we will be able to focus completely on God. The Holy Fathers tell us that if we cannot control our thoughts, we cannot pray. The practice of mindfulness, wakefulness, vigilance (call it what you will) is the way we train our minds to cooperate with us rather than to work against us. When the mind wanders we simply need to gently bring it back. Each time we do that it is another awakening! Even the attempt is blessed!
Here's a little verse from a new Joni Mitchell song I like very much.
If you can fill the journey of a minute
With sixty seconds worth of wonder and delight
Then the earth is yours and everything that's in it
And what is more I know that you will be alright
There are no ordinary moments. God comes to us in each and every one. The Father is with us, the Son is with us, the Holy Spirit is with us, the Kingdom is within us. Each moment is filled with divine potential, each one a miracle in and of itself. If we want to find God, we must do so in the present moment. If we want to receive the innumerable blessings of God, there is no other time than now. If we want to be at peace, it can only be done in the here and now.
Mindfulness is how we prepare, till and fertilize the soil of our hearts and minds to receive the divine seeds. Wouldn't it be wonderful if not one more seed was lost?