Friday, November 6, 2009

Called to be Sowers

In the Gospel of Luke Christ tells a parable about a farmer that goes out to sow his seed. The seed - being the Word of God – is spread and depending on the receptiveness or disposition of the hearer the Word either thrives and grows or else withers or falls by the wayside. The parable stresses the importance of the necessity of developing the gift of understanding so that when we hear the Word we can take root in it, grow and be nourished by it, and continue to strengthen and feed us as we develop as faithful disciples of Christ.

Each time I listen to scripture or read a passage I always try to look at it from another angle. In a Lectio Divina approach to scripture there are four movements to approaching God’s word. The first – Lectio – is about the reading. You take the passage, read through it slowly. Then read it again. And perhaps a third time. Each time allowing yourself to focus on the words, their meaning, what they’re saying to you. You look for a word or part of the text that begins to stand out, that seems to be speaking something specific to you. Or perhaps that you don’t understand and need to concentrate on further.

The second movement is Meditatio. This movement is a meditation on what you’ve heard or read. I’ve always found it helpful to write that word or phrase down. I do exercises where I’ll begin writing the word or phrase repeatedly, or just begin writing what the phrase means to me. What is it saying? What am I hearing? Am I hearing this in a new way? Is there something going on in my life today that this passage or phrase seems to be speaking to? What if I were present with Christ as he spoke these words – would they mean something entirely different to me? How would I react? How would they be written upon my heart?

The third movement of Lectio Divina is Oratio. It is the movement where we speak with God about what we’ve heard. Maybe that phrase was a challenge for us. Maybe it’s an affirmation of something in our lives we’re actively working on. When writing I may take that word or phrase and turn it into a prayer that I offer up to God. When I read scripture in the morning and that word of phrase jumps out at me I’ll turn it and consider it throughout the day, and make it into a silent prayer I share with God.

The final movement is Contemplatio. This is the resting upon the Word. We have now made it a part of who we are. Like the Word that fell on rich soil it now begins to germinate within us, to grow and bear fruit.

Lectio Divina is a technique for slowing down the reading, to absorb it and take personal ownership of it as we develop our relationship with God. When using this approach to scripture it’s important not to force our interpretation. It’s about resting in the Word, letting it rain upon us and being receptive to where the Holy Spirit will lead us in the understanding.

This is all about what it means to be a faithful listener of the Word. What we can do personally to be the rich soil upon which that word falls. But there is another aspect to this passage of scripture, and as I meditated and contemplated upon this passage it was what stood out for me. The phrase that stood out today for me was “The sower went out to sow his seed.”

As disciples, we’re not just called to be faithful listeners. We’re also called to be sowers. To take that Word of God out into the world and live it, spreading the seed through our own words and our actions. How we live our lives is akin to a farmer preparing the soil for the sowing. If we don’t till the earth, if we don’t prepare the soil properly the seed will not take root. If people can’t see Christ in us through our words and actions then those seeds are not going to take root in them.

We are called to not only be rich soil but also to be good sowers. Good caretakers of God’s Word, caretakers with a zest for spreading the seed, and lovingly help that seed to take root, to grow and flourish. Whether it’s with our children, or family or friends or acquaintances or anyone we encounter it’s our call as evangelizing disciples of Christ to nourish His Word in our world each and every day.


John said...

I liked the article and its description of lectio divina — as you know an ancient monastic practice that is seeing its return to wider use in the Church. I have collected a series of lectio divina resources.

wayhip said...

Thanks, John - I will absolutely check them out!