What makes us ready to receive the word of God?

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

A Reflection for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Isaiah 55:10-11 Romans 8:18-23 Matthew 13:1-23

We speak of doctoring a wound or fixing an auto—at least we did before cars became computers—but that does not make us physicians or mechanics. So, can you call yourself a cook if you cannot do it without a cookbook? I bake bread, but I meticulously follow a recipe for “Italian rustic.” The water must be at room temperature. The instructions then read, “Using stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix flour, yeast and water together on low speed until the mixture forms shaggy dough, two to three minutes.”

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“Shaggy dough.” When did I miss the lesson on how to recognize shaggy dough? I cannot convince myself that it is coming. For the longest time—so it seems—the flour and water stay skittish. Surely that is as much a culinary term as “shaggy.” They do not want to come together. Some of the flour enters the lump of dough, but mounds of it stick shyly to the sides of the bowl. With spatula in hand, I watch both clock and dish, ready to intervene, but the bread hook knows its business. The dough grows and gathers what is left of the flour, even from the sides of the bowl.

We listen to the sacred Scriptures week after week, year after year. Why does it take a diagnosis, a divorce, a death, a setback or a struggle for us to hear them?

We can scatter words like seeds, but we have not communicated until someone hears them. We can speak for the longest time before someone listens. Sometimes, people are not ready to receive words.

For example, you offer an important perspective on life to an adolescent, and, as you speak, the words sound familiar. Is it possible that a previous generation said the same words to you when you were young? Sometimes we are not ready to hear. Words rattle around, but we do not receive them.

Another example. You have moaned your way through a muddle, blamed everyone but yourself, and only then do you recall the seemingly small things that your friends said to you. Maybe this is what they were talking about. Why couldn’t you hear what others were saying when you should have?

We listen to the sacred Scriptures week after week, year after year. Why does it take a diagnosis, a divorce, a death, a setback or a struggle for us to hear them? Is that why the church circles back on them as we move through life? Because sometimes we are not ready to receive? Or maybe we do hear and receive the words, yet they take time to root and to grow. Words wind around each other like vines. They grow stronger, are heard more clearly as we move through life.

My word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it (Is 55:11).

God has more brains than a dough hook. God is more patient than a baker. God knows that the word goes forth, but circumstances must congeal, like flour yielding to water, before we can really hear. God soaks the dry soil of our lives with the dew of grace. And sometimes God lets it pour if that is what it takes.

So what does it take with you?

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