by Father Mike Stubbs
Some gardeners get ready for spring planting by tilling the soil during the fall.
The broken globs of earth will freeze and thaw, and consequently become softened. Preparing the soil makes it easier for the plants to grow.
In a similar way, God can prepare our hearts to receive the word. Then, like seed planted in the ground, it can take root and flourish.
We see an example of that in Sunday’s Gospel reading, Mk 9:30-37. Jesus questions the disciples on the argument they were having as they traveled through Galilee: “But they remained silent.”
Their silence reflects the guilt that they were feeling. They sense that they were wrong in discussing who was the greatest.
Even though they could not articulate any details, or provide a reason, or put a finger on it, they realized that their ambitions did not line up with the direction that Jesus wanted them to go.
It makes them feel very uneasy. They are like children whose parents have caught them in a misdeed.
Their feeling of guilt prepared their hearts to receive the teaching that Jesus would give them: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Because their hearts have been prepared, these words of Jesus ring true. They felt right. They explain what the disciples had already felt in their hearts.
So, how does God prepare our hearts? Sometimes, God blesses us with good examples, which stir up in our hearts a desire to imitate.
Perhaps it is a family member or friend who impresses us. Or maybe it is a saint that we hear about. The disciples had spent much time with Jesus, who gave them the best example of all.
In any case, our hearts are ready to follow their example. We feel attracted to them. We are receptive to hearing the word of God, which can tell us how to do that.
Our hearts have been softened, so that God’s word can take root and grow.
All this can remind us of the parable of the sower and the seed (Mk 4:1-9). God’s word is like the seed that is sown in the ground. In some cases, it takes root and flourishes. Then, it produces abundantly.
In other cases, it fails to grow and withers up.
It all depends on that state of the soil — that is to say, the condition of our hearts.