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Listen Up

First Reading: 2 Samuel 7:4-17

That night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said:
“Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD:
Should you build me a house to dwell in?
I have not dwelt in a house
from the day on which I led the children of Israel
out of Egypt to the present,
but I have been going about in a tent under cloth.
In all my wanderings everywhere among the children of Israel,
did I ever utter a word to any one of the judges
whom I charged to tend my people Israel, to ask:
Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’

“Now then, speak thus to my servant David,
‘The LORD of hosts has this to say:
It was I who took you from the pasture
and from the care of the flock
to be commander of my people Israel.
I have been with you wherever you went,
and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.
And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth.
I will fix a place for my people Israel;
I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place
without further disturbance.
Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old,
since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel.
I will give you rest from all your enemies.
The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you.
And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his Kingdom firm.
It is he who shall build a house for my name.
And I will make his royal throne firm forever.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
And if he does wrong,
I will correct him with the rod of men
and with human chastisements;
but I will not withdraw my favor from him
as I withdrew it from your predecessor Saul,
whom I removed from my presence.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.’”

Nathan reported all these words and this entire vision to David.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 89:4-5, 27-28, 29-30

R. (29a) For ever I will maintain my love for my servant.
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to David my servant:
I will make your dynasty stand forever
and establish your throne through all ages.”
R. For ever I will maintain my love for my servant.
“He shall cry to me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock that brings me victory!’
I myself make him firstborn,
Most High over the kings of the earth.”
R. For ever I will maintain my love for my servant.
“Forever I will maintain my love for him;
my covenant with him stands firm.
I will establish his dynasty forever,
his throne as the days of the heavens.”
R. For ever I will maintain my love for my servant.

Gospel: Mark 4:1-20

On another occasion, Jesus began to teach by the sea.
A very large crowd gathered around him
so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down.
And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land.
And he taught them at length in parables,
and in the course of his instruction he said to them,
“Hear this! A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and the birds came and ate it up.
Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep.
And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it
and it produced no grain.
And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit.
It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”
He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”

And when he was alone,
those present along with the Twelve
questioned him about the parables.
He answered them,
“The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you.
But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that
they may look and see but not perceive,
and hear and listen but not understand,
in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.”

Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable?
Then how will you understand any of the parables?
The sower sows the word.
These are the ones on the path where the word is sown.
As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once
and takes away the word sown in them.
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who,
when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy.
But they have no roots; they last only for a time.
Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
they quickly fall away.
Those sown among thorns are another sort.
They are the people who hear the word,
but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches,
and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word,
and it bears no fruit.
But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it
and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

NAB

jan 27

This is one of those gospels that I usually groan at a little when I hear, the words playing like a tired, broken record in my head. It’s long. It’s obvious. Yet Jesus still has to play Captain Obvious and over-explain things to His disciples. I try to read thoughtfully, but instead find myself thinking, “Can there be anything new to glean from these words?”

And then they jump out and hit me in the face:

Whoever has ears ought to hear.

When I do “hear” these words I already know so well, so often I desire not to really listen. Why is it that someone like me—lover of the written word, cherisher of books, continual re-reader of classics like Pride and Prejudice—why can I delight over and over in the witty construct of Jane Austen’s words, yet be so indifferent, feel so much ennui, toward re-reading Jesus’ words? I think the problem is that sometimes my heart is just a little more hardened to God’s Holy Word than I’d like to admit.

The ennui, that dismissive “here we go again” reaction to God’s word—it reveals a heart and soul slowly distanced by indifference, by the assumption I’ve heard it all before. And so His Word, His love, is in fact falling on the very same rocky soil I groan to read about. Indeed, one of Satan’s greatest deceptions is to make us ignorant to the reality of our once-rich becoming rocky and devoid of good health.

But these words of the Gospel, they differ from those of Jane Austen. They’re not written for my entertainment. They’re not intended to pass my literary critique. They have a much greater purpose—they’ve been written for my salvation. For your salvation. They’re written for us to act upon, as many times as we hear them throughout the continually evolving ribbon of our lives.

Whoever has ears ought to hear.

Yes, it is in the hearing and the desire to internalize the Word that the soil becomes rich again. And as we internalize His Word, Jesus goes on to tell us to “be doers of the word, not merely hearers.” There, in the doing—that’s where the fruit begins to grow.

So today, let’s commit to hearing. Internalizing. Doing. And as we work to do so one day at a time, in place of ennui the fruit will flourish—thirty and sixty and a hundred fold.

Re-read the Gospel with me today. Commit five minutes to really take it in. What areas of your soul have grown rocky? What can you internalize to bring some richness and life back into those areas?

photo credit

Megan Hjelmstad is a wife, mom, writer and sometimes soldier whose real passion is equal parts faith and chocolate. You can find out more about her here.

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