|The Importance of Soil Type|
|Written by Michael Fones|
|Friday, 26 January 2007 09:12|
I am on the road this weekend, and am typing this in the Phoenix airport prior to boarding for sunny St. Paul, MN. I may not be able to keep up with the posts and comments, but thought I'd leave a brief reflection on Wednesday's gospel, Mark 4:1-20 because I believe it connects with the important issue of disposition and grace.
Jesus is talking about various dispositions of people who encounter the Word that he sows. I propose that he may also be speaking of the various reactions that people have to him, as well, since he is the incarnate Word. Notice that there are a variety of responses. Some have the word snatched by Satan as soon as they hear it. It's taken before it can begin to take root at all. Some respond with joy, and the word begins to root in them, begins to change their life and their behavior, but then the trials that inevitably come with living as a disciple of Christ leads to their abandonment of following him. Still others hear the word, but the distractions and cares of life "and the craving for other things" squeezes out the transforming power of the Word.
Note the craving for other things probably means other goods, since we are created by God to pursue the good. It's just that they are lesser goods – including our families, our careers, our pursuit of justice and human rights and every other good thing that is not God. Now, please do not think that I'm suggesting we abandon our spouses and children, or quit our jobs and join religious life. Rather, I'm proposing that the following of Christ must come first, and in following Christ, all of our other relationships and pursuits will be transformed. We will love our families better, serve them more wholeheartedly, and promote their personal and spiritual growth more if we are in communion with Christ. We will approach the sacraments with greater "active, conscious participation" when our relationship with Christ is our first priority. As Pope Benedict XVI said at his inauguration Mass, "If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide."
These various responses to Christ and his word point to the importance of our disposition when we approach the sacraments, our prayer, our relationships with other people – every aspect of our life of faith. This is why we at Intentional Disciples are so focused on the need for intentionality in our life of faith. We can't just "go through the motions" and presume that grace will be imparted. Nor are we suggesting that our disposition is simply our own work. St. Thomas Aquinas observed that
"even the good movement of the free-will, whereby anyone is prepared for receiving the gift of grace is an act of the free-will moved by God. And thus man is said to prepare himself, according to Prov. 16:1: "It is the part of man to prepare the soul"; yet it is principally from God, Who moves the free-will. Hence it is said that man's will is prepared by God, and that man's steps are guided by God." (ST II, I, 112, art. 2)
Our disposition is critical in the fruitful reception of God's grace in the sacraments, but even that good disposition is a result of our cooperation with the grace of God, whether that be habitual or actual grace. Yet we have to cooperate! As St. Augustine said, "God will not save us without us."
They're calling my flight. Gotta run. I hope this helps you understand our focus on intentionality a bit better - think of it as a bit of fertilizer for your soil!