This is a time of year for family reunions; I’m going to one this weekend. It’s always good to see your relatives and share stories, although sometimes it’s hard to tell if everyone remembers the same event. This isn’t just because an elderly relative is losing their mental faculties, we all experience life from our unique perspectives and interpret what we experience differently. Sharing the stories is a good way to get them straight, at least come close to the truth of what really happened, although sometimes differences of opinion can be troublesome to deal with.
There were two members of the same family, father and son, who grew up in the same place under similar circumstances, trained under the same teachers, ended the same profession who ended up being very different people. Anakin Skywalker studied under Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, became a Jedi Knight, yet gave into fear and turned to the Dark Side and became Darth Vader. Luke Skywalker grew up on the same planet, studied with Obi-Wan and Yoda, became a Jedi Knight like his father but stayed true and never gave in. It’s part of the human experience: going through the same life events can lead to very different destinations.
One thing we might find it difficult to believe is that most of the people who heard and saw Jesus in the flesh probably didn’t accept him as the Son of God. I imagine most of His disciples had a difficult time with this as well. The parable of the Sower is a story word Jesus exaggerates to make a point: a subsistence farmer would know where to throw his precious seed and avoid losing it recklessly by putting it in the wrong place. His audience would’ve known as well as He what would happen to see planted in different types of soil. As He explained to His disciples afterward, just as rich soil properly prepared gives a seed its best opportunity to grow, his listeners needed to have an open mind and heart in order for His Word to take root, and this was not guaranteed.
Just as in Jesus’ time, it isn’t enough just to listen to God’s Word. It isn’t enough just to spend an hour in church for Jesus’ presence to take root. God always makes the first step, always gets things started, but we need to be open to it. We need to cultivate ourselves in such a way that the Word of God can take root in our hearts and blossom. If we don’t, we lose the full effect of being here, we don’t let ourselves fulfill our full potential as people or as Christians.
Cultivation takes a lot of effort. It means preparing ourselves through prayer, opening ourselves not only to God’s presence here in God’s house but in every person we meet. Cultivation means not only listening to the word of God but sharing the stories with each other, talking through what we’ve seen and heard just as a family does when it remembers its past. Cultivation means not only receiving the Body and Blood of Christ physically, but allowing that Presence to keep changing us, to keep us away from giving in to fear and turning to the Dark Side, to become the presence of Christ in the world.