"Take heed then how you hear; for to him who has will more be given, and from him who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away. "(Luke 8: 18)
Saint Luke, like Saint Mark, connects this reading with the parable of the sower. It is this parable that provides an important key to understanding the difficult verse I am highlighting.
The parable of the sower reveals God's love for all people. His word - and therefore his eternal Son - is not withheld or hidden from anyone. However, the universality of God’s love is not always recognized. In part, this is so because of the way a key passage of the parable is translated into English. We hear Jesus telling his disciples that they have been given to know the "secrets" of the kingdom of God. As for those outside the circle of disciples, the word of God remains intentionally veiled in parables (cf. Luke 8:9ff).
A more accurate translation of the Lord's response to his disciples would be that they have been given to know the "mysteries" of the kingdom of God. Unlike the term "secrets", mystery is charged with a dynamism that describes the interaction between God's word and the listener. Our Lord uses parables not to hide himself or to veil the saving power of his word. Our Lord uses parables to engage his audience and to challenge the audience to enter in dialog with him.
Jesus uses the parable of the sower to show that God's love is not denied anyone. Through his incarnate Son and Word, God calls all to new and transfigured life. Through his incarnate Son and Word, God offers mercy and forgiveness to all who heed the call to repentance. Yet, the parable of the sower teaches the audience - teaches us - that the word of God must be cared for. Indeed, God is generous with the dissemination of his Word. But the recipient is responsible for its care and handling. The incarnate Word is given to both the Jew and the Gentile. But it is up to the Jew and Gentile to properly hear the Word and then to receive it and finally to enter its inexhaustible mystery.
To us has been given to know the "mysteries” of the kingdom of God. The word we hear from the Gospel is the Word of God who takes upon himself the sin of the whole world (cf. John 1:29). The Word of God offers himself to us. His word calls us to draw near and to enter new and eternal life. This begins by entering the mystery of his death and resurrection through baptism. Yet, it is precisely at this juncture that we must heed how we hear. For unless the Word of God leads us to repentance and places us in the ascetical arena where mind and heart, soul and body turn from death to life we will not be able to enter the kingdom of God. Unless the mind and heart are opened and willing to change, the words of our Lord will not initiate us into a life of ceaseless renewal and ascent. Without a mind and heart struggling to repent, the Word himself, freely given to us will be taken away. And this will happen not because of God's desire but because we refused to cultivate and nurture the sown Word.
The living Word of God speaks to us in our own language. How we hear God's Word determines how we relate to the one who has taken on the form of a servant for us and for our salvation. To hear the proclaimed word is to hear him. To receive his word is to receive him. Making his word our word changes us "into his likeness from one degree of glory to another..."(2Corinthians 3:18).
The Word of God has now offered himself to us. He has spoken to us. Through mutual encouragement and exhortation may we hear his voice not allowing the noise of vain cares and ill will to distract us from entering the mysteries of the kingdom of God.
Copyright © 2003 by Father Robert M. Arida