God's Unconditional Love and the Condition of Our Hearts
God's Unconditional Love and the Condition of Our Hearts
Fr Luke A. Veronis
God loves everyone unconditionally. God desires every person to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. When we highlight these two fundamental teachings of our faith, some will say, “Well great, if God loves us and wants us all to be saved, we really don’t need to worry about anything. God has done everything for us.”
The question isn’t whether God loves us, however, but whether we will accept His love; it’s not whether He desires all people to be saved, but will we open our hearts to accept His love and salvation?
Imagine pouring water from a firehose into a straw or through a tiny pinhole. How much water would get through? Compare pouring that water into a large pool. God surely pours his love upon us, but if we are closed to receive it, or if we simply give a tiny, little hole, then we will never fully experience His love. Yet if our hearts are open like a gigantic pool, we will refreshingly receive His love!
Yes, God desperately loves us but we are the ones who can hinder or allow this divine love in our lives. God unconditionally showers His grace upon all humanity but will we accept and receive it?
This point is highlighted in today’s Gospel reading. We hear the story of a farmer generously throwing his seed onto the ground. The farmer doesn’t throw more seed on one part of the ground and less seed on another. No! He throws His seed generously upon all the ground but the fruition of the seed depends on the ground, not on the farmer. How does the ground receive it? God is that farmer and we are the ground.
In the story some ground is hard and won’t allow any seed to penetrate it. Other ground has a rocky foundation and may allow the seed to take root but quickly the seed runs into the rock foundation which doesn’t allow its roots to grow deep into the soil. A plant may initially grow but then quickly withers. Some seed fall among thorny and weedy soil. This seed does take root and grows but it grows with the thorns and weeds surrounding the growing seed and choking the growing plant. Finally, some seed falls into fertile ground. This ground receives the seed and allows the seed to grow deep roots in the nutrient rich soil. This is the only seed that produces a plant which bears much fruit.
Think about it. The seed was the same which lands on each type of soil. This seed represents the love of God, His Good News of salvation. God doesn’t limit His love and Good News according to different soil. He loves all unconditionally. Yet how we receive His love determines how we experience His love and salvation.
This cooperation with God’s love is called synergy, working together with God. It is an important theological concept which describes how God doesn’t force His will on us; His love will flourish only where it is freely accepted, only where it is cultivated and allowed to grow.
So the fundamental question for today is what type of soil are we? How do we receive God’s love? What type of soil do our hearts possess? Can the wonders of God’s love find a place to not only take root in our hearts and lives, but to grow and flourish there? Here lies the great challenge for contemporary man. For too many, we have allowed the spirit of this world, with all its skepticism and doubt, combined with all the human pride and arrogance that comes from the progress of humanity and the brilliance of discovery, to deaden our hearts of faith. We become like the hard soil which doesn’t allow the seeds of God’s love to penetrate and take root.
Think about the first seed which falls on the hard ground. This hard surface obviously represents a hard heart. An arrogant heart that is self-sufficient, uninterested in God’s love. This heart is full of pride that leaves little room for faith. A heart uninterested in Christ and His Good News. How many people, outside and even inside the church today, have such hardened, closed hearts? We who come to church must ask ourselves, “Do we come to listen and truly hear God’s voice, open to apply His teachings in our daily lives, no matter how inconvenient or difficult they may be?”
Or are our hearts like the rocky soil. This describes the type of land in Israel which has a thin layer of dirt covering a foundation of rock. A seed’s roots can begin to grow but quickly stop when they run into the rock foundation. The soil has no depth. Do we have shallow and superficial hearts which don’t allow them to truly experience the transformative depth of God’s love.
For many of us, I think the main dilemma is that our hearts are filled with weeds and thorns. In these hearts, the soil may be good and rich, with much potential. The love of God can take root and surely grow in such hearts. The problem, however, is that growing alongside the good seed are weeds and thorns. In such hearts, the weeds and thorns crowd out the love of God. We choose to love something more than His love. Our Holy Tradition teaches that the three most common and threatening weeds are cares and anxieties of the world, the deceit of riches and possessions, and our desire for pleasure. Anxiety and cares, riches and possessions, desire for pleasure.
Society constantly tempts and allures us with such weeds and thorns. What are we anxious and worried about? Do these anxieties and worries consume us? Do they become overwhelming weeds that strangle the love of God out of our lives?
What about the weeds in the form of riches and possessions? We live in such a consumeristic society that unconsciously teaches us to want more and more. How many people even unconsciously identify the worth and value of people by what they possess? We think we will be happy or we will be seen as successful if we become rich and powerful. The love of money and the pursuit for riches is a dangerous path for our hearts. This misguided desire and passion will create weeds and thorns that strangle the seed of God’s love.
Our desire for constant entertainment and pleasure are other weeds that choke off our hearts and keep them from truly experiencing God’s love. Such hearts become egocentric in their constant passion to fulfill our own desires.
These weeds and thorns often take up so much of our time and leave little room for God’s love to grow and flourish. Anything that makes us too busy to find time with God, anything that takes away our primary focus on God and His love are weeds and thorns that endanger our spiritual well-being.
Ultimately, only hearts that pull out the weeds and thorns, that uproot the rocky soil, and that plow and cultivate the hard soil will be in a position to fully accept the love of God unhindered. It is precisely such hearts that not only receive the love of God but allow this divine love to transform our entire lives. We receive this love and then experience all of life through this love! We become beings of divine love that not only love our family and friends, but love any stranger and even our enemies. Our hearts of love become one with God. Such hearts see the wonders and beauty of God in everything and in everyone. We encounter God daily because we have His eyes to see and His ears to hear!
Yet, how do we cultivate hearts with such fertile ground ready to receive God’s love? Any gardener knows that good soil is a mixture of natural gifts and careful cultivation. The soil may have many nutrients, which are given by God, but the gardener must diligently work in the garden. The ground needs water and sun, yet the gardener constantly cultivates the soil. This is the synergy and cooperation needed to truly experience divine love.
We cannot develop such cultivated hearts without an authentic spiritual life, without daily and patient effort, without struggle to battle dark thoughts and actions, without continual self-examination and repentance, without discipline and ascetical struggle. We cannot nourish a cultivated heart without participating in the sacraments and mysteries of the Church.
God loves everyone unconditionally. God desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Yet, God’s grace and love can only be received with synergy and cooperation. We have to cultivate our hearts to receive His gifts. As we till and work the soil of our hearts, our eyes will open to see more and more, our hearts will expand to embrace God’s love to the fullest, and we will then see the world with very different eyes. We will encounter God every day and in every person! Let’s work at cultivating hearts with fertile and good soil.
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