Whether it be giving a talk for work, making a toast as the father of the bride, or even working out, I have found that preparation is essential to insure the desired result. The one thing I know for sure is that without adequate preparation the outcome usually fails to achieve the quality for which I hope.

While we know faith is a gift given freely and without reservation by God, it still requires preparation on our part. Whether your field is law, baseball or chess, it takes many years of hard work and practice to become really good. So why are we surprised the same is true in the spiritual life? St Ignatius became a master of the spiritual life only through the deepening self-awareness he developed during his long convalescence at Loyola and then his year of “spiritual exercises” at Manresa.

So, as the gospel suggests, let’s get out the “gardening tools of life” to prepare the soil of our hearts to receive the Word of God. As Saint Ignatius is reported to have said, “work as if everything depends upon you and pray as if everything depends upon God.”

—David McNulty works for the Midwest Jesuits. Dave and his wife Judy are grandparents of six.