The Apostle James writes: "Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves."
We tend to think of a word as an intellectual tool that helps us communicate ideas. To truly understand a word or a group of words we can look up their meanings in a dictionary (or nowadays use Google) and then we cobble together as best we can our rational understanding of what the other person was trying to communicate. More often than not we respond by using other words in our attempt to communicate what is in our minds. Sometimes, with training, we actually learn to respond to a word by doing some kind of action. When the Drill Sergeant says: "attention" the Privates in the squad immediately stiffen their bodies and hold their arms at their sides and their feed are set at a 45 degree angle. If a soldier decided that he wanted to have an intellectual exchange at that moment he would most likely be further "trained" with push-ups or other challenges that would help him understand that action is required when the command "attention" is given.
With all that said, St. James is speaking of another entirely different way to understand and respond to the Word. He is speaking of the Word made flesh: Jesus Christ, the son of the living God. "Humbly welcome this Word that has been planted in you". How did he get planted in you? St. Paul writes: "How are they to believe in one they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:14-15, 17). As that word is heard it is as a seed that is planted in the soul. If the soil of the soul is ready to receive this word, it takes root and the Word begins to grow within the person. Ancient Christian imagery sees each newly baptized Christian as being impregnated with Christ. Over the course of years this Christ grows as if in the womb. This is why James tells us to humbly welcome the word. It is the very person of God.
We nuture this word planted in us through our experiences of Christian community and the reception of the sacraments. Reading the word of God also helps nuture this Christ growing within. As Christ grows within each person he or she takes on a new identity, one that radiates the confidence of Jesus Christ who knows the Father's love and who shares that love with the one who is nurturing him. In the end James tells us: "Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deluding yourselves." The hearers think that somebody (anybody) other than themselves are the ones who are supposed to make Christ real in the world. Although they will go to church regularly and even recieve the sacraments they will say: "I am not a saint" as a sorry excuse for not taking their responsibility to be doers of the word seriously. Others actually think of Jesus as a separate entity from themselves, sitting on his grand throne in heaven looking down on everybody here below. They have no sense of being part of the corporate Body of Christ which is their baptismal right. They think that Jesus will judge them after they have lived their lives and at that point they may get into heaven as separate entities from Christ (usually complete with their own set of angel wings).
We have heard the word, it has been planted in us, and He is growing within us. If we know who we are then we begin to see that Christ will do his work through us. He will use our bodies as His body, our hearts as His heart, and our actions as His actions. We begin to understand that the only way for Christ to be real in this world is for us to take ourselves seriously: "Be doers of the word, not hearers only!" Let Christ live in you and find the joy that you have been longing for.