A HOMILY OF FIFTHEEN SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR A
Readings: Is. 55: 10-11; Rom. 8: 18-23; Matt. 13:1-9
I am so delighted by our quest for the Word of God! And our Sunday readings speak of the power in the Word of God. For Scripture says, “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
In the first reading, Isaiah talks about the purpose of the Word of God. The Word of God is a vehicle or conveyer of Divine promises. So, Isaiah consoles the Jewish slaves in Babylon by reminding them of the promises of the Word of God. He does that by assuring them that, like rain and snow which water the earth so that seeds may sprout and grow, God’s word will accomplish its purpose, in this case by returning the exiles to their homes in peace as God promised.
In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that just as seeds must fall into the earth and die in order to produce abundant crop, the pain and sufferings God permits in our lives help our redemption. Paul wants us to wait for our eternal reward while we continue sowing the word of God diligently and suffering for the Lord, as he did.
Today’s Gospel teaches us that the Word of the Lord is the seed that generates life while our minds, hearts and souls are the soil. The sower’s spreading of seeds even without preparing the ground for cultivation tells us how God generously makes his graces through His Word available to everyone. Such graces are received according to the responses of the recipients. The good spiritual yield in life depends on how much a person willingly accepts and responds to the word of the Lord. The yield arising from the positive response will be abundant beyond all imagination. The parable tells us to do our part by preparing fertile soil in our hearts for the word of God to germinate, grow and yield 30-, 60-, or 100-fold.
How comes that many of us hunger and taste for the Word of God but it has not taken firm root in us?
First, we have to note that God speaks! Then we ought to listen! “When speaking of the word of God we often take for granted the most moving event of all, namely, that God speaks. The biblical God is a God who speaks!” “Our God comes and will not be silent,” says Psalm 50:3; God himself often repeats: “Listen, my people, I will speak” (Psalm 50:7). In this the Bible sees the clearest difference from the idols that “have mouths, but do not speak” (Psalm 115:5). Again, why is God speaking and we cannot experience Him or experience the fulfilment of His promises? It is about listening and our dispositions.
Hearers of God’s Word
This brings us to the point of reflecting on the four ways we listen and respond to the Word of God. If you like the four classes of hearers of God’s word as given by Jesus Christ through the parable of the sower – the path hearers, the rocky hearers, the thorny hearers and the good soil hearers.
The path hearers (shallow mindedness) – We are people who hear the word of God with a shallow understanding. We are carried away by the errors of secularism and relativism. We have grown daft in the language of the Spirit. Those of us in this group are quick to understand the language of politics, business, sports, communication, science and technology and make sense out of them. But not so for the word of God. We have no thoughts for the future. We think that after this miserable life, all will end in the grave. If we find ourselves in this category, there is still the opportunity to reclaim our eternal identity as children of God, by resuming our reading of the Bible with a commentary, by reading the spiritual works of the saints and theologians. By getting ourselves educated in the faith.
The rocky hearers (Hard heartedness) – We hear the word of God but it does not take firm root in our minds, hearts and souls. The word of God only excites us but we don’t move beyond emotionalism and make the Word of God a foundation for our daily lives. We see and feel the truth and consolations offered by the word of God but when it comes to making sacrifices for the Word of God, we give up as there is no deep faith in the word of God.
The thorny hearers (worldly preoccupations) – A lot of us are in this group. We have heard the word of God for many years and through various media. However, at the slightest provocation by the challenges of life, “the cares of the world and the delight in riches chokes the word and it proves unfruitful.” We become anxious and jittery, up to the point of forgetting the promises of the word of God and abandoning it for other ungodly ways to solve our problems.
The good soil hearers (fruitfulness, faithfulness and fulfilment) – These are people who listen attentively to the Word of God at the level of their minds, treasure it at the level of the heart by drawing implications from the word of God and at their souls level apply the message of the Word of God to meet up their daily needs. Secondly, even though there’s no substitute for hearing God’s word as a worshipping community, good soil receivers of the Word of God don’t only personalize the Word of God but they extend their rich soil not only in the parish but in the home. The home, more than any place else, is a good place for growth. If space is made for God in the home, if parents pray with their children from an early age, if parents treat one another well, if the relationships within the home are basically sound, if Mass, as Christ’s memorial, is seen to matter to the older people, then there is a good chance that in the hearts and minds of the children, the seed will take root and grow. In a sense, education is what remains when you have forgotten the texts themselves. We forget so easily what was said in church or school. We never forget what happens in the home.
Brothers and sisters, each one of us in this chapel belongs to a group. Let us search our consciences sincerely and in humility without rationalizing, discover where we belong. I want to take it for granted that we don’t belong to the first category since we are here. But what of other classes?
Importance of the word of God
- To generate and nourish life: Baptism, the Holy Mass and Holy Communion, and all the sacraments are administered through the Word of God.
- To invoke God’s blessings and to recall and enjoy the promises of God.
- To pray: (Matt. 7:7)
- To refute and correct errors (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
Finally, we need to be aware of the obstacles to hearing and accepting the word of God: pride, prejudice, fear, laziness. We also have weeds like evil habits, addictions and evil tendencies, hatred, jealousy, and greed. We should not allow the trials and tribulations of this world, the cares of this world, our ambitions, or our desires for worldly success and happiness to choke out the messages that God gives through His word. Therefore let us insist on three things: studying the Word, speaking the word and praying the word.