Read Isaiah 55:10-11, Ps. 65:10-14, Romans 8:18-23, Matthew 13:1-23
“So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose.” (Isaiah 55:11)
In the last three Sundays, our Gospel passage centred on Jesus sending out his twelve apostles to evangelise. It was a very successful mission as the disciples returned with great joy. Today, Jesus gives us a parable which sheds light on the success of the mission of the twelve apostles; the power in the word of God.
According to the book Hebrews, the word of God is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit.” (Hebrews 4:12). The Word of God, unlike any human word, is fully alive. As John tells us: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1). This brings us to our lessons for today.
1. Preaching is never in Vain.
One question that has often troubled me over the years is: “Is preaching God’s word making an impact in our society?” This question is worth asking, considering the behaviour of many Christians today. Today’s readings make us understand that even though the results may vary, God’s words (like the seeds spread across the earth) are never in vain.
Just as God spoke and creation came into existence, they create something in us whenever we hear God’s words. This is what the prophet Isaiah proclaims in today’s first reading. Just as rain does not fall without causing plants to grow, God’s words are never uttered in vain. They never return to God empty (i.e. without accomplishing what God intends).
Today’s readings greatly encourage those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (those who have dedicated themselves to preaching God’s Word to the ends of the earth). The message is: “Keep spreading the seed.” You may not see instant results but don’t give up. Even if your seeds fall along the path and birds do not let it grow, keep sowing; keep announcing the Gospel – keep proclaiming the truth.
2. The Problem is Not the Seed but the Soil.
The fact that God’s words may not seem to make a massive impact in our world today is not because there is anything wrong with it. As the book of Hebrews tells us, the word of God is living and active. However, as the parable of Jesus in today’s Gospel passage show, the problem is the nature of the soil in which it is planted; that is, how God’s word is received by its hearers.
Before pointing fingers, we must ask ourselves: “What type of soil do I have?” In other words: “Has God’s words borne fruit in me?” Let us examine our conscience by asking the following questions: Since I became a born-again (baptised) and confirmed Christian, how many persons have I brought out of darkness? How many sick persons have I laid my hands on? How many poor people have I brought out of poverty? How many of my friends have I taken away from immorality, drug addiction, licentiousness, secret cults, kidnapping and other evils? Is my life a scandal?
Having honestly self-examined, we must ask ourselves: “What excuse(s) do I have for not yielding thirty, sixty or even a hundredfold?” By identifying our excuses, we are better able to understand what we need to do to bear fruits for God
Excuse One: “I do not have enough time.”
This represents the seed sown on the pathway. It doesn’t even get to the soil before the birds steal it. Christians who never create time to read the Bible independently do not even give room for the Word of God to take root in their hearts. These Christians come to church and hear the readings for the first time; they ask themselves: “So this thing is in the Bible?” Even while attending the word of God, they don’t listen because they are too distracted. They cannot even remember where the readings originated as soon as the mass is over. The word of God never gets to their heart because they are too busy; they have “more important” things to do than pay attention to their spiritual growth.
Excuse Two: “God does not care about me; why should I care about Him?”
This represents the seed sown on rocky ground. They receive the Word with joy but cannot withstand trials and difficulties. For them, being Christians should automatically translate to power, prosperity and pleasures. They see the church as a miracle centre or a place of entertainment, and when these things are not flowing, they give up on their faith. They start very well but do not endure to the end. These Christians keep asking: “Where is God when bad things happen to me?” They say: “If God truly exists, then I should never suffer so and so.”
If this is your excuse, today’s second reading is for you. Perhaps you find it challenging to bear fruits because you are unconvinced about God. You cannot reconcile how God could love you so much and yet allow bad things to happen to you. Listen to what St. Paul says: “The sufferings of this present life are not worth comparing with the glory to be revealed to us.” God is calling you to return to the days of your initial zeal. Let not the pains around you prevent you from bearing fruits.
Excuse Three: “I must get rich or die trying. God is not my priority.”
These seeds fell among thorns. As Jesus puts it: “This is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” We cannot serve two masters. Judas thought he could serve God and mammon, but ultimately, he chose 30 pieces of silver over Jesus.
Are you afraid that if you decide to commit more time to the things of God, your business will suffer? Do you fear that you will make less money than you usually do when you decide to become truthful and honest in your dealings? Do you fear committing just one hour daily to personal Bible Study will be too difficult?
Remember Jesus’ words: “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?' or `What shall we wear?’ The Gentiles seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows you need them all. But seek his kingdom and righteousness first, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33)
Every excuse is a lie, and its power over you ends once you stop believing it. There is nothing wrong with God’s word (the seed). However, God, who created us without our cooperation, will not save us without our cooperation. We must change our soil by dropping our excuses for God's word to bear fruit.
Conclusion: Collaboration, Not Competition.
It is instructive to note that even among those who bore fruits, they were not all the same. Some were thirty, others sixty and others hundred. We may not all have the same gifts and abilities but we are called to give our best. We may not all bear the same number of fruits, but God demands that we be fruitful.
Avoid envy. Do not hate someone because you think they are bearing more fruits for Christ. Snap out of the “pull-him-down syndrome.” By encouraging one another, we also take more fruit. No one can do it alone; even Jesus needed a support group of twelve apostles.
Consider the level of cooperation in nature. See how the butterfly helps in pollinating the flowers. See how plants take air from the atmosphere and absorb water from the soil. There is no fight, and none seeks the glory. Let us help one another. If you cannot preach God’s word, at least share it on social media. Suppose you cannot sing; at least support those who sing. You might not win souls directly, but your help will be counted in your favour on the last day.
Let us pray: Almighty ever-living God, your word is powerful, but my will is mine. Help me corporate with the observation that is sown in my every day. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (15th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Isaiah 55:10-11, Ps. 65:10-14, Romans 8:18-23, Matthew 13:1-23).
@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu