Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Year A. Bible Study: Isaiah 55:10-11, Psalm 65 Romans 8:18-23 and Matthew 13:1-9
“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 evangelize. 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 my preaching of God’s word making any impact in my audience?” When I consider the behaviour of many Christians in our society today, I begin to fear that I may have just wasted my time, but today’s readings give me a whole different perspective. In fact, I think God is personally telling me today that His Words are never in vain.
Just as God spoke creation into existence, God’s words are never empty; they always create something in our spirits. This is what the prophet Isaiah makes us understand today. Just as rain does not fall down without causing plants to grow, God’s words are never uttered in vain. They never return to God empty without accomplishing what God intends.
Today’s readings are a great encouragement to all of us especially 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 worry; don’t give up. Even if you are sowing along the path and birds are not letting it grow, just keep sowing. One day, it will grow.
2. The Problem is Not the Seed but the Soil.
It is very easy for us to condemn our fellow Christians for simply being churchgoers and not converted Christians. It is all too easy to identify Christians who are not bearing fruits. It is very easy for us to see the errors, flaws and weaknesses in others but the truth is that as Jesus said, these errors are but specks compared to the logs in our own eyes. Today, we shall do an examination of conscience:
How fruitful is my Christian faith? Since I became a born-again (baptized) and confirmed Christian, how many souls have I brought to Jesus? How many sick persons have I laid my hands on? How many poor people have I changed their lives for the better? 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?
Do not feel too bad if you are ashamed of your answers to these questions. I bring you good news today: there is hope – all you have to do is to change your soil. Having done an honest self-examination, the question you need to start asking is: ‘What is preventing me from bearing fruits?’ or better put, ‘What excuse do I have for not yielding thirty, sixty or even hundredfold?”
3. Thrash the Excuses and Face Your Fears Head On.
They say everything you desire and dream to achieve is waiting for you at the other side of your fears. Fear is like a wall we build around us and “excuse” is our way of justifying the existence of that wall. So long as we continue believing our excuses, we remain trapped in our self-made prison. The message here is this: Every excuse is a lie. Changing your soil is a matter of refusing to believe your excuses. It is interesting to note that contained in this parable are some of the common excuses holding us captive.
-Excuse One: “I do not enough Time.” This is the seed sown on the pathway. It doesn’t even get to the soil before the birds steal it. These are those who never create time to read the Bible on their own. These are Christians who come to church; who are hearing the readings for the first time; they ask themselves: “So this thing is in the Bible?” As soon as the mass is over, off they go and they never hear or see the Bible again till the next time they are in the church. The word of God never gets to their heart because, for them, they are just too busy; they have more important things to do than God.
-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 at all 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 just give up on their faith. They start very well but do not endure to the end. These are Christians who keep asking: “Where is God when bad things are happening to me?” Christians who 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 are finding it difficult to preach about God because deep down you are not convinced God exists with all these bad things happening in our world. Maybe you consider doing God’s work as too stressful (requiring some sacrifice or too demanding). Remember these words of St. Paul. “The sufferings of this present life are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Dear friends, today, God is calling you to return to the days of your innocence, return to your initial zeal when you first gave your life to Christ.
-Excuse Three: “I must get rich or die trying. God is not my priority.” These are seeds that 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.” Jesus tells us that we cannot serve two masters. Judas thought he could serve both God and mammon but in the end, he chose 30 pieces of silver over Jesus. We cannot deceive ourselves when it comes to loyalty.
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 not make as much money as you normally do when you decide to become truthful and honest in your dealings? Do you fear that committing just one hour every day to personal Bible Study will be too boring? Remember Jesus words: “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?' or `What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33).
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 very best, and this would never happen if we begin to pull each other down (if we are driven by envy). When you consider how plants produce fruits you would see that there is more cooperation in nature than amongst us humans. Help someone to grow. If you cannot do something good, at least support and encourage that brother or sister that is trying to do it.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, your word is powerful but my will is mine. Help me corporate with the word that is sown in my every day. Amen.
Happy Sunday. Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you.