Jul. 15, 2017

FIFTEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

THE POWER OF GOD’S WORD, THE JOY OF A RICH HARVEST

Readings:1st- Is. 55:10-11; 2nd- Rom. 8:18-23; Gospel- Matt. 13:1-23

The prophet Isaiah uses the image of familiar elements of nature to give an outstanding picture of God. The realities of above and the realities of below harmonize- rain, snow, come down to give water to the earth. The rain and the snow make the earth fertile enabling seeds to germinate and produce food. The rain and the snow have a purpose in life. They announce God’s absolute control over creation. Snow falls at its time. Rain drops at its time. The sun shines at its appropriate time. Everything in its proper place contributes to creation in a unique manner. Food, vegetation, air, animals, and all living creatures are sustained by this cycle.

Prophet Isaiah says, they “do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats” (55:10). He then likens the divine plan of life to the ultimate design for salvation, “so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it” (Is. 55:11).

God’s word is active from the beginning of creation. Everything came to be by the divine utterance, “God said, ‘Let there be…, and there was” (Gen. 1:3). The word brought the universe into existence. After creation, God continued to sustain his created order, maintaining its beauty, goodness and growth. The Psalmist recognizes this thus, “I look to your heavens shaped by your fingers, at the moon and the stars you set firm” (Ps. 8:3). The earth however, is corrupted by sin, is fallen and broken. God’s redemptive plan continues and is fulfilled in his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the Word that became flesh, “In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn. 1:1). The prophet Isaiah recognizes how powerful God’s Word is, and how much this Word searches out human souls. God’s word does not return to God without achieving the purpose for which it is sent. That purpose is human salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In the gospel, Christ pronounces the parable of the sower. A sower goes out to sow his seed. Some fell on rocky ground with little soil and vegetation. They couldn’t survive for lack of adequate manure. The scorching sun suffocated them to death. Some fell among thorns and were choked to death. Some seeds fell on rich soil and produced abundant fruits. They gave life to more seeds. And Christ concludes the passage by saying, “Whoever has ears ought to hear” (Matt. 13:9).

It is interesting that the story of the parable of the sower is being read at the farming season. Farmers know the pains of loss and the joys of making rich harvest after toils and labor. Scripture captures it this way, “Those who are sowing in tears will sing when they reap. They go out, they go out full of tears, carrying seed for the sowing. They come back full of songs, carrying their sheaves” (Ps. 126:6).

However, the picture of the sower is only used literally to give an image which elicits new ways of thinking and acting in relation to the gospel. The image of the seed calls to mind different categories of persons to whom it applies. Who are the seeds that fell on rocky soil? Who are the seeds that fell among thorns? Who are the seeds that fell on rich, good soil? Where exactly does each of us belong? And Jesus concludes, “Whoever has ears ought to hear”. He wants us to relate this parable to ourselves, not just point accusing fingers on others. Jesus wants us to do two things here: ask what kind of soil we provide for the seed, and what kind of seeds we are.

Let’s go back to family life for instance. The family is like the soil where the seed of life is cast. The child is that innocent seed that God throws into every family. The parents, guardians and relatives are the various environmental forces that either choke or fertilize the seed that is planted. Some children are born in families where parents are always fighting. Some are born in families where parents do not believe in God, and never talk to their kids about God. Some children are born into families with addiction. Some children are born into families of lazy parents.

I met a lady last week (about eighteen years old), who really was hungry for God’s word. She told me she needed to be in Church but didn’t know where to start from. This lady told me that her parents never talked to her about God for a day. She said she kept being frustrated at life and at everything until her friend took her to Church few months ago, and she’s happy again. That means, families could be thorns or stony grounds that choke the spiritual life of kids to death.  

Families could also be fertile ground for nourishment. Some parents help in the spiritual, psychological and social growth of their children. They guide, inform, cherish, and support them towards healthy transition from infancy to maturity. Such children are happy, and relate well with others. They bear fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, prosperity and excellence. They help others become good and loving people for God’s sake and for the world. They’re blessed to fall on rich soil.

Importantly, as seeds, we fall on different spots. The seeds that are sown represent the various ways that we hear God’s word. And Jesus tells us that whoever has ears ought to hear. Even though someone may not bear abundant fruit at the beginning, Jesus gives us an image of hope. The seed that is cast on bad soil, in this case, family with negative lifestyle, can still survive and bear fruit, just try and survive. If for instance, a child brought up in an addictive environment survives the “scorching sun” of alcohol and drugs, he could become strong. He could become a good soil for another seed to germinate. He could in turn learn from his past, use his ugly experience to teach and make others better. Don’t give up, please.

The great lessons of today’s readings are that God wants us to help others. The best approach is to find out the best way to help. Ask yourself, what can I do to that seed to make it germinate? How can be of help to that person that is struggling? Our best asset is the word of God. The word of God brings change and transformation. It speaks to people’s hearts. It revives dead souls. It restores broken hearts. It reestablishes broken relationships. It brings hope. It brings abundant grace to those who hunger for salvation. Speak God’s word to others, and continue to speak it even in most apparently hopeless situation. Like the snow and the rain, it never goes back without achieving its purpose.

May God’s word bring us abundant harvest. Amen.