|The Transforming Word of God
|Godís word has transforming power when read, preached and lived. Unlike human word, which is fragile, Godís word is always effective because of who God is (Numbers 23:19). ĎFor God, to speak is the same thing as to do; to promise is the same thing as to fulfill. Godís word enables what it says; He speaks the word into existence. When He says ďLet there be...Ē there is. (Unknown author).Todayís readings point out this important quality of Godís word. They also warn us to be patient and to not be disappointed at the absence of immediate results. They show us that God truly expects a great payoff from His investment in humanity and in the world. He takes care of us and our world with love, patience and forgiveness. Our part is to co-operate wholeheartedly with God for we know that Godís investments will not fail.
In the first reading, we hear about the great power of Godís word as spoken through the Prophet Isaiah. As the rain and snow water the earth and make seed to sprout and grow, so the word of God accomplishes its purpose. Godís word is not an empty word; it is a powerful word which brings about the purposes of God. Just as Godís word made the first beginning, so it makes the new beginnings. The return of the exiles mentioned in this prophecy will be an everlasting memorial to the power of Godís word. The prophecy of Isaiah here goes beyond material fertility; it also speaks of spiritual fecundity; for God will make the peopleís lives fruitful as He has done for their land. Godís plan for us and through us will not be frustrated. In the second reading, St Paul informs the Christians of Rome that God has long-term plans for humans and for their world. He 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. We ought to continue to sow the word of God diligently and suffer for the Lord while waiting for our eternal reward. He urges us to trust Godís word and its power to redeem, not just mankind, but also nature, in Christ.
Jesus, as the Son of God, speaks the word of God. This is seen in the authority with which he speaks, unlike the other religious leaders. Jesus commands, he rebukes, he orders. When He speaks, something happens. People who are open to His transforming/creative word are seen to leave his presence changed; something happens to them. In the Gospel, we see Jesus speaking a word that is seen to be effective. God is presented as being prodigal, sowing seeds right and left in abundant measure so that we constantly receive the word in our hearts from a merciful and generous sower. But the word of God that Jesus speaks somehow depends on the response of the listeners if it is to be truly effective. This word is like a seed that is sown by Jesus, a seed that depends on the condition of the ground if it is to grow and bear fruit. The passage presents four different soil-types to represent four separate responses people give to Godís salvific word. .
In the first place, there are hearts as hard as the road surface that is constantly trampled upon, who hear the word without understanding it. Their hearts, like the road surface, do not allow the seed of the word to go through. Then, we have the hearts that are fickle, whose initial enthusiasm for the word cannot withstand trial. They are like a stone covered with a thin layer of soil; the word never takes root in them. Like a seed it germinates quickly but will dry up just as quickly. Thirdly, there are those who hear the word but are overcome by worries about the problems of this world, addiction to evil habits and tendencies; they lose the word due to these preoccupations that are like thorns that stifle the seed of the word. Finally, we have the good hearts, which hear the word, understand it and make it their own and produce abundant fruits through persistence. They have open hearts filled with holiness and humility, are open to the Holy Spirit. This last group of hearers is a model for true Christian discipleship. True discipleship enables the preached word of God to become a fruitful thing. It is not just a word.
Brothers and sisters, the word of God continues to be scattered generously in our time. God still risks His word, hoping that we will take to it, welcome it and make it our own. The questions we need to ask ourselves are: Am I merely hearing God's word without understanding it? Does God's word meet with a hard heart in me? Am I too anxious about money, security, provision for retirement or old age? Is God's word taking root in me? Converting me? Transforming me? Enabling me to sacrifice? And what about the "fruits" that we are being invited to produce: justice and mercy, hospitality for the stranger and immigrant and the sick, the dispossessed, the unborn, the poor etc.? The parable of the sower challenges us to see how deeply the word of God has taken root in our lives, how central God is to the very fabric of our day-to-day life. We should be patient with ourselves. Like all seeds, the word of God takes time to grow. God, the sower knows what it means to plant His word in different people in different situations. It all takes time. The sower understands that he has to wait for the weather, the secret workings of the soil, the slow thrust of life, before he can see the crop emerge. It is important for us to realize that the four types of soil are to be found in greater or lesser manner, in each of us. It is pertinent to understand this and improve the field, that is, our hearts, so that the word of God may produce good fruits. If we take the time to nourish the word, God will wait on the gradual process. It might even take our whole lifetime. The word of God and our word might become one: that would then be a harvest indeed!