By: Rev. Fr. AMEH Sylvanus
Readings: Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 64; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23
With very forceful imageries, the first and gospel readings of today’s Mass speak to us about the Word of God. Through the prophet Isaiah in the first reading, God compares his Word to the rain that does not leave the sky and return midway. Once it is sent, it must fulfill its mission. Jesus, using the familiar imagery of a sower, likens the Word of God to seeds scattered for sowing and falling on different soil. The seed (word) is the same, the source of it is the same, but the nature of the soil on which each seed (word) falls determines the fruitfulness or otherwise of it. However, if we put God’s declaration in the first reading side by side Jesus’ parable in the gospel reading, one thing that stands clear is that once the seed (Word) leaves the source, it must hit the soil and produce effect(s). So, as Hebrews 4:12 says, “The Word of God is (always) alive and active.”
In Jesus’ parable in the gospel, he gives reasons why the word does not bear fruit in some of those who receive it. For one group (along the path), they hear the word, do not understand it and do not seek for deeper knowledge, so one small devil confuses them and takes the word away from them. For another (on rocky soil), they accept the word led by their emotions, not their reason, so they do not think of the implications of their decision. Some even cry and promise repentance, but alas, that is a surface repentance which has no root; some make pledges upon hearing a word until time for fulfilling the promise comes, then they falter. For this reason, the word has no root in them and it evaporates once that emotion has passed and a thing challenges them. There are also those who know the implications of accepting the word, but the word has rivals in them (the thorns). They are neither here nor there; they are unwilling to let go of the things the word demands of them to sacrifice. They are unwilling to let go of the lies, the cheating, the unfaithfulness, the drunkenness, the fornication, the adultery, the pornography and masturbation; they are undecided whether or not to fully accept the word and let go of the anger, the envy, the jealousy, the backbiting and the selfishness. So this rivalry, prolonged for some time, kills the word and it yields no fruit in them. Besides all of these issues, Jesus also squarely puts the blame at their doorstep when he said “this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes have closed.” The immediate implication of this statement of Jesus is that we are responsible for the effectiveness or otherwise of the word of God in our lives. This is not however, to rule out completely, the help of the Holy Spirit in the whole process, but we must note that the Holy Spirit will only help us if we open ourselves to his help. And then finally, there are those (the good soil) who hear the word of God, ponder on it, understand it and bear fruit in different measures.
It is interesting to note that for all the other three unproductive soils (hearts/lives), the solution is one and the same: pondering on the word of God. If you do not ponder on the word of God, you will be plundered of the word of God. This is why Psalm 1:3 makes it clear that those who ponder on the word of God day and night are like trees planted beside flowing waters, yielding their fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade. Interestingly also, there is a word of God that addresses each of the different hearts described by Jesus in the gospel reading. To those who hear the word but do not understand, 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to show yourselves approved unto God.” No one gets to fully understand anything without committing to studying it; in the same vein, no one gets to understand the word of God and its demands without committing to studying it. For those who are led by emotion, Luke 14:28-30 admonishes, using the analogy of a man who wants to build, to first count the cost. To the third group who are choked by the cares of this world, 1 John 2:17 says “the world and all that is in it passing away”, therefore, “what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his life?” (Mk 8:36)
Today, dear friends, let us ask ourselves some fundamental questions:
- What is my relationship with the word of God?
- Is the word of God a priority in my life?
- What is my reaction when I hear the word of God?
- How much of the word do I have in me?
- How much of God’s written word do I know?
- How much time do I give to it, especially to studying it?
We will also need to ask ourselves how fruitful we are on account of God’s word. Spiritual growth and fruitfulness is close to impossible without a relationship with the word of God. We see this clearly demonstrated in the parable Jesus told in our gospel text. It is important we also note that apart from spiritual fruitfulness, the word of God also gives us all-round fruitfulness: medical, social, financial, emotional, etc. With the word of God, we can speak fruitfulness into any and every area of our lives, for there is power in the word of God. Unfortunately however, many do not know this because they do not read and ponder on the word of God. Little wonder God said through the prophet Hosea that his people are perishing for lack of knowledge, knowledge that is available for their taking (Hos 4:6). Hear me, child of God, and hear me again: If you do not ponder on the word of God, you will be plundered of the word of God and lose the benefits of all its power in/to your life. The devil knows that the day you give room to the word of God to truly bear seed in your life, that day, he loses his grip on you, so he will do everything to keep you away from it. Jesus says with a little faith, you can move mountains and Romans 10:17 says “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Do you now see the connection why the devil will fight to prevent you from getting rooted in the word? Be wise!
The challenge before us today therefore, is to devote more time to studying God’s word and bearing the fruit of it thereof. It is my prayer that we do not take this matter lightly, but that by our commitment to God’s word, He may water our lives and make us fruitful. Amen