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Homily, 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

On hearing God's Word, responding to it, and trusting Him for the harvest

15th Sunday of the Year A      Msgr. Joseph K. Ntuwa      12 July 2020

Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23

Dear friends, from time to time, we all bump into the truth about ourselves that there is gap between what we say and what we do, between what we profess to be and how we actually behave. Often, we notice this inconsistency more easily in others. One of life’s disappointments is to discover people who will promise you anything without holding themselves accountable for what they say. Their word is worthless. But sometimes our own words are no bargains either; we lie, we draw back, we decorate the truth with so many disguises that it becomes unrecognizable.

In sharp contrast to the fragility of the human word, the word of God is seen to be always effective because of who God is: “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”  (Numbers 23:19). For God, to speak is the same thing as to do, to promise is the same thing as to fulfill. God’s word creates what it says; God speaks the world into existence as we read from the first Chapter of the book of Genesis; “Let there be…. there was”.  From today’s first reading we hear about the great power of God’s word. As the rain waters the earth and makes all things grow, so the word of God accomplishes what it is sent to do. It is not an empty word; it is a powerful word which brings about the purposes of God. As God’s word made the first beginning, so it also makes new beginnings.

In their accounts, the evangelists show that unlike other religious leaders, Jesus speaks with authority. In his healing ministry, Jesus speaks, and people get better - so much so that the centurion can send him a message: “Say but the word and my servant will be healed” (Lk 7/7). When Jesus speaks, something happens. People who are open to his creative word are seen to leave his presence changed; something happens to them and they can face the future with new hope. But there is another word that Jesus speaks, a word that is offered to others and depends on their response if it is to be truly effective. This word is 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. We hear this in the parable of the sower.

In the interpretation, a variety of responses to the word of God is explored through four types of hearers. Firstly, there are those who hear the word without understanding it and the word is easily taken from them by those who oppose its power. Secondly, there are those whose first enthusiasm for the word cannot withstand trial because the word has never taken root in them. Thirdly, there are those who hear the word but are overcome by a litany of distractions and lose it. Finally, there are those who hear the word and understand it, who take it to heart and make it their own and yield a harvest through their persistence. The last group of hearers are the model for true Christian discipleship: in giving the word of God a secure place in their heart and their cooperation ensures that this word becomes an event in the Christian life.

Underlying this parable, there is a telling confidence. In spite of all the present obstacles in the various types of soil, the good news is that the seed does succeed in growing and producing a rich harvest. The word of God, preached by Jesus, despite apparent failure and repeated opposition, will indeed enjoy great fruitfulness that is symbolized by the hundredfold of the harvest’s yield. The word of God risked in so many unlikely places will not be an empty word but will bear fruit. No matter how unpromising the landscapes of our hearts, Jesus can transform them in good soil with the living rain of God’s mercy. How would you describe your own response to the word?

Aware of the image from Isaiah of the word of God as rain and snow that nurture a fruitful seed and do not return until their purpose is accomplished, Matthew wrestles with the apparent ‘failure’ of the words of Jesus to produce the desired effects in the disciples. Maybe even our favorite seed, our most-sacrificing good deed, our smartest remark, our greatest insight will end up on the path, or even fall among thorns. What should we do? Give up? It is not ours to worry about- God is in charge. This means that in imitation of Jesus, we do not focus on the result of action. Rather, we focus solely on the action that we must perform and leave the harvest to the Lord of the harvest. What God will make of our efforts is more than we can imagine.

Tags: Parable of the Sower, All Saints Catholic Church, Msgr Joseph K Ntuwa


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