15th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Isaiah 55: 10 – 11; Ps 65: Romans 8: 18 – 23; Matthew 13: 1 – 23
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” That is quite a radical statement from a man who has suffered not a little; in St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians he recounts quite a list – it includes beatings, shipwrecks, being imperiled by floods, robbers, his own people, by false brothers – to name a few.
What inspired this Apostle to the Gentiles to make this radical statement? The only way that he could possibly come to this freedom is by being formed by the Word of God – the Word of God that he knew as an observant Jew and the Word of God revealed to him through his experience of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul knew, experienced the power of God’s Word and ultimately, he would lay down his life because of this graced conviction. For him, “To live is Christ.”
The passage from the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel for today both proclaim the power, the liberating, consoling, healing love of the Sacred Word. This Word coming from the mouth of God, from the heart of God is addressed to us, each of us personally whatever our vocation, whatever our need.
The passage from St. Matthew – The Parable of the Sower and the Seed – is one we know well – we can easily recount the details of it. But, of course, the question is how does this Sacred Word affect my life – not in theory but in actuality? It is only in taking the Sacred Word into my heart that brings about conversion, deep conviction, a desire to please God and to respond to His love.
The scene recounted by St. Matthew calls forth our imagination, an invitation to picture this event because the scene alone has something to teach us.
Jesus’ teaching is spellbinding, His presence alone captivates people, they come from all over just to see, hear and hopefully, to just touch His garment. Here, by the sea, the crowd is so great and pressing upon Him that he gets into a boat and speaks at length. It presents a beautiful scene for our reflection.
There is something in this very simple gesture that speaks of God’s gracious manner with us. Jesus, in a way, distances Himself from the crowd; by that I do not mean that He is aloof, coldly removed – rather the Lord does not coerce anyone into belief, into acceptance of His Word, no matter how important that Word is. His physical distance – in the boat – is an act by which He respects peoples’ freedom; of course, He invites acceptance but such is never an act of domination, of cold, calculated authority. In His own words, “I have come to serve” – He has no other agenda.
After His discourse, the disciples approach Him – this, too, is a teaching for us. As the disciples seek the meaning of the Word, so must I, you – like the good soil receptive to the seed – so must my heart, your heart be open to receive – hearing is one thing and understanding, embracing, living is quite another thing. This can only take place because you, I approach the Lord with the desire to understand and to live what we hear. This movement within, this desire, hunger for God’s life-giving Word is always the effect of His grace – grace is not automatic, not forced upon us – this not the way of the Lord – His way, as Pope Benedict XVI described, is one of exquisite courtesy. His grace touches our hearts, His word “Come” invites us and He waits for our response.
Will that desire be in our prayer – it’s up to each of us? Will there be a response at all like the seed on the path and come to nothing – will it fall on rocky soul and grow briefly only to wither – will it be choked off by “the good life” – will it fall into good soil and grow and deepen and become my/your way of life?
At heart, we are always receivers before the Lord and therefore, to believe is to have and further a receptive heart. This is why St. Paul wrote, “Let the Word of God, rich as it, dwell in you. “ (Colossians 3: 16) But it is much more than “letting” – it must be desire, hunger for so great a gift!