We celebrate today Christ who came to sow the seed of God’s word in the world, and we rejoice with him as we see everywhere around us the first-fruits of the spirit. In the light of Isaiah’s prophecy and Christ’s parable of the sower, the church enjoins us to evaluate our relationship with the word of God. So, we must ask ourselves today, what has the word of God achieved or changed in my life.
Words have power. Consider the effect of saying these words out loud to another person: “I love you”. “Let us help him”. “I want a divorce”. “We have discovered the vaccine”. A simple phrase can crush or redeem. It can also destroy a nation or save it. If human language has such an authority to make a difference, imagine the power in the divine word spoken. Unlike human speech, which can prove to be false, God’s word is always true. When God talks all the molecules of the universe listen, organize and respond. So creation came into being, and so Jesus entered the world through Mary. If we appreciate this fundamental biblical notion, we will take more care with the words we speak. Made in the image of God, the things we say have more power than we sometimes imagine.
In the first reading, Isaiah compares the word of God to the rain and snow that falls on the ground to water it and cannot go back without fulfilling its mission. This reading is very important from an African perspective. The important of the spoken word is known in Africa because the word is efficacious and has a creative power. That is while in Africa, a curse is believed to produce the intention of the one who made it.
The gospel reading presents us with the parable of the sower which opens up layers of meaning of the mystery. At the first listening one might think that the parable is all about the four sorts of hearers, but Jesus’ intent in this parable is also about the power of God’s word. The human heart is like receptive soil to the seed of the Word of God. Jesus used this analogy in the Parable of the Sower. The soil that the seed fell on represents four categories of hearers’ hearts, four different reactions to the Word of God: the hard heart, the shallow heart, the crowded heart, and the fruitful heart.
The Parable of the Sower does not begin with “The kingdom of heaven is like” because it describes how the kingdom begins. It begins with the preaching of the Word, the planting of the seed in the hearts of people. When we say, “Let me plant this thought in your mind,” we express the idea of this parable. The seed is God’s Word; the various soils represent different kinds of hearts; and the varied results show the different responses to the Word of God. Jesus explained this parable so there is no doubt of its meaning.
Why compare God’s Word to seed? Because the Word is “living and powerful” (Heb 4:12). Unlike the words of men, the Word of God has life in it; and that life can be imparted to those who will believe. The truth of God must take root in the heart, be cultivated, and permitted to bear fruit. It is shocking to realize that 3/4 of the seed did not bear fruit. Jesus did not describe an age of great harvest, but one in which the Word would be rejected. He was not impressed with the “great multitudes” that followed Him, for He knew that most of the people would not receive His Word within and bear fruit.
Fruit is the test of true salvation (Matt 7:16). This would include holiness (Rom 6:22), Christian character (Gal 5:22-23), good works (Col 1:10), winning others to Christ (Rom 1:13), sharing what we have (Rom 15:25-28), and praising God (Heb 13:15). If a plant is to bear fruit, it must be rooted in soil and exposed to sunshine.
In the parable, the sun represents persecution that comes because of the Word. Persecution helps believers grow. But the sunshine will kill a plant with no roots. This explains why some “believers” do not last: Their faith was weak their understanding was meager, and their decision was not sincere. It is possible to “believe” and yet not be saved (John 2:23-25). Unless there is fruit in the life, there is not saving faith in the heart.
From both the first reading and the gospel we can deduce the point that the word of God is a viable seed. In other words, the problem is not the seed; rather, the problem is always with the receiver. We are the ones who determine what kind of soil our hearts will be. We decide whether we will have a hard heart, a shallow heart, a crowded heart, or a receptive heart. This is exactly what James meant when he said, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).
The way we receive, value and treat the word of God determines who we are and what it achieves in, and for us. It is not meant to be received and quarantined, rather, it is meant to be lived. It is not meant to be passive; rather it is meant to nourish and become one with us, just as food forms flesh and becomes one with our mortal bodies. It is supposed to shape our personality, i.e., the way we live our lives, walk, talk and relate with one another.
Today’s gospel probably sets us thinking about where we fit in it. We are to ask ourselves if our spiritual condition resembles the hard soil of the path way, or the rocky ground, or the thorns where the seed cannot take root or been choked up, or the fertile soil where it takes full root and flourishes.
May God help us to become a fertile soil for the word of God to produce fruit in hundred folds. Amen.
Peace be with you!
Fr Dumlesi N. Tor
St Mary’s Okwuzi