15th Sunday O T -A – 14
Is.55:10-11; Rom.8:18-23; Matt.13:1-23
There is a story that really fits today’s readings. It is the story of a fussy vegetarian. A young woman was committed to being a vegetarian, but she was never satisfied with any of the fruit or vegetables she bought. For her, all melons were too ripe, or not ripe enough. In her eyes, she could never find tomatoes that were not bruised. Heads of cauliflower and broccoli were too big or too little. She was never happy.
Then one day, driving down the streets, she drove past a new store with a long line of people waiting to get in. She looked, and the sign outside the store said, “God’s Fruit and vegetable Stand.” “Finally,” she said, “I can get some decent vegetables and fruit.” So she stood in line and waited. Hours went by before she walked into that door. She was enveloped in light, but she didn’t see any apples or oranges or tomatoes or cabbage, or anything to buy.
She walked to the light, and there was a counter there. And behind the counter, there stood God. She could tell it was God because of the light, and because he had an apron on with a big G on it. Anyway, she places her order, “I would like some perfect broccoli, and some perfect carrots, some perfect tomatoes and a perfect melon. Also, if you have perfect cucumber that would really be a miracle.” “Sorry,” God said, “I only sell seeds here.”
Actually, this is what God does. He is giving seeds to us to sow. The Parable of the sower opens up layers of meaning of the mystery. At first listening one might think that the parable is about the four sorts of hearers, but Jesus’ intent in this parable is about the power of God’s Word. “My word shall achieve the end for which I sent it.”
As a former teacher and Principal, I’m often surprised at what some past-pupils remember. It would be less embarrassing on occasions if they conveniently forgot. “I remember you saying onetime…” and out it comes, if not word for word, at least in its general thrust as they heard it. Even merely spoken words can have an extraordinary life-span. Sometimes we remember things our parents said, long after they are gone; their words are not dead so long as we are alive and recall them.
What’s true of the ordinary word is even more true of God’s. That’s what’s stressed in today’s readings. It’s put in the strongest of terms in the reading from Isaiah 55:10-11: “So it is with the word that goes from my mouth: it will not return to me unfulfilled, or before having carried out my good pleasure and having achieved what it was sent to do.”
The prophecies collected in Isaiah, chapters 40-55, are known as the Book of Consolation. Written for the exiles who would return from Babylon to Judah, the chapters are meant to comfort the dispirited people. There are promises of fertile land and restoration, water for the thirsty and secure defense against enemies as the result of Yahweh’s power, and mercy.
What Isaiah means is that, like rain and snow which water the earth so that seeds may sprout and grow, God’s word will accomplish its purpose to return the exiles to their homes in peace. Their return will be an everlasting memorial to the power of Yahweh’s word. Thus, today’s passage promises spiritual fertility. It implies that God will make the peoples’ religious lives fruitful, as He has done for their land.
The only defense against God’s word is inadvertent or deliberate deafness. And being deaf or hard of hearing is something today’s Gospel does not recommend. In fact, it urges us to hive our ears cocked. But it conveys that message in a different image. It urges us to let the Word fall into good soil, so that it can yield a rich harvest in our lives.
Words have power. Consider the effect of saying these words out loud to another person: “I love you.” “Let us help him.” “Drop dead.” “I want divorce.” A simple phrase can crush or redeem. It can also destroy a nation or save it. “Let the bombing commence now.” “The aid package has been approved.” ‘We have discovered the vaccine.”
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 appreciated this fundamental biblical notion, we might 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. God talks to us in varied ways. He can use people, events, things and even our misery to deliver His message.
Today we are challenged for an examination of conscience. 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 immigrant and those with AIDS, the dispossessed, the unborn, the single mother? By refusing to consider these, we may be missing the healing that the Word of God can bring into our lives.
God often visits us, but most of the time we are not at home.