The parable of the sower and the seed held a valuable lesson for apostles. Image from Delightful Stories

God's Word on Sunday: God’s Word is seed of transformation

  • July 5, 2020

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 12 (Year A) Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 65; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23

Ancient peoples believed that rain was a gift from the gods, and it is easy to see why. Without rain or adequate water, life ceases to exist. Crops fail, vegetation withers and dies, fires rage and sand takes possession of the land.

In our own time, drought causes incredible misery and starvation. Water is the gift of life and throughout the Bible it is used as a metaphor for God’s life-giving spirit. Isaiah compares the word that God utters into our world to rain. It brings new life and abundance in every way.

The “Word” of God does not necessarily mean what is written on a page. It represents God’s creative and dynamic will for the world and humankind. It is expressed in creation, Scriptures, and holy men and women. But it also is at work in music, art, poetry and historical events.

Anything that communicates God’s presence and divine will can rightly be called the Word of God. These verses should reassure us that God has not created the world and walked away from it but is always at work.

Scientific sophistication and dismay at the perilous state of the world might tempt us with doubt and disillusionment. But the world is alive with the presence of God, if only we had the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins recognized that “Christ plays in ten thousand places,” but in most instances remains unrecognized. God is even — or should we say especially — active and creative amidst the chaos and disintegration of both our physical and social world. Faith, hope and love are the keys to opening our awareness to the active presence of God in our midst.

Paul recognized that the old world was dying. The ancients believed that the created order aged and lost vigour just like people do. Because of this, the world also shared in the redemption brought by Christ.

Paul repeated an image that was used in the Gospels by Jesus to describe the birth of the new world order — that of childbirth. The process is painful and can seem to be overpowering, but its completion is joyful and brings new life.

The world groans in anticipation of redemption just as we do, so we must persevere patiently. Perhaps we can feel some empathy with creation, especially since we are responsible for so much of its degradation. Even though God is active in our world, many do not perceive or understand this.

Jesus instructed His listeners — most of whom were waiting for black and white answers to knotty questions — with the parable of the seed and the sower.

The seed, of course, is the Word of God, going forth in the world to accomplish the divine purpose. Why does only a small portion of the seed that was sown bear fruit? What was wrong with the rest of it? Even His disciples needed to have the parable explained to them.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with the seed. The secret of success lay in the quality of the soil, and the soil signified human hearts and minds. The seeds that fell on shallow soil and failed to sprout represented superficiality, cynicism and lack of understanding. It is not enough to simply hear the Word of God; it must be taken into the heart and mind to bring about transformation. Much religion remains at this level.

Other seeds do sprout — the Word is received enthusiastically, but the listener’s life is not devoted to it. Soon the pressures, cares and distractions of everyday life choke the life out of the struggling seeds.

The last seeds bore an incredible yield — 30, 60 or 100-fold. These describe those who heard the Word with understanding, which is the key to transformation and enlightenment and perceiving God’s presence among us. Understanding is the fruit of searching, questioning, reflecting, praying and meditating over the many ways God’s word has come to us.

There are no quick and easy answers, and our role is not passive. The potential of the Word of God to bless and transform us depends solely on our willingness to engage it and follow where it leads.