God's Word on Sunday: The ‘word’ and walking in God’s way

  • July 13, 2023

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) July 16 (Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 65; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23)

The word of God is far more than squiggles on a page or sound vibrations in the air. It is active and dynamic, expressing and fulfilling the divine will in our world and our lives.

“Word” in this context means divine communication, and it can be expressed in numerous ways. We usually think of the word of God as Scripture, which is only partially correct — it is far more than that. We need to expand our horizon a bit. Any medium can express God’s word — the works of nature, the events of salvation history, art, music, poetry, literature, sacred texts, human relationships and the proclamation and teaching of prophets and teachers. All creation is a sacrament mediating divine communication to humanity. Jesus Himself is called the “word” i

n the first verse of John 1 for He discloses both the nature and the will of God. This word is not static or unchanging — the image that Isaiah leaves us with is a dynamic force that unfolds throughout history and never ceases. It is a constant process of becoming.

The more we attune our minds and hearts to God, the greater our opportunities to discern the revealing of the word. It is important that we do so for God’s word does not usually coincide with our own ideas, desires or understanding. At times very devout people can be found feverishly at work thwarting the goals and intentions of God’s word. Lest we be in any doubt of this, this same chapter of Isaiah assures us that God’s thoughts and ways are radically different than ours.

There is one important addition to the list of possible channels for the disclosure of God’s word: us. When we walk in God’s ways and are filled with compassion and the Spirit, we too can be instruments of God’s word. Following some ancient traditions, we can say that creation is God’s book, waiting to be read by all who are spiritually literate.

Ancient traditions did not view humans as something apart from the rest of creation — observers — but as an intricate part of the natural order. Christ’s death and resurrection were not only for humans but for all creation, for creation was also in need of redemption. The metaphor often used in the New Testament for the process of redemption was that of child birth and labour pains. The birth of the new world and the new age was always accompanied by labour pains — suffering — but that was only to usher in the new era of peace, wholeness and happiness. And that is what is convulsing our world at the present moment — the leaving behind of the old and the birth of the new. Let us not be too quick to judge what is being born.

The parable of the sower is rather enigmatic and if we have difficulty understanding it, so did the Apostles. The seed thrown by the sower is the word of God, and the parable explains why some seed bears fruit while others do not. In the parable, much depends on where the seed lands. In human terms, it depends on who hears it and what they do with it. Some do not “get it” and lack the patience and desire to understand it in depth. Others are very enthusiastic at first, but their commitment is short-lived. They become bored or distracted and drift away. Still others are open and willing at first but become overwhelmed by the many challenges or temptations that life can bring. Lacking the ability to set boundaries or prioritize, they too drift away.

The group of hearers of the word that bears fruit consists of those who not only hear the word but understand it and apply it to their lives. They will undergo a deepening and transformation that has been the desire of many for centuries. This is what is called the kingdom of God — not a place but a state of consciousness and being. The seed is sown freely in all, but it must be received with not only open hearts and minds but a deep desire to know God as well as willingness to leave behind ideas that are no longer helpful in our journey. We cannot be forced into the kingdom of God, only invited.