REFLECTION/HOMILY FOR THE FIFTEENTH (15TH) SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

OVERCOMING RESISTANCE TO GOD’S WORD AND NURTURING A RECEPTIVE AND LISTENING HEART

First Reading: Isaiah 55:10-11
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 64(65):10-14
Second Reading: Romans 8:18-23
Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:1-23
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In this age of relentless technological advancement, where the boundaries of human ingenuity are pushed to new frontiers, the importance of harnessing these tools to propagate the Word of God cannot be overstated. With every passing moment, our devices become more than mere extensions of our existence; they transform into conduits of divine revelation, bridges that span the chasm between the seeker and the sacred. In the palm of our hands, we hold a gateway to the depths of spiritual wisdom, an opportunity to access the vast treasury of religious teachings that once required arduous pilgrimages and handwritten scrolls. The proliferation of digital platforms and applications has brought the transformative power of the Gospel to our fingertips, dissolving the barriers of time and distance. Nevertheless, in this same digital age where smartphones have become an extension of ourselves, the wrong use and corresponding distractions caused by smartphones cannot be overemphasized. Lately, a viral image captured my attention. It depicted a church pew filled with individuals, their heads bowed not in prayer, but in devotion to their screens. While the Word of God was being proclaimed, they seemed engrossed in a virtual world, unaware of the transformative power unfolding before them. This image serves as a stark reminder of a deeper truth: the temptation to resist the transformative power of God’s Word. The readings of today’s liturgy invite us to reflect on the importance of being receptive to God’s Word, of allowing it to penetrate the depths of our hearts and bear abundant fruit.

In the First Reading from Isaiah (55:10-11), the prophet proclaims the efficacy of God’s Word. It’s important to note that the book of Isaiah is part of the prophetic tradition within the Hebrew Bible. It contains the oracles and teachings of the prophet Isaiah, who was active during the 8th century BCE in ancient Judah. Isaiah’s prophecies addressed various social, political, and religious concerns of his time. The section of our reading today specifically is a metaphorical passage emphasizing the power and effectiveness of God’s word. The comparison of rain and snow that do not return to heaven without fulfilling their purpose suggests that God’s word, once spoken, will also achieve its intended outcomes – bearing fruits. This passage reflects the belief in divine authority and the assurance that God’s promises will be fulfilled. God’s Word is not empty or futile; such that, when received with an open heart, has the power to bring about transformation and bear abundant fruit in our lives. Yet, how often do we find ourselves distracted and resistant to the words of life and truth? Just as distracted smartphone users missed the profound message being shared, we too can miss out on the transformative power of God’s Word if we allow ourselves to be distracted, indifferent, or resistant.

Similarly, the Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 64/65) amplifies this theme of receptivity and transformation. It portrays creation responding joyfully to God’s blessings, with the fields clothed in abundance and the valleys resounding with song. It is a testament to the life-giving power of God’s Word, which brings forth abundant blessings and causes creation to rejoice. It is a vivid reminder that when we allow God’s word to penetrate our hearts, it brings forth a harvest of joy, peace, and fulfillment. But when we resist and neglect it, we miss out on the transformative power it holds.

Traversing through the Second Reading from Romans (8:18-23), the scope of transformation is broadened. It is pertinent to note that the Book of Romans was written by the apostle Paul and addressed to the Christian community in Rome. It is a theological letter that delves into various aspects of Christian doctrine and practice. In Romans 8, Paul explores the theme of living in the Spirit and the hope of believers in the face of suffering and future glory. In the section of today’s second reading, Paul discusses the concept of present suffering and the future hope of redemption. He starts by acknowledging that the sufferings experienced in the present are incomparable to the glory that will be revealed in the future. This perspective encourages believers to endure suffering with hope and perseverance. Paul then expands his discussion beyond human beings to include the entire creation. He describes the creation as waiting in eager expectation for the revealing of the children of God. According to Paul, the creation was subjected to frustration and decay not by its own choice but as a consequence of human sin and the brokenness of the world. This frustration and bondage to decay affect not only human beings but also the natural world. Nevertheless, there is hope that the creation will be liberated from this bondage and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. In other words, the transformative power of God’s Word has the capacity to renew and restore not just our hearts but the entire cosmos. However, if we resist or neglect the Word, we hinder its transformative impact not only in our lives but also in the world around us.

And resting our gaze on the Gospel Reading from Matthew (13:1-23), we are presented with the parable of the sower, revealing the various responses to God’s Word. The parable reflects the agrarian society of ancient Palestine, where agriculture played a central role in people’s lives. Farming and sowing seeds were familiar activities, making this parable relatable to Jesus’ audience. The Greek term “Sperma” (σπέρμα) is used for the seed. It refers to a literal seed but also carries a metaphorical meaning of the message or teaching being shared. It emphasizes the potential for growth and reproduction. The fruit from the Greek “karpos” (καρπός) mentioned in the parable can be understood in two ways. First, the term “karpos” is used for the fruit that the good soil produces. It signifies the positive outcomes or results of receiving and embracing the message of the kingdom. These results can manifest as transformed lives, righteous actions, and the spread of the Gospel message within the community. Second, in the broader context of the passage, the fruit can be seen as symbolic of the spiritual growth and transformation of individuals and the Christian community as a whole. The fruit represents the virtues, qualities, and spiritual maturity that develop as a result of receiving and living out the message of the kingdom of God. A striking reality is that the seed (Sperma) symbolizes the Word (Logos), which falls upon different types of soil. Some soil is receptive and bears abundant fruit, while other soil is hardened, shallow, or choked by thorns, preventing the growth of the seed. This parable serves as a powerful reminder that our receptivity to God’s Word directly impacts its transformative power in our lives. Just as the distracted smartphone users miss out on the depth and richness of the Word of God being disseminated, we too can miss out on the transformative power of God’s Word if our hearts are not open, attentive, and receptive.

In our fast-paced and technologically driven world, it is easy to become distracted, preoccupied, or resistant to God’s Word. We may find ourselves captivated by the constant influx of information, consumed by the noise of the world, or numbed by indifference. However, today’s readings call us to break free from these distractions and resist the temptation to resist God’s transformative Word. As we have witnessed the image of distracted smartphone users in the pews, let it be a wake-up call to the urgent need for receptivity and attentiveness to the Word of God. Let us strive to be the good soil that receives, nurtures, and allows God’s word to take root within us. It is in this receptivity that we find the key to personal transformation and the abundant harvest of joy, peace, and purpose.

Dear friends in Christ, let us make our hearts like good soil, fertile and receptive to the seeds of God’s Word. Let us approach the Scriptures with reverence, humility, and an openness to be transformed. Let us put aside our distractions, our preoccupations, and our resistance, and immerse ourselves in the profound wisdom and grace of God’s Word. May we become like the fertile soil that receives the seed and bears abundant fruit. May we allow God’s Word to penetrate the depths of our being, transforming us from within. As we embrace the transformative power of God’s Word, may we find ourselves renewed, restored, and equipped to go forth and bear witness to the transforming love of Christ in our lives. As we lay aside the distractions of this world, may our hearts become fertile ground, ready to receive and bear the transformative seeds of God’s Word.

“O that today you would listen to his voice, harden not your hearts!” (Ps. 94/95)

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Shalom!
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Loreto, Vila Medeiros, São Paulo, Brazil
nozickcjoe@gmail.com / fadacjay@gmail.com

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Chinaka Justin Mbaeri

A staunch Roman Catholic and an Apologist of the Christian faith. More about him here.

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