15 Sunday of the Year A
Is 55:10-11; Rom 8:18-23; Mt 13:1-23
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’ Cycle A, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2009 and republished in Viet Nam 2012. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable, that might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
Reading the Bible, we can see God often reveals to his people their origin, purpose, final goal and the way they must follow in order to maintain a close relationship between the Creator and the creature. However, the word of God is not a monologue, not a one-way communication, but a dialogue between God and his people. The word of God is full of life, develops and bears fruit in our life when there is a corporation from his people. The word of God has the power to change, to save or to condemn. In the parable of the sower, Jesus shows his people the different disposition to receive the word of God. As the seed sown on different soils, the word of God is also sown on different types of soul.
The seed sown on a footpath (Mt 13:4) is only to be eaten by birds of the air. It is like the word of God that is sown in the heart of those, who do not understand it, and is stolen away by the devil. The seed sown on rocky ground (c. 5) can spring up, but scorched by the sun. It is like the word of God that is sown in the heart of those who receive it at once. However, they have no root to stand when tribulation or persecution comes. The seed sown among thorns (c. 7) is choked. It is like the word of God that is sown in the heart of those with worldly anxiety and interest and the word is choked and bears no fruit. The seed sown on rich soil produces good fruit. It is like the word of God that is sown in the heart of those who understand it and bear much fruit.
Thus, the reason for the seed not to be rooted and bear fruit is not due to the seed’s fault. In a similar way, the word of God does not bear fruit in our lives is because we are not ready to receive it. When we close our mind and heart, the word of God comes in through one ear, and goes out through the other. When facing persecutions, we will fall because our faith is shallow and weak, causing the word of God not to be rooted in our heart. When our minds are occupied with worldly matter, the word of God can be stifled in our lives.
The word of God has been recorded in scripture thousands of years ago and the word of God is still alive because God was present from eternity and God is still alive and present. Jesus himself said: My words are spirit and life (Jn 6:63). The word of God in scripture is our common heritage, meaning everyone can buy a bible to read and to pray if he/she can afford it. Our ears can hear the word of God when somebody proclaims it, but only the heart can listen.
There was an old story of matching wits between a northern king of China and a southern ambassador of China circulated years ago in China as follows. To humiliate the Southern Chinese, the Northern king of China ordered four southern Chinese criminals living in Northern China to be exposed and asked the southern Chinese ambassador the reason why. The southern Chinese ambassador calmly responded that there is a certain kind of very sweet tangerine in Southern China. However, when it was brought to be planted in northern China, the fruit turned very sour. Therefore, perhaps, these four southern Chinese when living in Northern China were influenced by bad examples in Northern China, turned out to be criminals. The story sounds sarcastic, but it helps us understand somewhat the parable of the seed sown in different soils in today's Gospel.
The seed in today's Gospel that is sown on different types of soil also produces different results. Therefore, if farmers want to have a good harvest, they have to do something about the soil. First, they have to clear the ground, hoe it, fertilize it and water it so that when the seed is planted, it can be rooted, sprouted, grow and bear fruit. In a similar way, if we want God's word to bear fruit in our life, we have to prepare the soil of our soul. We have to remove obstacles from our lives. A soul full of sin and garbage has no room for the word of God to enter.
Then we have to water our soul by prayer, self-discipline, sacrifice and charity. When we read the word of God, we must meditate it and pray according to the meaning of the word so that his word may be be nurtured, rooted, sprouted and grow and bear fruit in our lives.
That is what the prophet Isaiah today said about the word of God: For just as from the heavens, the rain and snow come down and do not return there, till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats (Is 55:10).
Therefore, for practical application, when we read the word of God, we should ask ourselves these questions:
(1) What does this scriptural passage mean, and what does it mean to me personally?
(2) How is it related to my life?
(3) How can I apply to my own situation in life?
(4) And finally, we reflect and pray over that bible passage according to its meaning, in order to allow the word of God to be nurtured, sprouted, and rooted in our lives.
A prayer asking that the word of God may bear fruit in our lives:
Oh God, your ‘words are spirit and life,
you have the word of everlasting life’.
Teach me how to listen to your word.
Grant that I may remove obstacles from my life,
that is sins and all kinds of vices
so as to prepare for your word to remain.
Grant that I may make the soil fertile in my soul
so that your word may be nurtured, sprouted and rooted,
grow and bear fruit in my life. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong