Becoming Rich Soil for the Word
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 13:1-23.
On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
The disciples approached him and said,
“Why do you speak to them in parables?”
He said to them in reply,
“Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven
has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.
To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich;
from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because
they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.
Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You shall indeed hear but not understand,
you shall indeed look but never see.
Gross is the heart of this people,
they will hardly hear with their ears,
they have closed their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their hearts and be converted,
and I heal them.
“But blessed are your eyes, because they see,
and your ears, because they hear.
Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
“Hear then the parable of the sower.
The seed sown on the path is the one
who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it,
and the evil one comes and steals away
what was sown in his heart.
The seed sown on rocky ground
is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.
But he has no root and lasts only for a time.
When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
he immediately falls away.
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word
and it bears no fruit.
But the seed sown on rich soil
is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
I was in Tagaytay last Saturday to attend the perpetual profession of Friar Andrew Datoy of the OFM Conventuals. We would have wanted to attend also his diaconal ordination in order to welcome him to the sacred order but our apostolate schedule would not permit it. The experience of seeing other congregations than our very own Salesian order celebrate milestones in the religious life is certainly enriching. The now Reverend Andrew’s choice of giving his whole life to the service of the Church under the Order of Friars Minor – Conventuals, I think, is the best expression of today’s Gospel.
When the first reading proclaimed that God’s Word is ever fecund, meaning it would always be fruitful and would always bring forth its intended effect, it was giving praise to the power of God. When God speaks, things happen. God never lies, He never contradicts Himself, and His truth is so creative. This Word is so powerful it was instrumental in the six days of creation. Throughout the week of creation a refrain is heard, “then God SAID…”.
For Israel this Word is rendered as dabar. John the Evangelist would later connect to this understanding of God’s powerful Word and place it in the person of Jesus. Jesus is person of the Word (or in Greek, logos, which is equivalent to dabar). God’s Word is not an abstract concept but a Person, the second Person in the Trinity who is the Son. In the ancient world, the ‘word’ or ‘logos’ or ‘dabar’ is something powerful. It holds the nature of a thing. It enables one to understand another thing by grasping the ‘word’ of that thing. For us today, it is likened to our concept of ‘meaning’.
This is how religious life is able to proclaim the power of God’s Word, Jesus Christ Himself. It would be downright foolishness for a person to give up everything in order to follow a Person he hasn’t seen unless this person found meaning in his life choices. Religious people, both brothers and nuns, consecrated virgins, and priests, give up much of their life because they found meaning in Jesus. Friar Andrew then is a rich soil who has received the seed of the Word and is bearing fruit.
The great lesson behind the Gospel is the indiscriminate sowing of the sower. If God is the sower, then He clearly doesn’t mind where the seed of the Word falls. That is the generosity and richness of God’s mercy. He calls through His Word every human person although He knows some will not respond. Yet, He still sows everywhere.
We, who are recipients of this Word, will not always be the rich soil that receives the Word. More often we are soil with thorns or the rocky ground. Sometimes we are the footpath that is oblivious to God’s call. We don’t have to obsess over our capability to receive the Word for in fact the whole message of this Sunday’s readings is the effectiveness of the Word of God. God would understand our state if we are as hard as the bedrock. Jesus just points out to us the patience of God which works to soften the hardness of our hearts that someday will turn it into lush fruitful soil.
Our invitation today is not about bearing fruit. Fruitfulness is God’s gift to us through the Word and the Spirit. The invitation is to a disposition of sensitivity, openness, and surrender to God’s Word. We are invited to allow God to turn us into rich humus so that His Word can grow in us. It doesn’t matter if you find the Sunday liturgy today dry and boring, what matters is your commitment to the celebration of the Word and the Sacrament. It doesn’t matter for parents if children doesn’t always listen and obey, what matters is that they know they are loved. It doesn’t matter if love is not appreciated and responded to, what matters is that you love. For it is in this moments of sensitivity, openness, and surrender that we find meaning, our logos, God’s dabar in our lives. It is in that moment when we have allowed Jesus, the Word of God Incarnate, to influence us and live in us. The growing and bearing fruit will soon follow.
Friar Andrew does not know if he will do great things in the future or how much good will he contribute to the Church. What mattered was that he said ‘yes’. And by so doing, he allows the Word to germinate in him, and God’s Word is always fruitful.