LIVING FRUITFUL AND PRODUCTIVE SPIRITUAL LIVES
What kind of fruit do you produce? How productive is your spiritual live? What effect does the word of God have in your life? A cursory look at world events and more especially at the happenings in our country would reveal the sad truth that only a few professing Christians are really living productive spiritual lives. Jesus' parable of the sower is aimed at the hearers of his word. There are different ways of accepting God's word and they produce different kinds of fruit accordingly. We are invited today to make conscious efforts to cultivate our hearts and minds to receive God’s Word and allow it bear abundant fruit.
First Reading (Isaiah 55: 10-11) - The prophecies collected in Isaiah, chapters 40-55, are known as the Book of Consolation. Written for the exiles who would return from Babylon to Judah, the chapters are meant to comfort the dispirited people. What Isaiah means is that, like rain and snow which water the earth so that seeds may sprout and grow, God's word will accomplish its purpose to return the exiles to their homes in peace. Their return will be an everlasting memorial to the power of Yahweh's word. The Prophet Isaiah announces that God’s word will accomplish the end for which it was sent. It is abundantly clear that the word of God will continue to work on us for our whole life, seeking to draw us to the Lord. Quite often we lack the necessary cooperation with the Divine. God never goes back on His word. However, we need to dispose ourselves properly to respond to God’s invitation. When we cooperate with God’s will, we dispose ourselves to receive from the Lord and hence His word bears abundant fruit in us, and thus fulfills what it is sent to do.
From basic science we know that rain follows simple process of condensation, precipitation and evaporation. That is to say that it gathers in the atmosphere, falls on the ground and never goes back until the seeds sprout, the plants flower, their petals bloom and foods are placed on our tables. This is the simple analogy that Isaiah used to describe the word of God which does not relent until it achieves it’s purpose like the rain.
Second Reading (Romans 8:18-23) - In the second reading, following in Jesus’ footsteps, Paul reminds the community in Rome of their obligation to trust God’s word. Paul tells us that actually all of creation is groaning with the desire to be transformed into the new creation. We ourselves have the first fruits of the Spirit within us, yet often we do not respond. So we also groan with all creation, hoping and praying for the complete adoption as children God and the redemption of our bodies.
Those who are harbingers of God’s word and those who live by God’s Word are encouraged by St. Paul in the second reading not give up irrespective of the present difficulty they encounter because it is nothing compared to what is to come when the God of Word achieves its purpose. The Word of God is on its purpose.
The Gospel (Matthew 13:1-23) - Sad to say, many of us apply a certain kind of attitude to our relationship with God. An attitude that we have adopted from our fixation with entertainment from watching television and setting our lives by the standards we see and hear from the TV. We treat our relationship with Jesus just like television. We listen to God’s word, but we do not see the need to do something about it. We remain passive and uninvolved spectators and listeners. More than that, we expect to always hear pleasant things and to be entertained. We avoid hearing the hard and bitter truths of the Gospel. And if we do not get what we wanted or expected, we walk away and look for another church, or we simply turn God off from our lives. The crisis being experienced bears in itself traces of the exclusion of God from people’s lives, of a generalized indifference toward the Christian faith itself, to the point of attempting to marginalize it from public life.
The parable of the Sower could be more precisely called the Parable of the Seeds. The focus of the parable is not on the sower but on the seeds. Jesus compared the word of God to the seeds sown in different kinds of soil. These will grow and bear fruits if the conditions and dispositions of the soil are right.
From this parable, we get some important lessons. First, the word of God will grow and bear fruits only when it is planted on good soil. But a good soil does not happen by chance. It is the product of the toil and sacrifices of the farmer who pulls out the weeds, plows the land, cultivates it and nourishes it with water, nutrients and fertilizers. Similarly, if we want the word of God to grow and bear fruits in us, we must work hard in rooting out sins from our hearts, cultivating our soul with the practice of Christian virtues and nourishing it with the graces of God and the sacraments. In other words, this is what St. Paul admonished: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). We can summarily the good fruit is a product of choice and our effort to cooperate with the graces God gives to us.
Also, Jesus likened the word of God to a seed. This is to underscore the truth that God’s word does not come to us as a finished product. Its seed is planted in our soul, and we have to do our share in nurturing it and bringing it to fruition. This is the reason why Jesus did his ministry for only three years. And after that, before he went back to his heavenly Father, he instructed his disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:18). In short, he did not finish the whole thing. He commissioned all his followers to continue what he had done. He planted the seeds of salvation; it is up to his followers, aided by the Holy Spirit, to continue and finish the job.
Hence, before we leave the Church, the priest tells us, “The Mass is ended. Go in peace.” It is not really a dismissal, but a commissioning. We are being sent on a mission, to make the word of God bear fruit in our daily life. It cannot remain static and passive. It has to bear abundant fruits through our lives permeated with the Gospel values.
This parable of the sower is a story of God's prodigality, sowing seeds right and left, in abundant measure so that we constantly receive the word in our hearts from a merciful and generous sower. God is always scattering the seeds of His kingdom around us whether we deserve them or not, so that when the soil of our hearts is ready for the seed to germinate, the seed is already there. Even the tiniest seed of God’s love can produce in us a harvest beyond our imagining.
The good spiritual yield in life depends on how much a person willingly accepts and responds to the word of the Lord. In his parable of the sower, Jesus uses four different soil-types to represent four separate responses people can give to God's saving word. In fact, each one of us may display all four different types of soil at various time in our personal lives.
In the seeds that fell on the path, this type of soil represents people whose hearts and/or minds are closed because of laziness, prejudice, fear, pride or immoral living. For the seed that fell on rock Jesus explains that this kind of person is at first impressed by the message of the gospel but quickly loses interest because of the effort needed to keep the word alive. They often find the teaching a bit too hard or cumbersome to bear. For the seed that fell in thorns, Jesus explains that these people are filled with worldly interests that undermine them. This soil represents people addicted to evil habits and evil tendencies and those whose hearts are filled with hatred, jealousy and greed. And for the seed in good soil, this soil-type represents the people who hear the word of God and diligently keep it. They have open hearts filled with holiness and humility. They are eager to hear the word and ready to put it into practice. They are attentive to the Holy Spirit.
Jesus told his disciples that not everyone would understand his parables. Jesus did not mean to deliberately confuse or hide the meaning of his stories from his listeners. He knew quite well what he was talking about. He was aware of the fact that some who will deliberately shut their minds from understanding His word; their hearts were closed to what Jesus was saying. They had already made up their minds to not believe. God can only reveal the secrets of his kingdom - that which is hidden to the spiritually blind - to those who hunger for God and humbly submit to his truth.
What can make us ineffective or unresponsive to God's word? Preoccupation with other things can distract us from what is truly important and worthwhile. And letting our hearts and minds be consumed with material things can easily weigh us down and draw us away from the heavenly treasure that lasts for eternity. God's word can only take root in a receptive heart which is docile and ready to hear what God has to say.
From the beginning, the Word thrives and accomplished its intent. In Genesis, when the world was like a formless void, the Word says, “Let there be… ”, and everything came be. “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). In Matthew 9:2-8, the Word said: “Get up and walk”, and the lame walked! In Mark 5:41, the Word commanded: “Talitha Cumi”, and the little girl was restored to life. The Word came over the storm and said: “Peace, be still!” and the torrent was laid to rest! (Mark 4:39). The Word said in Matthew 26:26-27: “This is my body…this is my blood”, and through all generation his presence still remains with us in the Eucharist! We need to trust in the power of the word of God which is described as a "sharp sword” (Is 49:2), “two-edged sword” (Heb 4: 12), and “fire and hammer” (Jer 23: 29). In other words, God’s Word is powerful – and, as we know, no power exists that can frustrate it. The pages of the New and Old testaments are replete with the Word of God on its purpose. Do you possess absolute trust and faith in the Word of God?
God has sown the seed. It is our turn to make it grow and bear fruits for the salvation of souls and the whole world.
Prayer - Lord Jesus, faith in your word is the way to wisdom, and to ponder your divine plan is to grow in the truth. Open my eyes to your deeds, and my ears to the sound of your call, that I may understand your will for my life and live according to it. Amen!!!