How Do We Receive the Word of God?

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Fr. Jim homily

5 minute read


Is. 55:10-11; Ps. 65; Rm. 8:18-23; Mt. 13:1-23

“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,” words taken from today’s Gospel direct us to the importance of understanding the Word of God and allowing it to bear fruit in our life. One of the primary ways in which the Word bears fruit in our life is by the work we do—particularly the work we do for God. The Catholic Church is no stranger to hard work. I am reminded of one of the prayers for Daytime prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours: “God our Father, work is your gift to us, a call to reach new heights by using our talents for the good of all. Guide us as we work and teach us to live in the spirit that has made us your sons and daughters, in the love that has made us brothers and sisters” (LOTH, Wk. 1, Mon. Daytime Prayer). When we live in the spirit, everything we do becomes a response to the Spirit dwelling in us—in a sense, we make the inspiration of God become manifest. After all, this is how the authors of Sacred Scripture were inspired to do the work of writing down the word of God. It was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that the words of Jesus are now able to be carried to the ends of the earth. The four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all captured the essence of who Jesus is and what he taught so that countless generations may come to know the truth, and that truth will make us free.

This was God’s plan from the very beginning. The prophet Isaiah says, just as the rains come to nourish the earth, bearing fruit, so too does the word of God go forth and achieve the goal for which he was sent. St. Paul tells us that goal is so that “creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.” He says, “all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now.” In other words, we see that nothing in this world is permanent, it is all breaking down and fading away, even our own lives. We grow up strong, but our strength wanes, and we begin to focus on what truly matters: Faith, hope, and love. St. Paul tells us the greatest of these is love. Why? Because as St. John tells us, God is love. Everyone who loves is of God. This is central to what our readings are saying to us today. We hear the word of God, we reflect upon it, we contemplate it, we understand it, and we live our life according to that word so that we may carry out God’s will. And what is God’s will? That we love one another as Christ loves us.

Of course, not everyone is able to receive the word. That is why Jesus describes four different dispositions or temperaments. He speaks first of those who hear the word without understanding. This is like someone who came late to the meeting. Everyone at the meeting has a deeper understanding of what is being discussed, but the latecomer lacks this understanding. How easy would it be for them to be distracted because they lack context? That is one of the Devil’s favorite tricks—to distract people from God. Another example is the one who hears the word with joy, but does nothing to put it into action. These are people who refuse to repent of their sins. They may hear a good preacher; they may even have the promptings of the Spirit, but they fail to make the necessary step of conversion—to admit, ‘I need God’s mercy.’ Without strong roots, as Jesus says, when the going gets tough, they fall away. That is why it is so important to come to Mass as a family, to support the faith formation of children, and guide them so their faith may take root. The third type are those who hear the word, but are unable to let go of riches or worldly things. This is particularly prevalent among the young people of the world. They are almost entirely focused on what others think of them rather than focusing on God. Or they are almost entirely focused on amassing as much wealth as they can rather than storing up treasure in heaven. They allow vices like addictions to social media to distract them and forget the word of God. Or worse yet, because the din of so much superficial attention is so great, they can no longer hear the word of God. It is like the soul being choked by thorns. None of these dispositions have a future in the kingdom of God. That leaves the final example: The one who hears the word and understands it and bears fruit. The word is Jesus, his voice, his teaching, his example, and understanding comes only by a lifetime of listening to his word, and the fruit becomes evident by the way we change our lives to be more like Jesus—that is conversion. Not just once, but throughout our life. No one can bear good fruit without God. In other words, the fruit we bear is the work we do in the name of Jesus.

Of course, the greatest work we do is our worship here in this place. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is our greatest prayer and bears the greatest fruit: The Most Holy Eucharist. May the communion we share in the Most Precious Body and Blood of Jesus make us more receptive to his word so that our souls may be like rich soil, and bear fruit a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.

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