|SUNDAY HOMILIES FOR YEAR A|
|By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp|
|Homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - On the Gospel|
Hearing and Understanding God’s Word
|Isaiah 55:10-11||Romans 8:18-23||Matthew 13:1-23|
The young man Eric was giving testimony to the turnaround in his life since he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. Two years before, he confessed, he had no appetite for the Word of God. On Sundays he used to shop round the neighbourhood churches for the priest that gave the shortest homilies. His idea of a good church service was one that took as little time as possible. The shorter the better. But now that he is born again he could sit down and listen to the preaching of God’s word for hours on end. Our disposition for the Word of God is a good indication of our relationship with the Lord. Today’s gospel is an invitation to review and renew our attitude to the word of God.
The Parable of the Sower likens the teaching of God’s word to the sowing of seeds. The seeds fall on different types of soil, the pathway soil, the rocky soil, the thorny soil, and the good soil. Each of these types of soil is said to represent a certain type of heart with which hearers receive the word of God. The question each of us must ask ourselves today is, “What type of soil for the word of God do I represent? Am I like the pathway where the seed cannot even sprout, or like the rocky ground where the seed sprouts but has no roots, or like thorny ground where the word of God is choked to death by worldly cares, or like the good soil that bears much fruit? Comparing our different dispositions to different types of soil has one crucial limitation. Soil cannot help being what it is. We can. And so the question that follows is: “How can I improve the disposition of my heart so that the word of God can bear fruit in my life or bear fruit more abundantly? To help us answer this question we shall go back to the story of Eric.
Prior to his conversion, Eric did not relish the preaching of the word of God. Many young people today and many that are not so young are in a similar situation. The responsibility for this attitude to God’s word could be shared between those who communicate it and those who receive the message. Preachers often take pride in saying it “just as it is.” The fact that Jesus used stories and parables to teach tells us that it is not enough to say it just as it is. Truth is bitter and bitter pills are often coated in sugar to make them more palatable. One of the most successful preaching missions ever carried out was that made by the prophet Nathan before the adulterous king David (2 Samuel 12) and it was achieved not by saying it just as it is but by the use of a parable. People would be less averse to the word of God if preachers could devise more palatable ways of communicating the gospel truth which is sometimes bitter.
How the word is communicated is important, but the Parable focuses more on how it is received. In the parable the crucial difference between those who hear the word fruitfully and those who don’t lies in the understanding of what they hear:
When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. …But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit … (Matthew 13:19,23)
What is it that makes one person understand and another person not understand the gospel? Jesus tried to address this problem, especially in the Gospel of John. In John 8:43 we read, “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word.”
We often assume that people will accept the Good News if only they could understand, but the reverse is also true that people cannot really understand God’s word until they first accept God in their lives. This we see in the story of Eric who begins to relish and understand God’s word only after he submits to God and enters into a personal relationship with Him. A firm resolve to do God’s will in our lives is the best disposition for hearing and understanding God’s word, because “If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine” (John 7:17).