The Word that Goes from My Mouth Does Not Return to Me Empty
FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The theme of the scripture readings of this Sunday is coincidentally in line with the rainy season in Sierra Leone where I see most farmers working hard to sow many kinds of seeds in their farms. All farmers surely try to prepare as good as possible soil for their seed, but not all will be lucky enough to get the best one. Nevertheless, they have to work with any kind of soil available around them, accepting the reality of different qualities of soil in their location. Most of their concern is to do their best, hoping plenty of fruits at the harvest time in a few months.
In the parable of the sower in the gospel (Matthew 13:1-23) Jesus shows us not only how ‘crazy’ and ‘reckless’ is the sower, in scattering the seeds everywhere no matter the kind of soil, but at the same time he shows how confident and full of hope he is. In giving explanation of the meaning of the parable, Jesus also helps us to classify ourselves as what kind of soil we are, and he helps us to discern what kind of attitudes can prevent from being good soil. Surely, the good soil is the heart which is receptive and docile so that the word of God can produce plenty of fruits that bring hope and joy to our life.
The parable describes God’s missionary work – planting the seed of the word of God in the heart of people within their all environment (cultures, beliefs, lifestyles, etc). Just as a farmer dedicating his whole life to toiling in the farm, so are the Church, priests and religious, and each one of us in our missionary work. The parable teaches us first of all the attitude of confidence and hope of the sower, convinced that “the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do” (first reading, Is 55:10-11). Therefore, in doing our missionary work, the Church and all of us are not afraid nor doubt the effect of sweat and struggle, even the suffering for the sake of the word of God, knowing that “what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us” (second reading, Rom 8:18-23).
While Jesus shows different kinds of obstacles that might prevent the growing of the word of God in our hearts, he also shows the key attitude needed to search the meaning of God’s word for us. The key attitude is establishing a living contact with God by attentive and meditative prayer, while listening the word of God, so that we can “see with our eyes, hear with our ears, and understand with our hearts and be converted, and be healed by Jesus” (con. Mat 13:15).
Here in my place, every day I meet farmers who are my neighbours, friends and also parishioners. Especially in this rainy season, I see them going out and coming from the farms every day. While meditating on the parable of the sower in the Gospel, it may be worth learning from those farmers: their hardships, confidence and hope in the process of the growing of the seed sown. When I approach them in each of their farms, I can feel the quietness of the place, which surely is helpful for them if they want to meditate on the word of God in their life. My prayer is that we may be confident and filled with hope in our missionary fatigue and that with our attentive and meditative prayer in doing our mission, the word of God may not return empty, but bear fruit abundantly. For that purpose may we be able to clear the obstacles that prevent the word of God from growing in our hearts: the evil spirit, worldly anxiety, the lure of useless things and so on, as just most of the farmers in my place at the present moment are doing: weeding and clearing all that prevent the seeds from growing according to expectations.