“The Family of God: By the Hearing of the Word”
July 16, 2017: The Fifteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time (Proper 10)
Isaiah 55: 6 – 13/Psalm 65: 4 – 13/Romans 8: 8 – 11/Matthew 13: 1 - 9; 18 - 23
Fr. Roberto M. Jorvina
There is great joy to be together. We can probably understand more and more what the Psalmist said, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to get together,” because the presence of brethren gives us strength which cannot be measured as compared to our everyday experiences.
As God has ordained us to come today, we are in the Season of great excitement in our Christian life called Ordinary Time. It is ironic that it is an Ordinary Time, but an exciting one. Usually, when we think of ordinary, it is something that is boring. For a Christian, an ordinary and normal life is a life of excitement. It is a life filled with enthusiasm, passion, delight and exhilaration.
In the past four weeks, we have studied around the gospel of Matthew in chapters 10 and 11. It is a portion of Christ’s ministry where He forms His “elite” team of workers as ambassadors of His kingdom. We have seen these past weeks what a disciple is. We saw a picture of what discipleship is. For one, we were given a picture of submission. A true disciple is submitted to a mentor, to a teacher, to someone higher than he is. No submission means no growth in the kingdom of God. Submission is vital.
Second, true discipleship is a life of suffering. We don’t want to hear this, but following Jesus Christ has a cost. It is not cheap because salvation was paid with a high price. We are called to suffer with Christ. It is not to suffer for Christ, but to suffer with Christ. Part of the Christian life is a life that goes through a time of suffering. Third, discipleship is value. You are valuable and precious in the sight of God. Fourth, Christian life is also about love. We love Christ above all. Fifth, discipleship is all about obedience. We are yoked with the obedience to follow Christ, to yield to Him, and to walk with Him. It is not obedience to the world. The cry of many Christian groups is, “I have decided to follow Jesus. There is no turning back.” Is this our cry? Are we determined and decided to follow Jesus?
On this 15TH Sunday of Ordinary Time, we come to a very essential, very inescapable, and basic aspect of discipleship. It is so basic that we miss it. It is a very crucial aspect of being a disciple of Christ. As we look at the beginning of our Gospel, we see Jesus with the multitudes, with the crowd. Christ was seated on the boat with the multitudes. Much as Christ has great compassion for the multitudes, He does not intend for anyone to stay and be a part of the multitudes. He wants us and He paves the way for us so that we can come and be transformed from the multitude to being a disciple Jesus wants us to realize that our lives is not just a life that is following Jesus because of what we can get. He wants us so that we can walk as disciples to follow Jesus for what we can give, what we can surrender and bring to Him.
This sixth and vital quality of discipleship is about the Word of God. It is how to learn it; how to obey it. During the Season of Lent, we spent weeks on what we called “Around the Word in 40 days”. I hope that you have not stopped in your journey, but rather, you have persisted. Even if you stopped for whatever reason, pick up from where you have stopped and become a disciple of the Word of God. A true disciple of Christ is a disciple of His Word.
It is our aim that after today, we can rekindle and fan the flame of our zeal and our passion for the Bible, the love for God’s Word. Many times, we look at it as a boring book. We look at it as something we gain information and learn from. But the Bible was never made for us just to be blessed or to read. It was made so that we can be changed and transformed. It is not for information, but for transformation.
We look into the admonition in Isaiah 55:6-11 that talks about two actions, “6 Seek the Lord while He will to be found, and call you upon Him while He draws near.” Why could many in our generation today not “find” the Lord? Why could many not experience that He is near to them? After the Mass, it may be that the next time that we would remember Him is when we have a need or we are in a crisis. Maybe, we would remember Him when there are events such as a baptism, a marriage ceremony, in a funeral, or if we have time to hear Mass on a Sunday. Why do many feel that God could not be found? Why do many think that He is not answering? Why do many feel that God is so far away? Had God intended life to be a “hide-and-seek” game and experience? Does He use parables and figurative language to make it difficult for us to know Him? Isn’t it that our mission is to know God and to make Him known? Why is He hard to reach?
Are these the questions that we are supposed to ask? Perhaps, the correct question is: have we placed ourselves in living a life that is difficult to know God? In Isaiah 55:7, it says, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.” We have to correct two things which have kept us from finding God: our ways and our thoughts. These are two things which have kept us from seeing that God is near us. He is with us, but we are not aware of it because of our ways and our thoughts.
Isaiah continues where God says, “My ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts.” Do not compare our thoughts and ways with God’s thoughts and ways. One may be a Summa Cum Laude or a Valedictorian from a prestigious school, but he will never, never reach the ways and the thoughts of God. “…And then let them return to our God.” Why? This is because He will richly pardon for He will bless us abundantly. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, says the Lord, neither are your ways My ways, for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways.” The rain and the snow may be from on high, but they come down from heaven, and does not return to it without watering the earth, bringing forth food that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater…” Rain and snow were created by God to bring life to His creation, and so is His Word, which will not return to Him empty without accomplishing what He has purposed it and achieiving the purpose which He sent it.
What is the Word of God? It is not limited to the Bible. The Word of God is even before the creation. In John 1:1-3, “ In the beginning (before any was ever created) was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things (our intelligence, our minds, our thoughts, all our possessions came from God) came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” The Word of God is not something that we study, but Someone that we receive in our hearts that we have a relationship with. All things were made by Him, not by an “it”. In verse 14, it says, “This Word became flesh.”
In Psalm 33:6-9, “6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And by the breath of His mouth all their host. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea together [a]as a heap; He lays up the deeps in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” When God said, “Let there be light,” light did not argue with God to exist. When God spoke, it happened. When Jesus said to Peter, “Go and fish. The first fish that you find, take it, and open its mouth and take what is inside its mouth as money to pay to the tax gatherer.” When Peter did this as commanded, the fish did not say, “I don’t want to.” No! It was the Word of God Himself who said, “Take the first fish, because this is God’s Word Who speaks.” Every knee will bow; every tonque confess. No one can be so proud to say, “I can do it on my own. I will survive.” We all need to go back to the Author of our lives.
What does the Word of God do? Hebrews 4:12 in the Modern English Version says, “ 12 For the Word of God is alive, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The Word is not inanimate, lifeless words on a printed page. It comes alive by the Spirit of God who brings this Word to us in a personal and intimate way. When we received salvation from God, He gave us His Spirit.
Romans 8:9-11, “9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” The action of the Holy Spirit on the words we read or hear, brings life into those words. It makes it alive, vibrant, and filled with dynamic power. It empowers the word we hear or read to take us into a higher level of living which we are called to experience. It takes us from a dull, monotonous, boring life, to a life of excitement, exhilaration, amazement.
Remember that the ultimate purpose of our lives is to transform, to change us to become like Christ. It is to take us from being mere men, mere human beings, and become children of God. It will be the Word of God that will bring this about.
So if this is true, why isn’t it happening in my life? Why do I not see the growth and change that the Word of God should produce? This is what our parable today shows. It shows where the difficulty, the struggle, and the obstacle is. As a natural seed cannot just grow well on any soil, and that it would need a condition of the ground that will be conducive for its proper growth, so also the seed of God’s Word. It will require a condition of our hearts that will be favourable and beneficial for it to do what God intended it to do.
Jesus summarizes this in John 8:43, “Why do you not understand My speaking? Because you cannot bear to hear My word.” We will not understand and obey His Word if we do not give room in our hearts to hear His truth. God knows what goes through our heart, so, we need to have a heart that is surrendered to God.
One of the reasons Jesus states His teaching in parables is that a parable is a wonderful key that unlocks the riches of God’s Kingdom for those who are seeking, but the parable is also a great puzzle that leaves one baffled, perplexed, even confused when one does not make any effort to give that place that the Word of God deserves in every disciple. The Bible is the key to our life. It is hard to understand if we close our hearts.
Let us not miss out on the beautiful and exciting life of Christianity by being plain spectators who come to watch a nice mass every Sunday. Let us enter into the arena of Life and become participants in this awesome, this spectacular experience of a true disciple of God’s Kingdom.