Good to Grow: God’s Word Renews Us

User’s Guide to Sunday, July 16

Look for good soil.
Look for good soil. (photo: Unsplash)

Sunday, July 16, is the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass readings: Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23 or Matthew 13:1-9.

The readings for this Sunday set forth that God’s word can transform, renew, encourage and empower us. We ought to begin to expect great things from the faithful and attentive reception of the word of God. However, Jesus also spells out some obstacles that keep the harvest small or even nonexistent for some.

The first reading shows that the word of God can utterly transform us and bring forth a great harvest in our life: “Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there until they have watered the earth …my word shall not return to me void” (Isaiah 55:10-11). God’s word has power! If we listen to God’s word authentically and attentively, it will refresh us and bring forth the fruit of transformation. God’s word can open our mind to new realities, give us hope, and teach us the fundamental meaning of our life. Scripture itself says, “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29).

The Lord also alerts us to some problems that can arise in the human person. For while God’s word does not lack power, neither does it violate his respect for our freedom and call to love. Ponder, then, some issues that can cut off from or reduce the power of God’s word.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus this about some people: “[T]hey look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.” God (through Isaiah) once observed this about us: “I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass” (Isaiah 48:4). For many of us, this tendency to be stiff-necked is gradually softened by the power of grace and the medicine of the sacraments. For some, though, the stubbornness never abates. Those of hardened hearts have closed their eyes lest they see; they do not listen lest they be confronted with something they would rather not hear.

The text speaks of the seed of God’s word: “The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.” The Greek word figuratively means “to connect the dots, synthesize, understand.”  In other words, the seed sown on the path refers to the person who gives little thought to the word of God. He does not try to connect it to his life or to understand its practical application. He does not “set it together” (synthesize it) with his experience or seek to apply it in his life. 

The text says, “The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.”  But … “When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.” There are some who can rejoice in the word of God, but only as long as it tickles their ears. But when the word convicts them or causes them or brings persecution, they run away. 

The text says, “The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety … chokes it off.” 

This describes people who are simply too distracted by the things of the world to spend time with the word of God. They allow the world to distract them from or draw them away from reflection on God’s word. This, too, limits the transformative power of God’s word.

The goal, of course, is clear:

 “... some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”