Fifthteenth Sunday of the Year (A)
(Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23); Matthew 13:1-23)
Jesus had just told a surrounding crowd of people His parable of a Sower; His disciples were somewhat puzzled by this and so they asked Him, in private:
"Why do You speak to them in parables?" He answered and said to them, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”
Jesus knew full well that, as He said on another occasion (John 6:44):
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.
As man on earth, He was truly humble before and reliant on, His Father in Heaven; He always registered, noticed, and tried to appreciate what His Father was doing and saying at any given time and in any particular set of circumstances; and that is why He made use of parables when speaking to the crowds because, as He said:
To know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has not been given to them.
Whereas many so-called disciples of Jesus in today’s politically-correct society, not knowing the Father, would consider themselves obliged to echo the cry of ‘injustice’ at such apparently preferential differentiation in God’s treatment of people, Jesus Himself never experienced any need whatsoever to justify His Father before men. Jesus was too humble to have anything but the utmost reverence for His Father’s actions and decisions, and also too truthful to entertain ‘politically correct’ appreciations of the people He had come to save: He might well have recognized that many, perhaps, the majority, of those crowding round Him were there not because they wanted to learn from His teaching, but rather out of idle curiosity … since Jesus was probably the most renowned and controversial figure they would encounter throughout the whole of their lives … and that their attention likewise was mainly being directed to the simple story put before them in the parable, rather than to listening and hoping for spiritual guidance.
Therefore, because they were behaving just as Isaiah had foretold:
hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive,
Jesus, therefore, spoke to them in parables so that, for the time being, they might at least retain the story that interested them and the words Jesus had used; later on, in His Father’s Providence, those words might still be able to bear fruit when their minds and hearts had grown both more humble and more mature.
In that practice of Jesus we can glimpse something of the humility of God, Who accommodates Himself to human weakness by using the softer speech and lowly words of parables to communicate heavenly truth with sublime wisdom. In like manner, His Holy Spirit, given to us and working in us and with us, constantly adapts His divine holiness and power to our weakness, worldliness, and wilfulness. Nevertheless, when and where Jesus is able to speak more directly, it gives Him such joy that He was able to say to His apostles:
Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
When we use or hear the expression ‘the Word of God’, it brings to our mind, first of all, the second Person of the most Holy Trinity, begotten of the Father from all eternity, and before all time; and then it denotes, Jesus, the Word of God made flesh for us, the divine yet human Person Who walked this earth with the Apostles and Who will introduce us all into the presence of His Father at the end of time. Finally, it speaks to us of God’s saving message, spoken in time, through the prophets, and ultimately culminating in the Gospel message of Jesus Himself, enshrined in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and expounded in the living proclamation of holy Mother Church. Now, it is to this latter ‘word of God’, the Word of Scripture – proclaimed these days by the living, authoritative, witness of Mother Church, that Isaiah made reference in our first reading:
As the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
It is one and the same word, whether heard with attention or indifference, whether received joyfully or reluctantly, whether remembered or forgotten; Ultimately, the only difference is due, not indeed to divine partiality but simply to the vagaries of human fruitfulness:
Behold, a sower went out to sow. As he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; some fell on stony places, and some fell among thorns; but others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
However, there is yet another more pervasive and simple way in which the Word of God can reach us and speak to us, and it comes from both the world around us and from the universe below and above us, all created out of nothingness by the same Word of God:
God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters." Thus God made the firmament.
Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth"; and it was so. (Genesis 1:6-7, 11)
Still today the voice of creation sounds around us and can find deep resonance within us:
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. (Ps 19:1-4)
The Spirit bequeathed to us in Mother Church as the Holy Spirit of both Jesus and the Father, and Who ever seeks to guide us along the way of Jesus back to the Father, that same Spirit was present in the beginning we are told:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. (Genesis 1:1-4)
Now, that same Spirit still hovers over creation, and – be it inanimate, voiceless, or simply inarticulate -- He is able with supreme artistry to touch the strings of creation in such a way as to enable it to bring forth music of divine provenance and beauty for us whom He is ever seeking to lead along the way of Jesus, in order that -- taking up and joining in that great chorus -- our lives might bear supremely explicit witness to, and speak profoundly articulate love and gratitude for, the beauty, goodness, and truth of the eternal Father.
That music of creation, both harmonious and beautiful thanks to the artistry of the Spirit, expresses not only creation’s very being but it also evokes our own deepest selves as St. Paul goes on to explain:
For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
And for that reason creation looks to and waits for us, as St. Paul declared:
The earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
People of God, our readings and our celebration today, are meant to renew in us an awareness of the majesty of our calling: both the wonders of the mystery already being opened up for us in Mother Church and the promised glory awaiting us in the heavenly Kingdom of which we find some transcendent impression in words of the book of Revelation (21:1-5):
I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new."
That glorious new heaven and new earth will be centred on Christ for He will be its light and splendour; and because He is both Lord and Saviour of mankind His true disciples be there with Him, held in high honour and knowing eternal peace and joy:
The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honour into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honour of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. (Rev 21:23-27)
Into that glorious city the waters of life flow from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and those waters we are privileged to foretaste here on earth if we can but recognize and appreciate something of the beauty and the power of the Spirit-led song of creation around us, and if we will but hear with our ears, understand with our minds, and treasure in our hearts the Word of God preached and present, in Mother Church:
All things are yours: the world, life, or death, things present or to come: all are yours; and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's. (1 Cor. 3:21s.)