July 15-16 , 2017, Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A
"So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it."
The reading we just heard from Isaiah gives me great comfort. In this world that has so much violence and pain and suffering, it is reassuring to know that the word that God speaks is the last word, the word that counts. And what a word is spoken by God.
The Hebrew tradition that produced the words of Isaiah had much more respect for the word than we seem to have today. A word, especially a word spoken formally and deliberately, and the reality the word referred to were intertwined. Speaking revealed something of the speaker, also, so that the word was the conduit of relationship.
Three thousand or four thousand years ago, in the middle east, creation myths were usually filled with conflict and violence. The earth and its inhabitants were the result of battles between gods or demons. So one of the amazing things about the story of creation in Genesis is that the universe and all that fills it were brought about by a word. God said, "let there be light" and there was light. No battle, no struggle, no conflict, not even much effort. God spoke a word, and it happened. "My word goes forth from my mouth and achieves the end for which I sent it."
And throughout our salvation history, God spoke to us words to enflesh us like Adam and Eve, to call us out for long journeys to strange lands like Abraham, to free us from slavery like the Israelites from Egypt (when Moses asked for something from God to prove who he was God gave him a word - his name Yahweh - God who is with us), to enflame the prophets. Jeremiah remonstrates to God, "All your word ever does is get me in trouble. I vowed never to speak your word again but it flamed up inside me until I could no longer bear the effort to keep from speaking it."
As Christians we believe that God spoke the ultimate word, a word that was too personal for the law, to intimate to stay in heaven, a word that sprang into flesh itself.
"In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God; and the Word was God. He was in beginning with God. All things came to be through him and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw his glory..."
God has called you and me to be his words, to continue the story started on the first day of creation, continued through the incarnation of Jesus up to this very day and beyond. Remember, God's words are not empty or ineffective. They accomplish what God intended them to. And what kind of a word of God are you and I? I heard someone once describe what kind of a word we are: Have you ever had the experience of thinking of something so wonderful that you couldn't keep it to yourself. Something that you had to tell someone, to speak it. I am sure that most of you who are fathers have had that experience. Three of my four children were born early in the morning. I didn't wait until a more respectable hour to call my family and tell them the news. I had to tell them immediately. It would have killed me to not speak the news. Well, God once had a wonderful idea, so joyful and wonderful that he could not keep it to himself; God had to speak it. And since God's words make things happen, that word became you. Each of us is a wonderful word that God could not keep to God's self but had to share with creation.
Some of us have tried real hard to cover over the wonderful word that God has spoken in us. You can hardly tell that we are a word of joy and wonder that could not be contained. But God does not speak a word that does not do what he intended. It may take longer for some of us than for others but no matter how hard we try to subvert the word of God, it will do what God intended.
Which brings us to the parable of the seeds. The seeds are the word of God. It was the practice of the day in Jesus's time to first spread the seed on the ground, and then to plow the field, turning the seed into the ground. As the science of agriculture has progressed, we have found that the yield is better if we plow first and then plant. And so it is with God's word. We are called to be the word of God, to spread that wonderful word and make it bear fruit abundantly. We can do this more effectively if we prepare the ground first. One of the best ways to prepare the ground to receive the seed, this word of God, is with joy and happiness. Too often it seems Christians think that religion, or faith, always has to be solemn and formal and frankly, joyless. The word that God speaks is always a word of joy and laughter. Even on the night before he suffered terrible pain, Jesus said to his disciples, "I come to give you my joy so that your joy may be complete."
So if we are to be the seed that falls on good soil, that yields thirty or sixty or a hundred fold, let us remember that God's word is effective. However long it takes, God's word bears the fruit that God intended. Remember that each one of us is a wonderful word of God. A word spoken with joy and happiness, that could not be contained only in the mind of God, and a word to be shared. Be that word! Strip away the glum and the sad and the worry and the darkness of sin that we have layered on these wonderful words of God. Let the joy and the laughter that is in each one of us burst forth. Even as we "groan inwardly while we await the redemption of the world", let us be evangelizers, disciples in mission, because "the world itself will be set free from its slavery and corruption, and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God."
We have God's word on it!