Father Donald Senior, CP

July 12: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Words have power

Is 55:10-11; Ps 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14; Rom 8:18-23; Mt 13:1-23

The Hebrews believed in the creative power of words. For most of their history, stretching from Moses to the time of Jesus, few Jews could read or write, but they knew the power of words. Most of their ways of knowing about God’s care for them and learning about the traditions and experiences of their ancestors were communicated verbally. That word was transmitted in their gatherings for worship, in listening to their Scriptures and in the remembrances of their elders, communicated especially in their homes and in their common festivals.

In our day, too, we experience the impact of words. What someone says to us can touch us profoundly: “I love you,” “I have tragic news for you,” “You have won the lottery!”

Respect for the creative power of words is embedded in the Hebrew term for “word” which is “dabar.” It can mean either the spoken “word” or “creative action.” The first reading for today from the prophet Isaiah is a perfect example of this.

Isaiah proclaims a “word” of the Lord, testifying to the creative power of God’s Word (“dabar”). It is like the rain and the snow fall upon the earth, “making it fertile and fruitful … giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater.” That Word is powerful. “The Word that goes forth from my mouth … shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, and achieve the end for which I sent it.”

This passage from Isaiah is reminiscent of the dramatic beginning of the Bible, Genesis’ majestic depiction of God’s creation of the world. God “speaks” and all the world springs into being — light, the sun, the moon and the stars, the waters of the earth, the beauty of the sky, the lush earth, the array of living beings on land and sea, and then the human person fashioned in the very image and likeness of God. Ultimately, it is all due to the power of God’s Word.

This beautiful passage from Isaiah may have influenced the composer of the magnificent poetry that begins John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word,” and that Word descends to the earth and becomes flesh and gives life to the world. Thus, the most complete human being, God’s own son, Jesus himself, with his healing power and his unconditional love, is the ultimate expression of the power of God’s Word.

This conviction about the power of God’s Word is also evident in the other readings for this Sunday. The responsorial Psalm 65 echoes Isaiah’s reflection, praising God for his provident care that “waters the earth” and “softens it with showers.” “You have crowned the year with your bounty, and your paths overflow with a rich harvest.”

The second reading is from Chapter 8 of Romans, one of the most stirring passages of Paul’s letter. Paul is a realist and does not shy from the paradox of human suffering. But he is also a tenacious believer in the power of God’s Word and Spirit that suffuses all creation; “the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.”  The groanings of the present, Paul affirms, are not symptoms of death but birth pangs and, through the creative power of God, all the world will “be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

We find this same spirit of tenacious hope in the power of God’s Word in Jesus’ parable of the sower in today’s Gospel reading. This is a parable given prominence in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

The seed (God’s Word) falls on different types of soil but ultimately effects its creative power, “producing fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold.” The creative power of God’s Word will not be thwarted.

Our collective conversation today is filled with words of doom, animosity and discouragement: an unchecked pandemic, widespread unemployment, racial tension, sharp political clashes. Our readings today remind us that we as Christians are to be attuned to another way of speaking, another way of reading our world — to proclaim God’s Word — a word of healing, compassion, justice and hope.



  • scripture