15th Sun [A] 2008

Fr. Charles Irvin

Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23

Words are like seeds. They have a code within them such that if we allow them to take root in our hearts they can bring us new life. Words come to us from God with a coded message within them. If we take them to heart then miracles of growth and change can occur in our lives. God has a Word for you. If you let it grow within your heart your relationships with others will change your life and fill you with happiness.

Intellectually we can see and understand the process but allowing it to take root in us is not simple, it is complex because our relationships with others are complex. Understanding others is not simple. We have difficulties in communicating. Marriages break apart because of failures in communication; often they are given the label “incompatibility” and then tossed aside. Our technological ways of thinking lead us to believe that simply speaking our words is enough, that communicating is all a matter of technique. But technology is never enough; it does not speak words that come from the heart.

And so it is we hear spouses berate each other in exasperation: “But I’ve told you that before! How often do I have to tell you?” Marriage counselors often hear: “My husband just doesn’t listen to me,” or “my wife doesn’t understand me.” We don’t need to mention the problems some parents have communicating with their children. Clearly many of us have problems with communicating.

And so I say again: God has a Word for you. He has something He wants to say to you. But as obvious as that is, we have problems on both listening to what He has to say to us and then acting on what He has to say to us.

Words that come to us from other persons come with nuances and histories behind them. Each word means something to the one uttering it; each word enters us with our own histories and meanings that we associate with it. Simple hearing will not suffice. What is needed is understanding… and understanding takes effort, even work.

Understanding is a process wherein we stand under the other speaking to us. We stand under them in the sense that we carry on our shoulders a parallel emotional load, a felt participation in the situation in which the other stands. One of the tribes of Native Americans used to have a little prayer that illustrates what I’m saying: O Great Spirit, let me walk a day in by brother’s moccasins before I criticize him.

Jesus speaks to us in parables, parables that parallel human life. They contain within them enigmas, codes drawn from ordinary human life. They are designed to pique our curiosity and they challenge us to pursue their meaning. Parables are like the games lovers play: “Catch me if you can.” They need to be pursued, just as lovers pursue each other. They can be understood only if we move off of dead center and get out of our self-centeredness.

Parables cannot touch the “know-it-alls” of this world, particularly the religious “know-it-alls” who think they know all there is to know about religion simply because they took some religious education classes when they were kids. God has a word for them, too, but one wonders if they will ever be able to understand it. Perhaps this explains why so many religious know-it-alls never seem to change and remain dead-set in their ways.

The question we must ask ourselves today is: “Well, just what is God’s word for me?” Once we begin to ask questions such as that we will be questing, we’ll be on the pilgrimage of questing God; we’ll be engaged in the search for understanding.

Before we begin we have to realize that the things of this world have cluttered our lives with ideas that either substitute for God or that choke out His Word. Each one of us knows – and knows full well – that the birds of the air have come and snatched away the seeds that are God’s words for us. Each one of us knows – and knows well – that our time is cluttered and jammed, and that our lives have precious little quiet time, time to reflect, in them. However it is in silence, out in the desert where there’s nothing to do, in solitude that we can listen to God’s word and hear what He has to say to us, time in which, like seeds, God’s words can take root within us.

Many, however, are afraid to be alone. Many feel unproductive in solitude; they feel like there are doing nothing. Many feel that reading the Bible is useless and unproductive. Furthermore, sitting in silence and solitude alone in an empty church is a terribly difficult thing to do for so many. The birds of the air fly into our heads; their chatter fills our ears telling us we will do this some other time because now we have more important things we need to be doing. We can march through life telling ourselves that we can listen to God later on some time. But what will happen in the last moments of our lives? Will there be enough time then for the seeds that are God’s words to enter into us, take root in us, and bear fruit?

Understanding our spouses is difficult enough. Understanding our children and our parents is even more difficult. Understanding those with whom we work can be extremely difficult. What leads us to believe that understanding God’s Word is going to be simple and easy? Many have thought so, and then walked away from Him. Are we any better than they?

God, however, will not play tricks on us. If we give Him our time, our silence, our attention, and our active attempts at understanding, then His Word will come forth from His mouth and into our hearts and not return to Him unfruitful. His Word is effective, but only if it enters into the zones of our understanding, only if we are willing to stand under them and feel their weight.

And so, during these leisure months of summer, during that season of the year when seeds have been planted and future harvests are growing, perhaps it would be good to take our Bibles in hand and spend a little time receiving God’s word for us. Perhaps in some times during the warm summer silence we could afford to stop our busy-ness and simply be still in God’s presence and listen to what He has to say to us.

God has a word for you. He has something He wants to say to you. You cannot simply hear His words, just as you cannot simply hear the words of others. Words are coded and carry a meaning… they are meant for understanding.

May you and I spend some time this summer questing and searching out their meaning. They convey in them persons who want to love us, and God’s Word brings us, incarnate in human flesh and blood, His very own self, given to us in love and for love, no matter how hare-hearted we may have been in our past. God’s love cannot be crucified; it always comes back to life for the love of our lives. If His seed falls on good ground it will bear fruit; it will bring forth a harvest and give your soul the food that it needs.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”