15th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Joseph Levine; July 12, 2020
Readings: Is 55:10-11; Ps 65:10-14; Rm 8:18-23; Mt 13:1-23
My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.
In the first place the word that goes forth from the mouth of God is a divine person, the Son of God, the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity. He goes forth in eternity; he went forth in the creation of the world; he went forth in the word proclaimed by the prophets; above all, he went forth when he became man, born of the Virgin Mary; he continues to go forth in his Church, in apostolic teaching, which is found in the Tradition of the Church and the sacred scripture of the New Testament, in the gift of his Holy Spirit, and in the Holy Eucharist. The Word of God goes forth and achieves its purpose.
We can see this in the Incarnation: Jesus Christ fulfilled the will of his Father, offering his life as a sacrifice of expiation upon the Cross and he returned to the right hand of the Father, having accomplished the redemption of the human race.
Yet, if we consider today’s Gospel, it might seem that sometimes the word of God fails to accomplish its purpose; sometimes it does not bear fruit, as in the seed that falls by the wayside, or on the rocky or thorny soil. It seems that the word of God only achieves its purpose in those who believe in him and receive the word in the ‘good soil’ of a soul that is free of worldly preoccupation, free of the concern for riches and pleasure, and capable of enduring persecution and hardship for the love of God.
St. Paul writes about God revealing his justice in those who, rebelling against him and abusing his patience, become vessels of wrath, while he reveals his mercy in those vessels of mercy who receive the riches of his glory. (cf. Rm 9:22-24; 11:22) The word of God brings both salvation and condemnation. Salvation for those who receive it in faith, bearing fruit for eternal life and condemnation for those who reject it. God’s word achieves its purpose in both the grains of wheat and in the chaff, without which there would have been no wheat in first place.
Consider an artist who paints a picture of a knight upon a white horse, with his arming shining in the sunlight, followed by his conquering army, victorious over the depraved and disordered enemies rising up against him from the darkness. What is the artist’s principle intent? The glory of the knight who is at the center of the picture. What is second? The knight’s followers. Yet, the depraved and disordered army of the darkness also has its place in the picture, serving the glory of the knight and his followers. The artist’s intention is in no way frustrated by the presence of those rebellious enemies. His purpose is also accomplished in them.
So the Book of Revelation presents us with a vision: I saw, the heavens opened, and there was a white horse; its rider was called ‘Faithful and true’. He judges and wages war in righteousness. … his name was called the Word of God. The armies of heaven followed him, mounted on white horses and wearing clean white linen. … Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered to fight against the one riding on the horse and his army. (Rev 19:11,13-14,19) Needless to say, the rider on the white horse conquers. (Cf. Rev Rev 19:20-21, 6:1-2; Ps 45:4-6)
So, if we call ourselves believers in Jesus Christ; if we recognize the word of God as true, the highest truth; then we will want to be counted among those in whom the primary purpose of God’s word is accomplished. We will want to be counted among those in whose hearts the word finds good soil, free of rocks and thorns, in which it can take root and bear an abundant harvest. We will want to be found among the armies of heaven who follow Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, mastering the impulses of our own flesh as skilled horsemen, victorious in the Christian combat against the corruption of the fallen world and the devil, the prince of this world.
Yet, we must know that, as the 2nd reading informs us, the word of God will not be brought to complete fulfillment until the glory of the children of God is revealed.
The reading also speaks of a temporary obstacle, it seems, to the fulfillment of God’s purpose: creation was made subject to futility. What exactly is the obstacle?
God’s purpose goes beyond human salvation; God’s ultimate purpose is that he himself be glorified by his creation. In the purely invisible, spiritual realm, the holy angels, from the beginning have beheld God’s work and given him praise. In the visible realm, man was supposed to be the priest of the visible world, recognizing God’s handiwork and giving him praise. The visible world, including the visible world of man’s own bodily life, achieves its purpose when it is known by man precisely as the handiwork of God and then gives praise to God on that account.
Sin blinded man to the reality and presence of God in the world and in his own life, rendering man incapable of fulfilling his role as priest of the visible creation. Sin makes man’s own life opaque to the glory of God so that when the sinful man tries to praise God, he has nothing but empty words. Sin makes the visible creation subject to futility, incapable of achieving its purpose.
God sent us a new priest, the Son of God made man, Jesus Christ, the Word that comes forth from the Father and fulfills his purpose. By the blood of his Cross, he restored us to God, cleansed the world and, in the light of the Cross, made God visible again in the world. Through faith in him we can return to our original purpose, live a life pleasing to him, become transparent to his light, recognize his presence in our lives and in the world, and give praise to him, through Jesus Christ, our High Priest, offered always anew upon the altar of sacrifice in the Mass.
To return to the purpose for which we were created, to recognize God in the world that has been darkened by sin, we must learn first to recognize God in the midst of suffering. Suffering is the way that God breaks up the soil of our souls, making it to become rich and fertile, capable of bearing an abundant harvest. We must, following the example of Jesus Christ, embrace the will of God in the Cross. We must let ourselves be cleansed by his Precious Blood. We must believe that the sufferings of the present are as nothing compared to the glory to be revealed in us. We must share the longing of all creation as we long for the redemption of our bodies, the resurrection of the dead.
Then the word of God will be accomplished.