YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THE 15TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: The Present Suffering and the Future Glory
BY: Fr. Luke Ijezie
HOMILY: Isa 55:10-11; Psalm 65:9-13; Rom 8:18-23; Matt 13:1-23.
- The readings of this Sunday appear to strike diverse chords, but one can always find a harmonious tone in the course of reflection. Such is the dynamism of God’s word. One may begin from the theme of suffering and capture the rest of the message. The second reading begins with this theme and seems to be totally based on it. Suffering is part of the mystery of growth. We achieve maturity after series of hard experiences and suffering. These painful experiences are part of living and they do not necessarily eliminate the joy of living, rather they prepare for them and often enhance them.
In that second reading from Rom 8:18-23, the Apostle Paul stresses the point that the present experience of suffering cannot be compared to the glory that is to be revealed in the future. For Paul, what God holds in store for his children far outweighs whatever is suffered in the present. This gives the reader great encouragement and expectation. If Paul were here today, he would see the present suffering of corona virus pandemic as a painful process towards the achievement of a more glorious future. But what does Paul really mean in this text? An answer may be found by examining the background problems and issues that he is responding to. Three of such issues may be identified: a. Some Christians were thinking that the present suffering was an obstacle to the realization of the promised glory on which the the Christian faith was based. b. Some others were disappointed that believers in Christ were subjected to suffering and pain when in fact they were earlier told that those who were in Christ Jesus, no torment would touch them and there was no condemnation for them. Even Paul himself preached this. c. Many others were brought up within a thought frame that saw suffering as punishment. Suffering was sin as punishment from God for sin and only the guilty ones were punished. This was the idea of retributive justice. So many thought they were victims of divine wrath. One finds a similar idea today among many who see the corona virus pandemic as God’s flagellation of a morally debased world.
Paul tries to correct the excesses of these presuppositions by making it clear that the sufferings of Christians in his day were not signs of divine punishment or anger nor were they negations of the promised glorification. Rather, they were birth pangs of a new world, a new order, a new creation, a new humanity. They were necessary processes towards the redemption of humanity and creation. They are part and parcel of the liberation of our bodies from the bondage to corruption: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning with labour pains together until now, and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:22-23). So many painful situations are normal processes towards the birth of a new life.
- The best approach to life then is to remain faithful to God and his message, knowing that He is always faithful. The word of God is alive and ever active and will always accomplish its mission. This is the point of the first reading from Isaiah 55:10-11. God’s word will always accomplish its mission in our life and society.
Much however depends on the one who receives the word. This is point of the Parable of the Sower in the Gospel from Matt 13:1-23. The Gospel encourages all to prepare the fertile ground for the flourishing of the word. The word has inner force to grow but much depends on the soil, that is, the heart that receives it. A bad soil easily frustrates the effectiveness and the fruitfulness of the word. In other words, God’s graces and blessings are abundantly released to us, but much depends on what we make of them.
In what ways do we pose obstacles to the growth of the word of God in our lives? Do we frustrate the blessings that flow to us through the word because of our indifference or hardness of heart? Do we allow unnecessary forces and distractions to choke the growth of the word and so block our path to liberation and glory? Do we allow our present pains and sufferings to becloud our vision and prevent us from seeing that we are really on the part to a more promised future? Do we allow the evil one and his numerous agents to distract us with negative ideas that all is lost? These are very important points for reflection this Sunday. The Psalmist tells us: God crowns the year with His bounty, and abundance flows in His pathways.
Let us, then, walk along those pathways to become the receptacles of abundant blessings! Happy Sunday!