Fr Billy Swan
Dear friends. Today’s parable of the sower is one of the best known and loved parables of Jesus. It is an autobiographical parable in the sense that it describes precisely the success of Jesus own ministry of preaching at the time. Some received his message joyfully but then fell away, some rejected his message altogether and others welcomed his Word in a way that changed them and bore much fruit.
At the heart of the parable it is how we listen to and accept the Word of God. If we do listen and accept it, our lives will bear much fruit. If we don’t, then they will be barren. I always remember the following words of the late Pope Benedict XVI as he spoke them about 20 yards from where I was sitting in St Peter’s Basilica at the Chrism Mass of 2009. He got right to the heart of it:
‘So then, how do things stand in our own lives? Are we truly pervaded by the word of God? Is that word truly the nourishment we live by, even more than bread and the things of this world? Do we really know that word? Do we love it? Are we deeply engaged with this word to the point that it really leaves a mark on our lives and shapes our thinking? Or is it rather the case that our thinking is constantly being shaped by all the things that others say and do? Aren’t prevailing opinions the criterion by which we all too often measure ourselves?...Do we allow ourselves truly to be deeply purified by the word of God?
Here I offer three reasons why the Word of God is worth listening to and worth accepting. I appeal especially to young people to consider these gifts carefully and indeed everyone who is young at heart. So why then should I listen?
Because the Word of God is a word of love. The word of God declares us to be people he loves and accepts. He created us, he knows us, he has plans for our lives. But isn’t this a repetition of a tired message I’ve heard before? No. It’s the most earth-shattering truth that will change your life once you take it seriously. It changes everything – beginning at this moment.
Because the Word of God is the word of truth. Jesus said ‘I am the way, the TRUTH and the life’. When we hear the Word of God in the right way, we recognise it as being true. ‘All those on the side of truth listen to my voice’ (John 18:37). We can only be happy if we follow the truth and live truthfully. Making up truth to suit ourselves only leads to dishonesty that leads to misery. The truth sets us free.
Finally, because the Word of God is a word of meaning and promise. It shines light where there is darkness and brings clarity where there is confusion. It tells us that each life is good, willed and necessary. It tells us that God has a plan for our lives and wants our lives to bear fruit. God’s word is not just for the present but also for the future. It holds promise and hope. It tells us that we exist not just for ourselves but for God and for others. God’s plans for us are so much greater than our own and that once we trust Him, God will continue to bring fruit from our lives long after we are gone. Think of the saints. Become one yourself.
To conclude. During the week we celebrated the feast of St Benedict. As a young man he spent three years living in a cave. What was he doing? Listening. Listening to God, to that higher voice, to God’s will. In his Rule, he asks: ‘What, most dear brothers and siters, could be more sweet to us than this voice of the Lord inviting us? Behold the Lord points out the way of life to us by His own fatherly affection. Hearken continually within your heart, O child, giving attentive ear to the precepts of thy master’. Let us do as Benedict asks. Listen to that voice within for it is a voice of love, of truth, of meaning and promise.