Barriers to the Word of God

7.27.18 Fri. wk. 16 – Ordinary Time.  (II)
Jeremiah  3: 14 – 17
Gospel  of  Matthew  13: 18 – 23

†Jesus said to his disciples “Hear then the parable of the sower.  The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.  The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.  But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.  The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.  But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”           The Gospel of the Lord.

Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy                      Barriers to the Word of God

When reading “The Parable of the Sower”, there appears a stark reality.  Of the four types of people that received the Word of God, only one of the four – produced any fruit.  Only one of the four positively responded to God’s Word.

The Word of God can change our life – but people must welcome God’s Word.  They must welcome that Word and have the will to produce the fruitfulness from that Word.  We have to do our part.  This parable is very interesting.  There are five barriers that we can discern – that prevent the growth of God’s Word from growing in the human heart.

The first barrier is: ‘the evildoer’.  The devil works to prevent the Word of God from growing within us, and †Jesus warns us: “The evil one comes and steals away what was sown in our heart.” (Matt. 13:19)  We live in a 21st century culture that denies the presence of the devil, or it presents that presence as a caricature of Satan.  In movies containing evil scenes, the devil seems so unreal that people are not at all concerned about the evildoer; but the devil is real.  Satan wants to steal our faith, and steal our eternal happiness.  We must be aware of this.

A second barrier is: ‘the lack of spiritual depth and rootedness in God’.  When our relationship with God is shallow, we may see God only as a ‘miracle worker’, someone we can go to when we need something.  When we only look to God in a crisis situation, then ‘the seeds of Faith’ cannot grow in our hearts.  God’s Word can only take root in a receptive heart, a docile heart, a humble heart that’s ready to hear and obey God’s will.

A third barrier to God’s Word is: ‘worldly anxiety’.  We become so worried and obsessed about what we’re going to wear, what we’re going to eat, what we’re going to drink; or, about how we feel or look in front of other people.  This preoccupation with externals distracts us from what is truly spiritual; distracting us from what is important and life-giving in this world.

A fourth barrier is: ‘the lure of money’.  We read this in Paul’s First Letter to Timothy: “The love of money is the root of all evil and some people, in their desire for it, have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.” (1 Tim.6:10)  Materialism is one of the most toxic and addictive substances known to mankind.  If we love money and things – more than anything else, God has no place in us.  We read this in the First Letter of John: “Do not love the world or the things of the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him…The world and its enticements are passing away, but whoever does the Will of God, remains forever”. (1 Jn.2:15-17)  If we let our hearts be consumed with material things, they will weigh us down and draw us away from the treasure that awaits us in heaven.

A fifth barrier is: ‘fear of other people’.  This is a barrier to the Word of God growing in us.  What I mean by that is – we care more about the opinions of other people, about being politically correct out of fear that we will offend someone – rather than speaking the truth to them in love.  St. Paul reminds us: “Living the truth in love we should grow in every way into Him who is the head Christ”. (Eph.4:15)  †Jesus spoke only the truth – the truth is what will save those who are in danger of spiritual death – and if we are afraid to approach people with the truth – we will take some responsibility for that.  Oh – I don’t want to offend someone, I don’t want to hurt their feelings, I’m afraid they may not like me if I tell them the truth.  We must pray for a little more ‘Fear of the Lord” – rather than fear of other people; we need a healthy reverence for God, and for His Word.  Pray for the courage to speak the truth – and for His will in our life.

So – according to this parable – three out of four people will not produce fruit from the Word of God that is sewn in their heart.  This is a sobering statistic.  So only one-fourth of you is really going to get it!

But – there is always hope.   We heard this proclaimed in our first reading today from the prophet Jeremiah.  “Return rebellious children, says the Lord, for I will take you…and bring you to Zion.  Multiply and become fruitful in the land”. (Jer.3:14ff)  The Lord does not just give us one chance to receive His Word.  The sower who goes out season after season, year after year, sowing the seeds in the field, always hopeful that this is the year that he will have the abundant harvest.  It is the same way with the Lord, He is constantly sowing that seed of His Word in our hearts – hopeful – that maybe this time we’ll get it; maybe this time.

If any of these five barriers have prevented the Word of God from producing spiritual fruits in your life, identify what that barrier is.  Pray for self-knowledge so you can know what that barrier is.  Remove that barrier from your life and prepare your heart through reconciliation, through prayer, and through the sacraments to receive the gift of God’s Word.  Then – you must join †Jesus as a sower – sowing the Word in the hearts of others – producing fruits, one hundred, sixty and thirty fold.

     In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.