When we drag words down

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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday in the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 16 
Isaiah 55:10-11 ><]]]]'> Romans 8:18-23 ><]]]]'> Matthew 13:1-23
Photo by author, Bgy. Bahong, La Trinidad, Benguet, 12 July 2023.

Surely you will hear in almost all homilies today something about that blasphemous drag version of the Lord’s Prayer trending in social media. What a coincidence that our Scripture readings this Sunday say a lot about words that teach us so much in dealing with this new kind of pandemic sweeping the world, the “LGBTQ+ woke” syndrome happening in the realm of words and languages.

In the light of recent things happening in our society, today’s readings tell us two important things we have forgotten or have deliberately disregarded: the power of God’s word and the need to listen.

Thus says the Lord: Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11

Photo by author, Bgy. Alno, La Trinidad, Benguet, 11 July 2023.
The power of God's word

Our short reading from Isaiah perfectly introduces us to the sequence of Christ’s teachings in the next three Sundays beginning today about the power of God’s word, a preparation for us to understand the parable of the sower.

Here we find from the Prophet Isaiah God’s word as totally “other” – ibang-iba sa lahat – as it reveals and acts because it is the truth and effectiveness in one. See how Isaiah picturesquely expressed the power of God’s word, “Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful… so shall my word beit shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

The Bible never fails in attesting to this conviction, of how God means what he says that has become the very basis of our hopes in him since the very beginning. Everything flows from God’s word, from the creation of the world and the universe to its fulfillment in Jesus Christ until he comes again at the end of time. God’s word creates history with power to renew and restore life, the power to save us as experienced by the thief on the Cross when he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Lk.23:42).

Photo by author, Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 12 July 2023.

Contrast God’s word with our human experience aptly expressed by Shakespeare in Hamlet’s famous quote, “words, words, words!” – of how we use so many words in the belief more is powerful when in fact our words are vain and empty, lacking in substance. Instead of giving life, many times our words hurt and even kill others. In this age of social media, see how we use words to distort truth with lies and deceptions. Its worst aspect is not found in the words we use but in us who pronounce them when we say things without any commitment at all so that many times, our words never stood the test of time because they are easily forgotten when spoken or heard.

St. Paul said it so well in the second reading, of how “all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now” (Rom.8:22) especially when we distort the truth of our words, when we do not mean what we say, when we our words divide instead of unite, when our words destroy instead of build.

See how sin entered through the “words” of the devil that deceived Adam and Eve with the first “fake news” in history that they would not die if they ate the forbidden fruit but instead become like God. Sin took on its ugly face in the use of words again after the first crime of murder committed by Cain who dared to say to God “am I my brother’s keeper” when asked of the whereabouts of Abel.

Words continued to be the means through which sin permeated humans reaching its lowest point when people played God again by building the Tower of Babel to reach the heavens. God punished them by making them speak different languages that resulted in confusion and the collapse of the tower.

How sad that these days, human words are made louder, spread faster by technologies try so hard to undermine God’s word. There is no doubt on the power of the word of God for he himself had shown and assured it. For his words to be fully operational and experienced, we must first listen to Jesus, the word who became flesh.

Photo by author, Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 12 July 2023.
Listening to the word of God

“Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

Matthew 13:9

Jesus used these words seven times in the synoptic gospels, usually in connection with parables like in Matthew chapter 13 which we shall be using in the next three Sundays. We heard it first today and again next Sunday when Jesus explained the parable of the weeds.

His command to “hear” requires more than just taking in the words he speaks to us. To truly hear what Jesus is saying especially within the context of the parables, we must profoundly ponder what he wishes us to know. Just like in our prayers: what is essential is to be able to listen more to God than to tell him our needs which he already knew.

This can only happen in the spirit of silence and openness to God when we suspend our many preconceptions and other ideas especially about the parables we have been so familiar with.

Photo by author, Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 12 July 2023.

The seed is the word of God and Jesus is the Sower who comes to us everyday, speaking to us, telling us the most important things we need to know and do in this life for us to be fulfilled and joyful.

But, do we have our ears attuned to the word of God? Many of us practically live in media, so hooked with gadgets either or both the cellphone and headsets or pods. Nobody seems to listen anymore as we are so engrossed in our own little world centered in the endless me, me, me and I.

In the parable, it does not really matter where the seeds fell; it is always good, at least even as food for the birds! Wherever it fell, the seed always sprang into life! That is the power of the word of God! We just have to give it a chance to grow and mature to bear fruits of “a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold”.

To hear the word of God means also to have our hearts opened to receive God so we can gain insight into the kingdom of God. It is in our hearts where the word of God is sown. Stones and thorns refer to the hardness of our hearts, our refusal to welcome Jesus Christ because we have been dominated by fame and power and other cares of this modern world.

Receiving the word of God is a process, not just a one-shot deal. It is a relationship we have to cultivate in Jesus Christ, just like the ones we try to have with our plants. The Lord himself had warned us repeatedly in the gospels of how there would always be opposition and indifference, even mockery and blasphemy right in the very places where his word should manifest its effectiveness like in our country, the only Christian-nation in this part of the world. If ever the word is not fruitful, it is primarily due to our dispositions and attitudes to God and his word.

Photo by author, Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 12 July 2023.

How timely that at this particular moment in our country we heard again this classic parable of the sower by Jesus Christ.

We, especially in the Church, are being reminded anew to humbly open ourselves to God and his word, to give it a chance to grow and bear fruit, including our rules and other documents especially in the liturgy.

In spending so much time about the posture the laypeople should take in praying the Our Father in the Mass notwithstanding what the rubric says, the devil sneaked into the scene with this drag cover of the Lord’s Prayer. This is something we must reflect. Why even the drag queen had joined the discussion of the Our Father that have deeply hurt us all! With this recent decision by the bishops, the more it seems that the drag version of the Lord’s Prayer is partly our fault too. Let us go back to God and trust his word anew. And the words of the liturgy too. Amen. Have a blessed week ahead!