The wonder of God’s word
Fifteenth Sunday of Year A (Matt 13:1-23)
July 16, 2017
By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB
0VER the centuries, the term “WORD” has had a lot of “bad press” as it has often been equated by some to an empty sound. The Romans expressed this negative view of the spoken word in the famous adage, “Verba volant, scripta manent.” (Words fly away, what is written endures.)
When compared with ACTIONS, words (whether spoken or written) are definitely on the losing side. People give greater importance to action than to words. We are all familiar with the saying, “Action speak louder than words.”
Yet, the capability to utter WORDS – the gift of speech, i.e., the ability to communicate verbally, and express ideas, and whatever we have in our hearts – is one of features that distinguishes us human beings from other beings. Words reveal the deep, spiritual reality that every person is endowed with. Despite the frailty of their sounds and the awkwardness of the written lines, words can be very powerful indeed. They can offer consolation and encouragement. They can move hearts. They can impel to action. They can change lives. They can change the world! Each of us and the entire history of mankind can testify to this.
But, in spite of so great power, our words often fail to attain the intended effect, simply because they share in the many limitations of human nature. There are words that we don’t even dare to utter or write, simply because we know that they will have no effect. Our words are incapable of instantly restoring a broken bone, or to heal a cripple, or to call back to life a person very dear to us who has passed away . . . Human words can be very powerful but also quite impotent.
God’s Word, instead, is omnipotent because it is an expression of His creative power. “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made” (Ps 33:6). And when God’s word promises freedom and salvation it will surely produce such effects. (See today’s First Reading.)
When the Eternal Word became a frail human being, the words he uttered possessed a power which no simple human word could have. They stilled storms (see Mt 8:23); restored sick people to health (see, for instance, Lk 17:11-14); called dead persons back to life (see Lk 7:11-17; Mt 5:41 and Jn 11:43f); subjugated the devil (see Mk 1:25-27). By the power of his word, a piece of bread and a cup of wine were and are transformed into his body and blood! Jesus’ words were “performative” – they always produced the intended effect because they were (and are) charged with divine strength.
The word of Christ had the power to transform people: a simple fisherman (Peter) was transformed into the leader of the Church; a persecutor (Saul), was changed into a tireless apostle; a hardened sinner (Mary Magdalene), was transformed into an announcer of the Resurrection. . . .
Sown like a seed in the hearts of men, Christ’s word can work incredible wonders even today. The wonderful transformation undergone by Peter, Saul, Mary Magdalene, and innumerable others, can also become our own personal experience, if we want. Thanks to the power of the Word, in spite of our weakness, we can soar to greatness and thus make the Kingdom a magnificent reality in us and around us. But, if we are proud, backsliding, inconsistent, stone-like . . . then the Word’s divine power will be reduced to nothing because of our weakness and wickedness.
Today, as at the creation of the world and as two thousand years ago, God sends His Word to us. It is up to me and you to let it bear fruit in plenty as it has the power to do.