Words can be cheap. Anyone can say or do anything. We can't always tell whether people mean what they say until we see them do something about it. There are some people whose word we can trust, but they are very often the exception. For most people, we need to get everything spelled out in writing or in a contract so that we can hold them to it. For most of us, actions are what count, not words.
With God, however, it is different. Because God is truth, God's word is trustworthy. Unlike people, God cannot use words to lie or to deceive. God's words are never empty or meaningless. If God says it, we can depend on it to be the whole truth and nothing but the truth. God means what he says. And, what God says has the power to change us and to save us.
We see the awesome power of God's word in the story of creation from the book of Genesis. God created the heavens and the earth simply by the power of his word. God said it, and it came into being out of nothing. God said, "Let there be light", and light was created. God said, "Let the earth be filled with every sort of creature", and it happened. God's word has the power to make things happen and to create the world anew.
Today's first reading from the prophet Isaiah describes the power of God's word. According to the prophet, it is like rain which drenches the ground and feeds the soil causing vegetation and fruit to grow. Just as the rain gives life to the earth, so God's word feeds our roots and fills us with life.
Furthermore, the prophet Isaiah proclaims that God's word will not come back to him empty. God's word will fulfill its purpose. God's word will not be frustrated. If we hear God's word and take it to heart, it will mean salvation and life for us. If we decide to ignore God's word and to live our life as if God didn't exist, we will be judged by that word. Either way, God's word matters. And, how we have heeded God's word will be the measure of our eternal reward.
In the gospel reading, Jesus uses another image to describe God's kingdom and his word. Jesus compares it to seeds which a man scatters on the ground. Seeds are tiny. But, when one of them finds the right soil, it can grow into a fruitful tree. Like God's word, seeds are what make life possible on earth. Like a seed, God's word doesn't always seem like much. But, when we take it to heart and it finds good soil in us, it has the power to really change us, to give us life and to make us fruitful.
The image of the seed helps us to understand God's Kingdom in another way. God's kingdom grows in our midst silently and slowly. The growth is so slow that we don't often notice it from day to day or even from year to year. But, with sure progress, God is laying more of a claim on our society and on our hearts. Just as a seed, once it is planted, has a power within it that drives it to become the tree it is meant to be, so God's kingdom, once planted in our world and in our hearts by Jesus himself, takes root and spreads its branches slowly but surely throughout all of human history.
As we look at our world, at our Church and at ourselves, we know that we are not all that we could be. We know that as a community and as individuals, we fall short of the high standard that God's word has set for us. But, we are still in seed form. We are still growing. Just as it takes time for the tiny acorn to become the mighty oak which is sleeping within it, so we are still far off from the glory and the freedom which will be revealed in us as sons and daughters of God. As Saint Paul writes in the second reading, "All creation groans and is in agony awaiting the revelation of the sons and daughters of God." Brothers and sisters, there is a glory and a freedom sleeping within all of us, growing slowly, leading us to become more fully the women and men God intended us to be. God tells us so in his word. It is true, even though we cannot yet see it.
Two things are needed, then, if we are to grow strong in the word which God entrusts to us. First, we are to make sure that the soil of our hearts is a welcome place for the seed God wants to plant within us. We must work everyday with God's grace to root out the selfishness, the bad habits and the bad attitudes which make our hearts unwelcoming to God and his word. Second, we need to trust patiently that the word, once planted, will grow and bear fruit within us. We will not always feel as though we are growing. We will not always feel as though we are making progress. Nonetheless, we must always trust that, no matter what we see or feel, God is actively working within us through the power of his word.
God is in the middle of creating a new heavens and a new earth. At present, it is still in seed form. We don't often recognize it. In fact, many people ignore it altogether. But those with faith get glimpses of it as it grows. Christ will one day come again in glory to reap the rich harvest of the kingdom he has planted and to reveal the glorious freedom of the sons and daughters of God. God promises us this in his word, and his word accomplishes what he intends it to. And so, in eager expectation, we prepare our hearts to receive him because we want to be among those who have attended eagerly to God's word and have borne fruit abundantly in faith, hope and love.