SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Ex 16:1-5. 9-15; Ps 78:18-19, 23-28; Mt 13:1-9 ]
We are always craving for more and more. The word “enough” or “satisfied” is not in our vocabulary. We seem to have an abyss that cannot be filled by anything in this world. The dissatisfaction of the Israelites in the first reading is reflective of our own restlessness. When they were in slavery in Egypt, they were complaining and lamenting. The Lord then said to Moses, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites.” (Ex 3:7f)
Having been delivered from Egypt and on the way to the Promised Land, “the whole community of the sons of Israel began to complain against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness and said to them, ‘ Why did we not die at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we were able to sit down to pans of meat and could eat bread to our heart’s content! As it is, you have brought us to this wilderness to starve this whole company to death!'” Clearly, the real cause of their misery was not physical slavery but the slavery of the flesh to the things of this world. Like them, we all desire physical comfort and material satisfaction. So the Lord gave them bread, meat and water in the desert.
We, too, are never happy in life, regardless of what we have and who we are. When we were living in a one-room flat, we desired to upgrade to a five-room flat. Having acquired a five-room flat we are also not satisfied. We want a condominium unit. So, too, with other things: whether digital devices, phones, computers, TVs, or other electrical appliances. We want the latest and the best. Few are satisfied with their careers and their salary. So our happiness is short-lived simply because we have a heart that is restless and easily tire of what we have after some time.
Today, the scripture readings invite us to seek what can truly give rest to our hearts. It is the Word of God. When the devil tempted Jesus to change stones into bread, Jesus replied, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4) Prophet Isaiah says, “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.” (Isa 55:1-3)
The great thing about the Word of God, as the prophet Isaiah says, is free. This is precisely what the Parable of the Sower underscores, the graciousness of God. He said, ‘Imagine a sower going out to sow. Where did he sow the seed? Everywhere he went. It is sowed on the edge of the path, the rocky ground, among thorns and on rich soil. In other words, God gives His Word freely to all. There is no price for it. The Word of God is not restricted to a certain class of people, who are educated or intelligent, but also to the simple and uneducated. One does not have to be educated in order to hear and receive the Word of God. It is for all without exception, particularly for sinners and those who are lost in life.
However, there are conditions, not so much on the side of God but on the side of man. It depends on his receptivity and docility. To receive the Word of God depends on what kind of soil we are. It depends on whether we are open to His Word and allow the Word of God to take root in our minds and in our hearts. Receptivity and faith is the key to uncovering the secrets of the Word of God, its wisdom and its efficacious power. (cf Isa 55:10f)
This requires that we are ready to seize the opportunity to receive the Word of God. Jesus said, “as he sowed, some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up.” If we are serious about wanting to be nourished by the Word of God, there are many avenues available today. We can find daily scripture reflections and free bible study and bible commentaries on so many websites. There are courses and programs available at our Catholic Theological Institute and parishes. Many of you felt the thirst to enroll in these programs but never got to do it. Because of delay and postponement, we end up never getting started. This is what it means that the Word of God is sowed but the birds ironically are the ones that seize the opportunity and take away the seeds. They did not wait. The moment they saw the seeds, they ate them up.
Then again, Jesus said, “others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away.” This, again, is often the case of many Catholics and converts. When they were going through RCIA, they were fervent and disciplined in reading the Word of God and growing in knowledge of their faith. So, too, are those who have been renewed in the faith through some retreat or have encountered a God-experience. After the spiritual high, they did not follow up with the faith received. Without deepening their faith and their knowledge and understanding of the Word of God, their enthusiasm cannot last. Unfortunately, the bulk of our Catholics belong to this category. Many of our young confirmands leave the Church soon after receiving the Sacrament because they never took their catechesis seriously. There was no real formation and thus they often do not last. Many of them end up as nominal Catholics or Sunday Catholics at most. They hardly pray or attend church services. They do not know anything about the Word of God and have no personal relationship with the Lord.
Others are drawn away from the Word of God simply because of suffering in their lives. We read that some seeds “fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.” It is easy to speak about faith in God and in His love and mercy when things are going well for us. But when tragedy strikes or we face injustices in life, we begin to wander whether God is real or whether the Church is truly the Church of Christ and that He guarantees the stability of the Church. How could we still speak of God’s love for us when we are suffering from terminal illnesses or an unfortunate accident that crippled us, or a breakdown in marriage or relationship? Worse still are those who suffer injustices in the Catholic community, whether as workers or volunteers, especially from church leaders. We find it extremely difficult to reconcile holiness with the sinful reality of the Church in such instances. Those who have been hurt by the Church or disillusioned with God would eventually leave the Church because of bitterness.
Blessed are those with rich soil to welcome the Word of God. The Lord said, they will “produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Listen, anyone who has ears!” Those who have ears to listen to the Word of God and are prepared to enter deeply into a deeper relationship with the Lord will live a fruitful life. Indeed, the Word of God will teach us how to live our lives in such a way that we are receptive to His Will and Wisdom for us in His divine plans. Happiness in life comes from living our lives with integrity by being committed to our work and tasks assigned to us, being faithful to our commitments, giving our best to those entrusted to our care, our family and loved ones, our colleagues, community and society. When we live a righteous life, enjoy whatever pleasures the Lord gives to us in gratitude and thanksgiving, and share our joys and blessings with others, we will find contentment in life. This is the way to share in the life and love of God. When we are not attached to the world but use what the world offers us for love and service, and make use of what is given, we will always find peace and joy. It is not how much we own or have that matters but how much we love. When we live our life in faith and trust in divine providence, accepting whatever comes our way, doing all we can within our means, cooperating with His grace, and with the help and consolation of friends, we will find happiness, joy and meaning.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online, nor will they be available via email request.