Walk into any bookstore today, and you will find a fairly large section containing self-help books. Perhaps thirty years ago, this would not have been the case. More and more people are looking to improve themselves not just professionally but also in the areas of personal and spiritual development. One market research shows that self-help books have become a billion-dollar industry with an 8% annual growth. A study done by the University of Calgary shows that people read self-help books so as to manage transitions in life especially in the areas of career, relationships, health or well-being, and a combination of the above types.

Today the Church celebrates Bible Sunday and perhaps unknowingly we have missed out on looking at the Bible as the greatest and oldest self-help book in existence. There are two key themes that are found in the Bible. Firstly, it reminds us how great is God’s love for us and secondly, how we should live our lives as a response to God’s initiative to love us. Everything that we read in the Bible must be seen through these lenses.

This Sunday, the gospel passage is one that many of us are familiar with – the parable of the Sower. Jesus uses this parable to teach about the kingdom that He has come to establish. The parable of the Sower in fact illustrates how indifferent the responses were to the ‘word of the kingdom’ that Jesus came to proclaim. This biblical imagery was a common sight for the people of Jesus’ time.

It is clear that Jesus’ explanation of the Parable of the Sower highlights four different responses to the gospel – the four different types of ground represent the attitude of those who listen to the Word of God. Ultimately, it was the seed that fell on good soil that bore much fruit. This is alluded to in our first reading where God speaks through the prophet Isaiah, “the word that goes out from my mouth does not return to me empty… succeeding in what it was sent to do.”

The Word of God is living and powerful and therefore it is transformative in its very nature. If we allow ourselves to be immersed in the Word of God, it will surely transform us – the grace that comes from the Holy Spirit gives us the assistance to be renewed and transformed, more than any self-help book can hope to give (cf. James 1:18).

However, for this to happen we need to take the first step in allowing the Word of God to become a part of our lives, just like having coffee or any other beverage in the morning. It is in His word that God reveals His love for us and makes Himself accessible to all of us. He does this not just in the written word but completes it through the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. All of this profits us when we respond generously to God’s invitation to walk in His path.

On this Bible Sunday, let us recommit ourselves to be the “good soil” that hears, understands, and receives the Word and ultimately allowing the Word (Jesus) to transform and accomplish in us ‘a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty’. Amen.

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Bible Sunday 12 July 2020)