The Fruitful Word

The Fruitful Word

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (A). Fr Aidan Nichols  asks ‘what is the Word of the Kingdom?’ 

Today’s Gospel is the parable of the Sower and the Seed, along
with our Lord’s interpretation of his own words, according to the
evangelist St Matthew. In that interpretation, Jesus makes it plain
that the subject of the parable is the ‘Word of the Kingdom’. What
is that ‘Word’? With the riches of the entire New Testament and
the tradition of the Church at our disposal, how are we to
understand this term which gives the parable its key?

My answer comes via a series of steps. To begin with: in
Christianity, ‘the Word’ has become a way of referring to the
biblical message generally. That’s not so surprising, since many
passages of the Old Testament started out life as oracles – moments
of inspiration when a word from the Lord came to the mind of a
prophet such as Isaiah or Jeremiah.
More important for us, precisely as Christians, however, are
the books of the New Testament. For us, the Old Testament is
authoritative insofar as it is bound up with the New and comes to
fulfillment in it. And, as in today’s Gospel, the New Testament
tells us of the original message of Jesus: how it was delivered and
to whom, and how the first hearers responded. ‘The Word’ here
will be, then, the message Jesus preached about his Father and the
Father’s plan for the world, during his public ministry in the
towns and villages of Judaea and Galilee.

But what the Word of God in the New Testament has to tell
us about the Word that Jesus preached is not the whole of what the
Scriptures have to say about the Christ. The apostolic
proclamation carries a wider message about the significance of his
Passion and Death, his Resurrection and Ascension and the
coming of the Holy Spirit – topics which go well beyond our
Lord’s words and actions during the ministry (though, of course,
they also come out of those words and actions). On the basis of
these great events, the apostolic Word includes the claim that, in
Jesus Christ, God himself has become incarnate in his own
creation, to reconcile us to him, and raise us up to share his own
divine life. To that apostolic Word we commit ourselves, mind
and heart, when we confess our faith in saying or singing the

And because Jesus, the Father’s only Son, is himself this
reconciling and redemptive initiative of God, he too – so it turns
out – can be called ‘the Word’, as St John does in the Prologue of
his Gospel and his Letters. In his own person Jesus Christ is the
communication of God – he is the Word of God in person.
What he not only said and did but actually is – his personal
reality, as the crucified and glorified Lord – continues to be
available in the Church where he remains present through his
Spirit, who, as he promised, would not only ‘remind’ disciples of
all he had said to them but also lead them into ‘all the truth’. This
means that the Church is the Church of the Word, or, better still,
the Church is the Church of the Word and of the Spirit. With the
help of the Spirit it is her task gradually to unfold the riches of the
Word, and to make those riches available to us in doctrine and the
Liturgy, in catechisms and in sacred art, and in the lives of her

By immersing ourselves as deeply as possible into all that,
we let the Word of the Kingdom bear fruit in our lives, for time
and for eternity. Just like the parable implies. And this is what all
true spirituality is about. Spirituality is the response of man to the
divine Word – the Word revealed in Scripture, embodied in Jesus
Christ and made accessible to us, for our profit, in all the ways the
Church of God knows how.

Readings: Isaiah 55:10-11 | Romans 8:18-23 | Matthew 13:1-23

fr Aidan Nichols is a well-known and prolific writer and theologian.