“Here the Father meets his children. The Word is the support and the energy of the church. The Word is the strength of faith for the children of the church. The Word is the food of the soul. It is the pure and everlasting continual source of life”. Vatican II.
The Word of God for us is life. As priests it is our task to preach the Word and to celebrate the Word in Sacraments.
The Word gives another dimension to human lives, a divine dimension. The Word of God today is often counter to the spirit of the age. The spirit of the age emphasizes political correctness, new age theology, self-actualization, holistic health and the beautiful person syndrome. “Before whom Lord shall I shrink” is the favored verse of the many Western people today.
All the great renewals of history of the church have been somehow associated with the re- discovery, re- reading of the Word of God. We remember that it was listening to the word in Romans chapter 13 v 13 that St Augustine found peace after 30 years of searching and confusion. St Benedict puts the Word at the centre of his religious life and invites us to pray by Lectio Divino.
St Francis made it as the fundamental item of his rule, “the rule and life of the Friars Minor is this to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”. In the council of Trent the fathers of the church sought to understand the Theology of the church in the mind of scripture. And again Vatican II is the return to the sources, to the word of God.
The Word of God of course is the Word by which God created the world. It is an inspired word, a word filled with spirit. It is to this word that Jesus went, for his vocation, for his mission, for his strength. When he was tempted by the devil in the desert He takes his enemy back to the word of God. He finds his vocation we read in Luke Chapter 4 in Isaiah. And Jesus told us that not one iota of the word is to pass away. Again when He meets disciples on the road to Emmaus, He explained the suffering of the Messiah by taking him back to the prophets and to the scriptures.
Jesus died with the psalms on his lips on the cross.
All the saints have emphasized the Word of God. St John Chrysostom writes, “Are not the athletes inspired by the applause of the crowd?
Are not the soldiers encouraged by the words of the prince? The horse is urged on in the battle by the sound of the trumpet, the song of the laborer ploughing the fields makes the oxen’s load lighter.
A great example of the power of the Word can be seen in the old Testament. We remember that after Solomon the Kingdom of the Jewish people split into two parts. The North Kingdom centered around Samaria, this was the powerful Kingdom. A small Southern Kingdom centered around Jerusalem. Both these kingdoms were not faithful to God. As time went on the Northern kingdom played political games and was eventually overrun by the Asyirians in the year 723, they were destroyed. They were led into exile and they never returned.
Some 120 years later the Southern kingdom was also overrun this time by Babylonians. They too were led into exile. But the people of the Southern kingdom stayed together in exile and one day after 60 years they returned to rebuild Jerusalem and to continue the life of the Jewish nation. It is from these of the South that Jesus was born.
There were three reasons why the North never survived and the South did. First the Northern kingdom did not have a city. It did not have a city because for political reasons it did not want its people going down to Jerusalem to the enemy. So they build their own places of worship around Samaria. And so they broke with the tradition of the people and with the identity that comes from the scriptures.
The Southern kingdom reserved its city but it also had day. That means it gathered on the Sabbath to pray together to experience the unity around the word of God. So they preserved common inherited values. The North abandoned the Sabbath, it might remind its people of Jerusalem so they forbade Sabbath to be celebrated.
They lost the city, lost the day and finally above all the North lost the book. We remember how the book was rediscovered in the temple and how the Holy King called all and had the priests read the Book aloud to all. Hearing the marvelous work of God everybody cried and renewed their commitment to Moses and to the traditions of the ancestors. It is the book above all which gave the people of the Southern kingdom unity and identity. It was the book which kept them as a community, the book taught them that they were God’s people, the book saved them from extinction.
So then the word of God is the energy of the soul. It is what gives us identity. We must read the scriptures and use them in personal prayer. We must do spiritual reading each day. Pope Pius X says if the flame of the sanctuary lamp is our prayer then the oil is the spiritual reading of the word of God.
There was a girl one time who was an only child and whose parents were doctors. Her parents were often called out at night so she remained at home at night all alone. She lay in her bed feeling lonely. Across the road from her house was a small house whose people had a light outside. The light from that house shone on the wall of the little girl’s room. On the wall was a picture of the Sacred Heart. In that light shining on the picture she remembered that Jesus was with her, she fell asleep surrounded by the presence of Jesus. The Word of God is like that. It is like God looking at us, reaching out to us and having mercy on us. He strengthens us and points out the road to us.
It is the task of the word of God to bring us closer and closer to Jesus to experience and to meet him. God speaks to us in His word. For example in John 9 we see how a man gradually grows in his faith through his contact with Jesus. The man is blind, he is cured by Jesus. He was cured on the Sabbath day. They the leaders of Jerusalem ask him who cured him. He says it is a man called Jesus. They further questioned him about his opinion of Jesus and he said this man is a Prophet. The leaders were extremely angry with the blind man and attack him. Later they go to his parents. The parents send them back to Him. Again they question the blind man, and the blind man insist He comes from God , who has ever heard that a man could do such things if he is not from God. Later and finally the man met Jesus and he fell at the feet of Jesus, saying I believe. He adored the Lord. So the word of God leads us gradually to the Lord.
Through the Word God created the world., Jesus is the word made flesh. The scripture read in faith and in the community brings us to encounter Jesus. Reading this Word we are led to God.
William Slattery ofm