The treasure in the Word of God
We, the followers of a ‘joyful spirituality’ are reflecting on the second pillar of our dear movement in this third week of Lent. The ‘Word of God’ is the point of our reflection. What is the Word of God? Well, a picture of the Bible comes readily to our minds. Reading and learning the Word of God is one of the dearest desires of every JY (I make sense, right?). Holy Spirit is the interpreter of the Sacred Scripture. So let us pause and pray for the assistance of the Holy Spirit as we begin this reflection on the Word of God.
We are all born with a heart desiring for God. This desire could be addressed by human reason. But there is a higher, and of course, a better order for quenching this thirst. That higher order is the order of Divine Revelation. God himself reveals to us. The course of this revelation is the Salvation history which starts at the creation and graduates in the incarnation. This is what we call the Word of God. Thus Christ is the unique Word of God. Christ is the fullness of God’s revelation of Himself. “All the Sacred Scripture is but one book, and this one book is Christ…”
This revelation has a human body and a human language; so that we may understand it. The body of this revelation is preserved in the Holy Eucharist and the language in the Sacred Scripture. Sacred Scripture is, again, preserved in sacred traditions of the Church and in the sacred written Scripture, i.e., the Bible. Our reflection here is on this written sacred Scripture of the Divine revelation.
The Word of God is essentially different from our words. It is an event. It is the “event of creation and the event of what God is doing and saying in Israel and finally the event of what God is saying and doing in Jesus.”An event is not a report, but an actual unfolding of happenings - the event of God speaking to us and of us responding to this speaking God. Jeremy Driscoll explains this very beautifully. “The (Bible) is rather like the notes of a musical score. The score is not the music. But the score lets the music sound. When from the score of the biblical book the words are proclaimed in the midst of a believing assembly, the music of God’s events sounds forth in the midst of that assembly!”So a believing assembly is very necessary to listen and respond to the Word of God.
This believing assembly in its truest form is the liturgical assembly. “Scripture is… about liturgy and liturgy is about scripture.” The books of the Bible were primarily composed for the sake of the liturgical celebration of the early Christians. Thus the liturgical celebrations were enriched by remembering the words of Jesus (and later that of Apostles and their successors); and these remembrance of the words beautified the liturgy. So the Word of God cannot be separated from liturgical celebration. Liturgy is the natural habitat for the Bible. This Lenten season needs to help us desire the Word of God in the liturgy of the Church, which is primarily the Holy Eucharist, then the other Sacraments, liturgy of the hours, and other prayers of the Church. Are you zealous and active in the liturgy?
Therefore Word of God is more of listening and responding rather than of reading and understanding. This listening and responding can be done at different occasions. It could be private with the family, within prayer groups, with a parish community, and so on. The important aspect is the attitude of listening and responding. It should not become reading and understanding as in the case of school text books or books of entertainment. “Faith comes by hearing” (Rom 10:17, refer also Lk 4:21, Rom 10:17, Gal 3:2, Rev 1:3). This does not mean that you should not read, but listen to somebody else reading. No! It is about the attitude while reading and hearing. You need to listen. Listen to the person of Christ, the eternal Word of the Father. Do you listen to Christ in the Word of God?
Now, you need to respond. How and where? The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us two modes of this ‘how’ (CCC 115-117). It is by taking the literal and spiritual sense of the listened passage of the Bible. Literal interpretation means the actual meaning of the words, and spiritual sense means gaining a profound and deeper meaning (allegorical, moral and anagogical) of the listened word of God. Where? In the Church! It is the Church that responds to the spoken Word of God. Church is the bride awaiting the murmurings of her Beloved. Do you have the heart of the bride? (or are you a scientist, etymologist, etc?) Please keep your brains a while away and keep your heart closest possible to the Word of God.
Now let’s examine our attitude to the Word of God. Origen (a third century scholar) speaks: “You who are accustomed to take part in divine mysteries know, when you receive the body of the Lord, how you protect if with all caution and veneration lest any small part fall from it, lest anything of the consecrated gift be lost. For you believe, and correctly, that you are answerable if anything fall from there by neglect. But if you are so careful to preserve His Body, and rightly so, how do you think that there is less guilt to have neglected God’s word that to have neglected His body?” St. Augustine called the Scripture as “Audible Sacrament (Sacramentum audible). Are you listening to the Word of God with a sense of the Sacred?
Thus, in short, we need to read the Bible from the heart of the Church. The moment we take the Word of God, remember we are in the communion of saints. We are holding a treasure, the person of Christ, in the legacy of the Saints and Fathers of the Church who remembered the words of Christ, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit working through the Church’s magisterium.
May this Great Lent help all of us to make our lives, families, prayer groups, movement, parishes… a heart of the Church by listening and responding to the Word of God.
Fr. Vinod Madathiparambil
Jesus Youth USA Pastor