Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” we read in the opening verses of the Gospel according to St. John in a passage that has obvious references to the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1, where we read: “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and earth…, God said…”

St. John would go on to state that this Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus Christ is the incarnate Word of God.

In the second reading proclaimed this Sunday, taken from chapter 55 in the book of the prophet Isaiah, we hear the Lord saying that his Word is like the dew that comes down from the heavens to make the earth fecund and fertile and then returns to the heavens.

When we come to Mass every Sunday and pray the Creed, we profess our belief that the Holy Spirit, who is God, has spoken through the prophets. Obviously, whether one is a prophet or not, one speaks words.

In his Apostolic Exhortation on the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church, Pope Benedict explained that “by emphasizing the many forms of the word, we have been able to contemplate the number of ways in which God speaks to and encounters men and women, making himself known in dialogue. Certainly, as the Synod Fathers stated, “dialogue, when we are speaking of revelation, entails the primacy of the word of God addressed to man”. The mystery of the Covenant expresses this relationship between God who calls man with his word, and man who responds, albeit making clear that it is not a matter of a meeting of two peers; what we call the Old and New Covenant is not a contract between two equal parties, but a pure gift of God. By this gift of his love God bridges every distance and truly makes us his “partners”, in order to bring about the nuptial mystery of the love between Christ and the Church. In this vision every man and woman appears as someone to whom the word speaks, challenges and calls to enter this dialogue of love through a free response. Each of us is thus enabled by God to hear and respond to his word. We were created in the word and we live in the word; we cannot understand ourselves unless we are open to this dialogue. The word of God discloses the filial and relational nature of human existence. We are indeed called by grace to be conformed to Christ, the Son of the Father, and, in him, to be transformed.

In this dialogue with God we come to understand ourselves and we discover an answer to our heart’s deepest questions. The word of God in fact is not inimical to us; it does not stifle our authentic desires, but rather illuminates them, purifies them and brings them to fulfilment. How important it is for our time to discover that God alone responds to the yearning present in the heart of every man and woman! Sad to say, in our days, and in the West, there is a widespread notion that God is extraneous to people’s lives and problems, and that his very presence can be a threat to human autonomy. Yet the entire economy of salvation demonstrates that God speaks and acts in history for our good and our integral salvation… Consequently, we need to make every effort to share the word of God as an openness to our problems, a response to our questions, a broadening of our values and the fulfilment of our aspirations. The Church’s pastoral activity needs to bring out clearly how God listens to our need and our plea for help. As Saint Bonaventure says in the Breviloquium: “The fruit of sacred Scripture is not any fruit whatsoever, but the very fullness of eternal happiness. Sacred Scripture is the book containing the words of eternal life, so that we may not only believe in, but also possess eternal life, in which we will see and love, and all our desires will be fulfilled”.

The word of God draws each of us into a conversation with the Lord: the God who speaks teaches us how to speak to him. Here we naturally think of the Book of Psalms, where God gives us words to speak to him, to place our lives before him, and thus to make life itself a path to God. In the Psalms we find expressed every possible human feeling set masterfully in the sight of God; joy and pain, distress and hope, fear and trepidation: here all find expression. Along with the Psalms we think too of the many other passages of sacred Scripture which express our turning to God in intercessory prayer, in exultant songs of victory or in sorrow at the difficulties experienced in carrying out our mission. In this way our word to God becomes God’s word, thus confirming the dialogical nature of all Christian revelation, and our whole existence becomes a dialogue with the God who speaks and listens, who calls us and gives direction to our lives. Here the word of God reveals that our entire life is under the divine call.

“The obedience of faith’ must be our response to God who reveals. By faith one freely commits oneself entirely to God, making ‘the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals’ and willingly assenting to the revelation given by God”.

The word of God also inevitably reveals the tragic possibility that human freedom can withdraw from this covenant dialogue with God for which we were created. The divine word also discloses the sin that lurks in the human heart. Quite frequently in both the Old and in the New Testament, we find sin described as a refusal to hear the word, as a breaking of the covenant and thus as being closed to God who calls us to communion with himself. Sacred Scripture shows how man’s sin is essentially disobedience and refusal to hear. The radical obedience of Jesus even to his death on the cross completely unmasks this sin. His obedience brings about the New Covenant between God and man, and grants us the possibility of reconciliation. Jesus was sent by the Father as a sacrifice of atonement for our sins and for those of the whole world. We are thus offered the merciful possibility of redemption and the start of a new life in Christ.”

Fr. Roberto M. Cid