At Church this morning, I heard the phrase ‘fed by the Word’ – and it really struck me, even though it is a phrase I have heard many times previously. The Word, truly alive and active, nourishes our heart, like a garden being watered before the planting of seed. It is only with the watering by the Word that the seed – our participation in the sacramental life of the Church – can bear good fruit.
Although Catholics are given every opportunity – and are encouraged in every way – to read and to love the Word of God in the Scriptures, I’m not convinced that (at least as a general rule) we take up the offer as well as we might. And that is, I think, very much to our detriment.
Looking at our brothers and sisters in other Christian denominations, I can’t help thinking they are far, far ahead of us in their inherent love of the Scriptures – they are certainly much more familiar with the Scriptures.
For us Catholics, it often seems to me that the Scriptures are something we listen to at Mass on a Sunday – and which we then leave at Mass on a Sunday. We have a vague familiarity with the passages we have listened to, but for many of us, that is the extent of the depth of our contact with these texts. The reality is that the Scriptures should be the light which illumines everything else in our lives.
Pope Francis has encouraged us many times to read the Scriptures. In a General Audience last year, he said –
The words of the Sacred Scripture were not written to remain imprisoned on papyrus, parchment or paper, but to be received by a person who prays, making them blossom in his or her heart. The Word of God goes to the heart.Pope Francis, General Audience, January 2021
The Scriptures do not impose themselves – rather, they invite us to enter into them, to listen attentively, and learn what they have to teach us; and above all else, to enter into a real and living relationship with the Lord who is that original Word of God. Without such a relationship, the Scriptures remain nothing more than words on a page. The Holy Father says when this authentic encounter, this relationship, takes place, then – and only then – we become “the ‘tabernacles’ where the words of God want to be welcomed and preserved, so that they may visit the world”.
In his Apostolic Letter ‘Aperuit Illis’, the Holy Father also established the ‘Word of God Sunday’ for the entire Church. He reminded us that “one of the greatest gifts of our time is the rediscovery of Sacred Scripture in the life of the Church and the faithful” – especially when the written Word of the Scriptures are so accessible to everyone. He went on to encourage all of us to carry a copy of the Scriptures – or at least, the New Testament – with us at all times and to read from it every day, even if this is only few verses. Doing so is a salutary reminder to all of us that our lives as Christians extend far beyond Sunday Mass.
At the Second Vatican Council, the Fathers reminded us that authentic devotion finds it’s basis in Scripture, leading us into the Liturgy, where it is most powerfully reflected. There are two good examples of this. The first is the Liturgy of the Hours, which is comprised primarily of the Psalms and passages from Scripture and which clearly reflects back to the Mass of the day. And the second is the prayer of the holy Rosary, which is a meditation on those same Scriptures, using these as the basis for our prayer.
All of this challenges me as a Christian and as a Catholic; what is my own relationship with the Word of God? Do I spend time reading the Word? Is that time sufficient? Is it truly prayerful? Does it challenge and encourage me? Does it help me to move forward in responding to the universal call to holiness which the Council Fathers spoke of with such emphasis
Perhaps I have some work to do.