It can be tempting for us as Catholics to consider that the Word of God is simply that first part of the Mass, which we listen to every Sunday. We may well be listening with attention, but I think we often do so with more than a degree of passivity – listening, if it goes no further than mere listening, is indeed a passive activity.
Now, this is not the intention of the Church; our Mass is comprised of two broad parts, each one given the title of ‘liturgy’ – the ‘liturgy of the Word’ and the ‘liturgy of the Eucharist’. This tells us very clearly that an equal dignity is conferred on each one.
In order that our listening, even if attentive, becomes much more active within us, the Church vociferously invites us to make that Word a living part of our Catholic identity; we are asked to take the Word out with us from the Mass, as though it were seed planted in a newly-tilled field, destined to be watered and fed that it might grow and bear good fruit in due season.
And it is for this reason that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, instituted the ‘Sunday of the Word of God’ on the third Sunday of ordinary time. And that is today.
The Word of God.. is destined for everyone
Pope Francis said earlier today that the Word of God “is destined for everyone. Jesus wants to reach those far away. He wants to heal the sick, to save sinners, to gather the lost sheep and lift up those whose hearts are weary and oppressed. God’s mercy is for everyone.” And so the Word is not for the ‘holy’ alone nor is it only for those who lead good lives or who are always close to Jesus – it is for everyone, for all of us. No matter who or what we consider ourselves to be, no matter our personal sinfulness or sanctity, our nearness to or distance from the Lord, His Word is for us.
And since we are all sinners, every single one of us, the Pope was at pains to note that the Word is a conduit of Mercy, which – to be authentically received within us – calls us to interior conversion. And in embracing this mercy, the Pope tells us we become ‘heralds’ – “It draws us into the ‘net’ of the Father’s love and makes us apostles, moved by an unquenchable desire to bring everyone we meet into the barque of the Kingdom.”
Going further, the Holy Father added that “The #WordOfGod calls us to conversion. It shakes us, disturbs us, incites us to change. It throws us into crisis because it ‘is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword…and judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart’.”
This ‘disturbance’, this ‘crisis’, is precisely what the Word intends to achieve within us; it takes us out of our complacency and the comfort of our present lives, asking of us something more, something greater than we may presently be giving. In other words, it invites us to something deeper – authentic discipleship, which is the fruit of that interior conversion.
And it is when this discipleship becomes a very real part of who and what we are, that we feel the call to true evangelisation, something the Pope refers to as “an unquenchable desire to bring everyone we meet into the barque of the Kingdom.”
None of this can take place within us without our active participation in, and familiarisation with, that Word which is given to us, in which the Almighty reveals Himself to us, and which gives us the story of the fullest revelation of God, in the person of Jesus Christ.
As I noted above, the Word is like seed – it is intended to be sown within us, to be cared for and tended by us, so that from a seed, it grows to the fullest extent possible.
And that depends on our active participation.