The Word of God
This Sunday’s readings focus on the proclamation of God’s word. In the First Reading the prophet Ezra reads aloud God’s word to the people of Israel, and in the Gospel Our Lord reads God’s promises from Isaiah aloud in the synagogue and announces that the prophecies are fulfilled within their hearing. The Bible is God’s inspired word and we read it to hear His voice and to nourish our minds with His truth, which is why it features so much in the Sacred Liturgy and why the Church encourages us to read it at home. God speaks to us through the Scriptures.
While we sit for the First and Second Reading, the reading of the Gospel is carried out with more solemnity, sometimes with lighted candles and incense, and rightly so as it is the culmination of the ‘Liturgy of the Word’ in which Christ Himself speaks to us directly, and so we stand out of respect. It is properly read by the Deacon, and in his absence by the Priest. Christ is truly present in the proclamation of His word at Mass.
Although the Bible is written by men, we say it is the ‘word of God’ because the writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write exactly what God wanted them to write (Dei Verbum[DV] #11, Vatican II). But much of it is not easy to understand. One need only consider how different Christian denominations differ on things like the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, on faith, on divorce, on Purgatory, on the Priesthood, on Our Lady. How do we know which is right? The answer is we need a voice or an authority guaranteed by God, otherwise we’re only guessing. That interpreter is the Catholic Church which Our Lord founded on Peter the rock and to which He promised the Holy Spirit would teach all truth and to which He gave authority to teach in His Name (DV #12). It was the Catholic Church that decided which books make up the Bible at the Council of Carthage in 397, and this decision was approved by the Pope of the day. The Church came before the Bible and existed at least 25 years before a single line of the New Testament was written. The Church did not come out of the Bible – the Bible came out of the Church.
However, let us not be complacent as Heaven has people of every religion who truly tried to love and serve God in this life. At the same time we must be aware that because so much has been given to us, much is expected. Let us pray to stay humble and committed Catholics so that our salvation is assured.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC