Summary: The Word of God can be unifying, but it can also divide, so we need to ask God what attitudes we must change and for the grace to make that change.
Thursday of the 28th Week in Course 2016
Joy of the Gospel
The beautiful prayer that St. Paul gives us in his letter to the Ephesians is our first reading today, but it seems to contrast with the words of Jesus we find in the Gospel. Paul is asking us to allow Christ to dwell in our hearts through faith, so we would be “rooted and grounded” in charity, fully grasping reality: length, width, height, depth. We are to know something that goes beyond mere intellectual understanding–the love of the Messiah who loved us so much that He died for us when we were kicking Him around with sin. And we are to be filled with the fullness of God.
Jesus seems to be counseling something different–war and division. But the fire that Jesus wants cast on the earth is the fire of the Holy Spirit, who came in the form of tongues of flame on Pentecost. The war is with the forces of evil. In St. Luke’s church, being a Christian, professing Christ was for Jewish families a great dividing decision. Some families literally cast out those who were baptized and professed Jesus as Messiah. The same thing was happening with the Gentile families. Jesus is saying that fellowship with our human family cannot come before our profession of faith. Now He is not counseling inter-family warfare; if we did that we would certainly not be practicing what the Holy Father calls “accompaniment.” He means we cannot renounce our faith or stop practicing it, just because a family member is offended. That’s their problem, not ours. We must listen to and act on the Word of God, both in scripture and tradition.
And that Word can strengthen us daily. He writes: ‘Not only the homily has to be nourished by the word of God. All evangelization is based on that word, listened to, meditated upon, lived, celebrated and witnessed to. The sacred Scriptures are the very source of evangelization. Consequently, we need to be constantly trained in hearing the word. The Church does not evangelize unless she constantly lets herself be evangelized. It is indispensable that the word of God “be ever more fully at the heart of every ecclesial activity”. God’s word, listened to and celebrated, above all in the Eucharist, nourishes and inwardly strengthens Christians, enabling them to offer an authentic witness to the Gospel in daily life. We have long since moved beyond that old contraposition between word and sacrament. The preaching of the word, living and effective, prepares for the reception of the sacrament, and in the sacrament that word attains its maximum efficacy.
‘The study of the sacred Scriptures must be a door opened to every believer. It is essential that the revealed word radically enrich our catechesis and all our efforts to pass on the faith. Evangelization demands familiarity with God’s word, which calls for dioceses, parishes and Catholic associations to provide for a serious, ongoing study of the Bible, while encouraging its prayerful individual and communal reading. We do not blindly seek God, or wait for him to speak to us first, for “God has already spoken, and there is nothing further that we need to know, which has not been revealed to us”. Let us receive the sublime treasure of the revealed word.’
The Word of God, we must understand, can be dividing if one family member listens to it and another is listening more attentively to the call of the world, or to what the family has always done. Members of my family, I learned growing up, were pretty bigoted against African Americans. The civil rights movement offended them. That’s family background working against the Word of God, which tells us to treat all human beings as persons with infinite dignity. How do we know whether or not some attitude we have today is not in accord with God’s attitude? We read the Scriptures; we listen to the magisterium. We prayerfully ask God to bring to mind through the preaching of the Gospel what it is that He wants us to change. And then when we become aware of the need for change, we ask for the grace, the power, to effect that change. That is the proper orientation of the missionary disciple.