Summary: "To interpret a biblical text, we need to be patient, to put aside all other concerns, and to give it our time, interest and undivided attention."
Thursday of 18th Week in Course
This day we commemorate St. Clare of Assisi, the friend of St. Francis who founded the second Order of Franciscans for women religious, or the Poor Clares. As we look at the first reading about Ezekiel digging a hole in the wall of his house, we are reminded that Ezekiel was not just a prophet, he was also a mime, and he did a lot of his preaching without words. This goes along with a famous admonition by St. Francis to always spread the Word of God, but only use words when absolutely necessary. Ezekiel attracted a crowd and mimed a dramatic escape from the city under the cloak of darkness. Remember, he was not in Jerusalem. He was in Babylon, and giving prophetic words to his fellow exiles. They had been snookered into believing that their exile would be short, and that Jerusalem would continue as before. But God had enough of the Jews’ profession of faith in Him and their continuing to worship idols on the side. He lost patience with those who deceived His people. So Ezekiel made it clear to his people in Babylon that Jerusalem would be destroyed, and the king would attempt to escape and leave his people behind to be slaughtered. Instead, he was captured while escaping and was blinded after watching his children being killed.
The parable of Jesus seems to say something different. But it doesn’t say that we can do whatever we like without punishment. What it teaches is that God always forgives when we repent, but God expects us to behave in a similar manner. Taking God’s forgiveness means always giving it to our brothers and sisters when they ask for it. Actually, it means forgiving even if those who have hurt us don’t ask forgiveness. God’s mercy seems to be dependent on only one thing: our merciful conduct.
The Holy Father has been writing about sermons and homilies. I have been sharing his words because all of us preach, and sometimes use words. We clergy prepare homilies, but when you hear the word of the Lord, you should prepare yourself to share that with others when called on to do so. Let’s then look at his suggestions for preparing to preach, or share.
‘The first step, after calling upon the Holy Spirit in prayer, is to give our entire attention to the biblical text, which needs to be the basis of our preaching. Whenever we stop and attempt to understand the message of a particular text, we are practicing “reverence for the truth”.This is the humility of heart which recognizes that the word is always beyond us, that “we are neither its masters or owners, but its guardians, heralds and servants”.This attitude of humble and awe-filled veneration of the word is expressed by taking the time to study it with the greatest care and a holy fear lest we distort it. To interpret a biblical text, we need to be patient, to put aside all other concerns, and to give it our time, interest and undivided attention. We must leave aside any other pressing concerns and create an environment of serene concentration. It is useless to attempt to read a biblical text if all we are looking for are quick, easy and immediate results. Preparation for preaching requires love. We only devote periods of quiet time to the things or the people whom we love; and here we are speaking of the God whom we love, a God who wishes to speak to us. Because of this love, we can take as much time as we need, like every true disciple: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:9).’
“Fast growth is the philosophy of the cancer cell.” It is important, if we are to be effective in our witness, to spend time with the Word of God. Pray the prayer of the presence of God. He is more present to you than you are to yourself. Read the Word in silence, reflect on it in silence. Keep in mind that at all times we are in God’s presence, and He wants to give us His Holy Spirit, but in His own good time. Sometimes we need just to sit and let our hearts and minds be filled with love. Only when we are full of love can we be effective in our sharing the Word of God.