Summary: To respond to Christ's command, we must take time to reflect on the Word of God and the words of God, so that we can spread that word to a world in desperate need.

Monday of 28th Week in Course

10 October 2011

Verbum Domini

The gospel of God was promised long ago through the prophets of God in the holy scriptures. Some, like Jonah, Elijah and Michaeh ben Imlah, were verbal prophets whose words and deeds were later interpreted and written down by their disciples. Others, like Isaiah and Ezekiel, were writing prophets, who spoke the word of God, or mimed it out, and later wrote it down. When we proclaim their words in our Mass or Divine Office, we sing Verbum Domini–the word of the Lord. And all the assembly cries out Deo Gracias, “thanks be to God.” Because we thank God for His many gifts, we thank Him especially for the gift of gifts, first, the Word of God designated Son of God in power in the Resurrection–the Incarnate Word, Jesus, and, equally, the Word given as Scripture and Tradition.

“This is the good news. This is the proclamation which has come down the centuries to us today. The Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, meeting in the Vatican from 5-26 October 2008, had as its theme: The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. It was a profound experience of encounter with Christ, the Word of the Father, who is present where two or three are gathered in his name (cf. Mt 18:20).”

The Synod of Bishops dates from the early days of Pope Paul VI, 1965. "It is an ecclesiastic institution, which, on [questioning] the signs of the times and . . .trying to provide a deeper interpretation of divine designs and the constitution of the Catholic Church, we set up after Vatican Council II in order to foster the unity and cooperation of bishops around the world with the Holy See. It does this by means of a common study concerning the conditions of the Church and a joint solution on matters concerning Her mission.”

Over the next few weeks I will be reflecting with you on the document Verbum Domini, which is Pope Benedict’s response to the Synod’s deliberations and writings. Hopefully, we will together arrive at a deeper understanding of how to apply the Word of God in our individual lives, as a community of faith, and as missionaries to a world in desperate need of the Word of God and the words of God. Please pray for me as I begin this vital homiletic work.

Pope Benedict begins his exhortation with a personal testimony about the three weeks he spent with the Synod. Like the Apostle John, Benedict believes that during this time he was really “hearing, seeing, touching and looking upon” the word of life. He considers the Synod to be “a testimony, before the Church and before the world, to the immense beauty of encountering the word of God in the communion of the Church.” This is an experience he wants for each of us. He wants us to encounter God, the word of life, so that we might be enriched and share those riches with those around us.

Here we should reflect on the prophet Jonah for a moment. Last week the weekday readings told us the story of Jonah, in its many facets. Jesus, in today’s Gospel, makes it clear what one of the signs of Jonah should be for us. The godless people of Nineveh, hearing the word of God, repented and did penance for their sins. The people of Jesus’s time, bearing the name of God, hearing the very Word of God Incarnate, not only refused to believe and act on His preaching, but had Him crucified. That must be a sign for the Church in every age. If we do not believe the Word of God, if we do not turn from our sins, then the people of Nineveh will rise up in the last days and condemn us, too. We must allow the Word of God to penetrate our hearts of stone and the Spirit of God to enliven them, so that the Word can spread throughout this culture of death and turn it into a culture of life.

Or, in the Pope’s words, “There is no greater priority than this: to enable the people of our time once more to encounter God, the God who speaks to us and shares his love so that we might have life in abundance.” [Introduction]

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